I’ve been known, once or twice, to raise a flag of concern over someone’s choice of words. To some it may seem that my own tribe, The United Church of Christ, is exempt from my eagle eye and worrisome (sensitive) critique. Well, rest easy, I’ve got one for ya.
The United Church of Christ is committed to an intentional and radical hospitality that welcomes a beautiful rainbow of people to The Table. But everyone is capable of falling short, of failing to pay attention and missing the mark of the ideals and values to which they aspire. Me too y’all – me too.
So, there is this Lenten devotional produced by the UCC. It is called Spring Cleaning. It is written by the Still Speaking Writer’s Group, a fine group of faithful folks who offer our denomination inspiration and thought-provoking words throughout the year.
Eleven authors contributed to the Lenten devotional.
My smart and truly open pastor bought a box full to share with our funky little, urban congregation.
The second Wednesday of Lent I finally picked up mine.
And I was deeply disappointed when I read the reflection for for Ash Wednesday.
Within the first two sentences of Martin Copenhaver’s Ash Wednesday reflection, a phrase just broke my heart. Martin wielded it so proudly, so casually - but still it troubled me. I would like to think that it is simply unthinking carelessness but I feel called none-the-less to lift up my concern.
Here are the opening lines of the Ash Wednesday entry:
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I hope you go to worship today. In our congregation we call it “Worship not for Sissies” because we take part in ancient rituals that help us delve deeply into the mysteries of our faith.
“Worship not for sissies” is simply an unacceptable phrase, laden with hetero-normative judgement and projected stereotypes. It is not cute, it is not catchy and it has no place in a spiritual devotional. It is a throwback to an age out of which I pray we have evolved, are evolving.
Now if you didn’t know this, I tend to project concern into the feelings of others. I worry. Deeply. What a potentially sad thing for a young man to read, perhaps called a sissy in school or on the ball field, or maybe still in the gym today, because he has been created by our God as less macho than our society still tells him is acceptable. What if he has come, looking to us, trusting us for a tender and accepting word, a healing community and is hurt once again within the first few pages of his tentative Lenten journey by the kind of language he could find in millions of homophobic churches and “Christian” publications. I am surprised that not a single person writing, reviewing or editing caught or understood this phrase as potentially harmful. Surely as people of the page and Christians of extravagant welcome we can do better than unwittingly perpetuating spiritual abuse with careless choices of words.
Words matter to me a lot. Words matter to me. Words matter.
ALL worship, especially Ash Wednesday is for “sissies” … and bullies, macho dudes, shrinking violets, bull dykes, pansies, jerks, softies, jocks, nerds, wimps, jar heads, weenies, nimrods, prudes, sluts, goodie-goodies, slime-bags, limp-wrists and homophobes. Wake up. Think before you speak. Breathe before you write and for Christs’ sake, don’t press send before you pray (or ask a keen, compassionate eye to take a peek).