Monday, December 26, 2011

"neither grammar nor style are politically neutral"

I love fellowdreamer's  take on "TNIV and Gender Trouble,"  posted a couple years ago during the TNIV (click "TNIV" at bottom of this post for more info) craziness.  Great example of how unexpected or "unrelated"..and especially "secular" (gasp!)  sources can really help us see truth.  I also appreciate the implications for Sapir-Whorf (click that title below):  Here he is:
Recently, Christianity Today announced that the TNIV translation (an updated NIV) was being redone to fix some of the “mistakes” that the editing and translating board had perceived as dangerous and in need of repair.

One of the biggest reasons given was the original TNIV’s gender inclusive approach that had altered the grammar of many passages to include sisters, daughters and other (female) left out people groups.

Clearly, there is a great theological discussion to be had on personhood, equality, gender of God, etc., but my focus here is on the grammatical argument. The idea that these changes have made reading hard, obtuse and that the structure is now “wrong” according to the rules of language fails to truly interact with the reality of our gendered experience.
I’ve been reading Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble recently. An excellent little work that has nothing to do with biblical translation, but has a very powerful passage in the forward about language, grammar and gender.

She says, “moreover, neither grammar nor style are politically neutral… there is nothing radical about common sense. It would be a mistake to think that received grammar is the best vehicle for expressing radical views, given the constraints that grammar imposes upon thought, indeed, upon the thinkable itself” (xix). Her point is clear; if a thought, idea or text is radical it might, indeed must, mess with our common sense and break the rules. It seems that there are few Christians who would argue the radical nature of their precious Scriptures, so why neuter the message by constraining it to the rules of the English language, which is so clearly limited?

Butler continues, “formulations that twist grammar or that implicitly call into question the subject-verb requirements of propositional sense are clearly irritating for some. They produce more work for their readers, and sometimes their readers are offended by such demands. Are those who are offended making a legitimate request for “plain speaking” or does their complaint emerge from a consumer expectation of intellectual life?” (italics mine). To understand the point in our present circumstance: are those offended by the apparent literary heresy of the grammatical formulations of equality found in the TNIV really concerned with easy reading or are their interests in something much more perverse, the preservation of sexist orders and attitudes? Using gender inclusive language should be a given, should it not? Personally, I see women everywhere I go and I refer to them as such, not as brothers and fathers and men. Let me remind you, we are not talking about pronouns for God, but for the community of believers.....continued, link

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