Presbyterians launch new war over language

Verily, I say unto you -- Whatever. No, wait, how about this: "Yo, Christ Buddy!" Wait, wait: I believe in God the (blank) Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, and in Jesus Christ his only offspring, our sorta-Lord, who was conceived by artificia...

Verily, I say unto you -- Whatever.

No, wait, how about this: "Yo, Christ Buddy!"

Wait, wait: I believe in God the (blank) Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, and in Jesus Christ his only offspring, our sorta-Lord, who was conceived by artificial insemination, suffered under Pontius Pilate, etc., etc.

Sorry to offend, I'm just practicing my new Presbyterian catechism. The preceding was the modernized, gender-neutral version of the Apostles' Creed as it may read some day soon.

Before you call me blasphemous, take it up with the Presbyterian Church (USA), home to the "sometimes whatevers," previously known as the "eternal verities."


Ever attentive to the world's evolving feelings -- I guess -- delegates to the church's national assembly recently voted to "receive" a policy paper on gender that would allow a little flexibility on the Holy Trinity.

Make that the sorta-holy (lowercase) trinity.

The father-son-holy ghost triad, long a chafing point for feminists who prefer the good old days when goddesses ruled the Earth, has about played itself out, it seems. Under the improved sensibility, parishioners are now permitted a little flexibility with their liturgies, especially that pro-guy Trinity thingy.

Among acceptable alternatives to the dad-boy-ghost scenario are: "Mother, Child and Womb," or "Rock, Redeemer, Friend." No rock, paper, scissors. Yet.

I confess to some disappointment, as I was hoping for something a little closer to the bone, such as, say: Two moms, sperm baby, artificial womb. Those Presbyterians. Always so white bread and grape juice.

Before the church unleashes its version of hellfire and brimstone and cancels my magazine privileges, I confess to being a lapsed Presbie, a compromise between my Catholic father and Baptist mother.

When I wasn't in school, it seemed, I was in church. The church was central to our lives, a home away from home, our hangout and recreational center. What can I say? We were nerds. More than a physical place, the church was -- as the Catholic Church almost exceptionally remains -- a reliably stable spiritual oasis that stood for something in a time that stands for nothing. The rules and players didn't change on a whim, which is something children love even if adults find it boring.

Or, as today, politically incorrect.


The USA Presbyterians have acknowledged with these new allowances that "Father, Son and Holy Ghost" are patriarchal leftovers that have been used "to support the idea that God is male and that men are superior to women," according to the panel that studied the issue.

None of these optional trilogies is etched in stone, but are offered as "an educational resource to enhance the spiritual life of our membership," according to Nancy Olthoff, an Iowa laywoman and legislative committee chair.

One can argue -- as an editor/friend (and another Catholic-Baptist hybrid) did during a recent conversation -- that religion can and should be flexible to accommodate changing times and people's needs. Different folks find different routes to salvation and adopt a variety of faiths to keep the wolf at bay.

We live in anti-father, mad-at-daddy times. This is simply the Da Vinci Codification of the church, the dogma of which is "Women good, men bad." Matriarchy good, patriarchy bad. Womb good, oh never mind.

Irony seems to have gone missing as we worship our wombs and swoon over lost goddesses, however. The whole notion, advanced and commodified by Dan Brown (author of "The Da Vinci Code"), that the church sold out women ignores a couple of facts.

First, the Virgin Mary was hardly a bit player in the Catholic Church, which elevated her as the sacred feminine. Second, the Gospels were radically feminist in recognizing women as something more than property.

Gelding the trilogy may make a few new-age Presbies feel virtuous in the moment, but the likely effect longer term will be to animate the fundamentalists who often give religion a bad name. People who feel the Earth moving beneath their feet -- their institutions and faith under siege -- tend to seek out something more stable and less fluid.

And, ultimately, less tolerant.

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