I’ve been musing on the significance of pronouns. In his sermon at the Comer United Methodist Church on World Communion Sunday, Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove used the phrase “a bigger WE.”The text was Jeremiah 29:4-7, where YHWH tells the people of Israel, exiled to Babylon, to settle in there and pray for the welfare of the place. Just like then, diverse groups of people are still coming together because of warfare and other horrendous conditions. As God’s children, we are called to become a bigger WE than has previously existed.
And another pronoun. A few weeks ago, we Jubilee volunteers played a game called Win as Much as You Can. Participants play as a team, but within the team are decision-making pairs. The purpose of the game is to acquaint participants with the merits of competition and collaboration. I’ve seen this game played many times and competition tends to dominate, though collaboration is a clear choice. In debriefing the process, the primary question is who is YOU? The whole team or the pairs? The highest total score is attained by including everybody in the definition of YOU. Apply globally to get the lesson of the game. And have you ever thought how easily attitudes and talk and actions can transform groups of people into US and THEM? Hmm… barriers identified, injected, oh, so subtly.
And then there’s SHE-HE. As a young student learning grammar before the feminism of the 1960s, I wasn’t particularly bothered by using HE generically when gender was unknown; I just thought it was weird. I appreciate inclusive language, though, using S/HE, or SHE OR HE, or alternating pronouns. To me, this inclusive approach is appropriate and refreshing.
One more. IT in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, is the villain, evil itself, and turns out to be a naked, disembodied brain. Though she hadn’t consciously named it IT, Madeleine agreed with a reader’s observation that IT “stands for Intellectual Truth as opposed to a truth which involves the whole of us, heart as well as mind… the intellect, when it is not informed by the heart, is evil.”
A bigger WE and who is YOU? Fun with pronouns.