The following is an excerpt from a sermon delivered at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on February 12, 2012. Jim is addressing two concerns: some people don’t think inclusive language (non-gendered references to God) is important, and some people agree intellectually, but don’t think it’s worth taking a stand to support. You can hear the whole sermon by clicking on the media box on the right. The excerpt has been slightly edited, for clarity.
I want to figure out how we can take ownership of this language. Before I go any further, let me say, I understand. Not only was I a sexist for many years, [but] I still watch the Dallas Cowboys. (laughter) And that’s not based on what they are anymore. I haven’t enjoyed a game, really, for 10 years. (laughter) It’s the camaraderie that I’m remembering — my brothers, my father, sitting there watching a game. I want that back. And I really think that’s what’s at stake with this language. We remember a special feeling and we don’t want to lose that. That is absolutely understandable. But here’s the thing: there come times in history [when] we have to realize that the things that make us comfortable are hurting someone else.
I remember when I was very young my parents trying to explain to me — I’ll say my whole family — my parents tried to not be racist, but it was Dallas. And it wasn’t hateful, it wasn’t targeting, but it was disrespectful. And they tried to explain to me why that language doesn’t matter. And so when I hear us saying that today, it goes to that same wound, that never really healed. This is an issue I think that humankind will understand at some point. And I don’t want our children looking back at us the way we look back at our own parents, who couldn’t quite do it. For perfectly valid reasons at the time, but it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s a source of disappointment and shame. Now is the time for us to take ownership of this issue as a community.