God rest ye, merry gentle friends

God rest ye, merry gentle friends December 26, 2010

Visiting a parish in Maryland this weekend, I was surprised that the recessional hymn at today’s mass wasn’t altered for political correctness. But no: to my amazed ears, they actually sang “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.”

The reason this surprised me was because the entrance hymn, on the other hand, was changed from “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” to “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice.”

And the offertory was tweaked for “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.”

Seems that what the angels really said was: “Peace on the earth, good will to all…”

But I’m still baffled at how “gentlemen” slipped through; I’m sure somebody, somewhere, was aghast. I imagine letters are being sent to the archbishop, even as I type.

Somebody in that parish needs to wise up before this kind of travesty is repeated and becomes a widespread and insidious abuse.

“Gentlemen,” indeed. Feh.

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17 responses to “God rest ye, merry gentle friends”

  1. At the risk of sounding very cranky this second day of Christmas, I find the gender neutralizing of scripture and hymns very silly and actually condescending…
    …somehow, Jesu, Joy of “our” desiring just doesn’t have the profundity of the original!

    As a woman, I think it is quite clear that God and His angels include me in all of mankind!

    Christmas blessings!

  2. I’ll join in on the crankfest.

    Far from effecting the inclusivity it proclaims, it alienates humanity from itself by stripping all human reference from our worship. It is actually depersonalizing in the philosophical and theological sense of the word, and I find it an interesting historical juxtaposition that as Pope John Paul II was busy developing his personalistic norm in his prolific quarter of a century, forces elsewhere in the Church were busy stripping our worship of the personalistic reference.

    Ultimately, it comes off as weak and insipid. It fails to move anyone other than the weak and insipid.

    I’m with you Eka.

  3. I agree with you all: this does seem pretty cranky; but if it helps, and in the spirit of the season: Merry Christmas to all men!

  4. Re:
    “…somehow, Jesu, Joy of “our” desiring just doesn’t have the profundity of the original!”

    And I say, “Why doesn’t it?”

    “it alienates humanity from itself by stripping all human reference from our worship.”

    And I say, “Use of the male noun to designate both genders alienates one-half of God’s people.”

    Merry Christmas to all!

  5. Actually–as can be seen by a comment here–use of the male noun in the traditional English manner of meaning both genders does not alienate all “one-half of God’s people.” Just those who are awash in politically correct culture and want to be alienated.
    I notice that movies–especially their trailers and promos–still use “man” or “mankind” most of the time.
    I also notice that those in other venues–even on educational TV– who are not straining to be politically correct usually use traditional standard English in whatever they are creating.
    It seems to be Church people who are the big promoters of politically correct language these days. At some point their language choices will sound more like verbal bell-bottoms instead of the latest in fashion. Most people prefer a natural, spontaneous English (an English that still uses “man”), not an English promoted by ideologues that has the poetic feel of sandpaper when other words are crow-barred in to exorcise “man.”
    At least we are still allowed to use the originally worded hymns. But will that last or will they go the way some Protestant denominations have handled the wonderful “Battle Hymn of the Republic”–banned it totally. Oh, those horrible lyrics. So masculine! So strong! And speaking of “His Truth Marching On”– Pontius Pilate had it right: “What Is Truth??” Maybe slavery was OK. Maybe killing the unborn is Truth in action.

  6. Adding to your prescient observations, Deacon Bresnahan, It seems that while Christians are being expected to neuter their language in the name of gender equality and fairness,

    Greater than 90% of radio and TV ads that have one party being clueless, or a buffoon, show that to be the male.

    The same in sitcoms and movies.

    There is an agenda in all of this. Equality is just another name for reverse discrimination.

  7. Actually, I have no agenda. It just seems to me to be more fair to use inclusive language when possible.

    So I will end my posts on this issue which has opened a can of worms. Ah-men.

  8. Why would anyone stop singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic because it says “His truth is marching on”? “His” refers to Jesus, right? That is just plain ridiculous.

    As to making other hymns politically correct? They are hymns—does anyone actually pay attention to just what they are singing anyhow? Know I usually just enjoyed doing the singing—the music more than the words, but maybe that is just me.

  9. I like male pronouns. I have never felt slighted in the least to hear “mankind” discussed, or “gentlemen” in “God Rest Ye”. I have long believed that women who fixate on these “slights” and who work so diligently to rewrite them, are so busy banging into their PC trees that they cannot see the forest. In the forest, there are all sorts of creatures before God. Their authentic names are none to God. That’s all that matters.

  10. BTW, at our vigil Mass on Friday, the gospel was proclaimed as: “An angel appeared and said “I will tell you something that will make you happy”…and later, “they dressed the child in baby clothes”. REALLY!!
    If “tidings” and “swaddling” are understandable to Linus and Charlie Brown’s audience, I think that it should be good enough Christmas Eve Mass…don’t you?!

    “verbal bell-bottoms” …awesome line…can I borrow that Deacon B.??!!

  11. Changing phrases to gender neutral words is silly, but I am more concerned with the change of “and on earth peace to people of good will” to “Peace to His People on earth” or “Peace to all”. Doesn’t that actually changes the meaning of the original?

  12. HMS:

    Just remember, when he becomes King Charles, the RN will revert to having “His Majesty’s Ship” ‘s!


    In HIS Peace

  13. At our parish, it is standard practice to change the wording of the hymns and even the psalms to “gender neutral” pronouns, even when referring to God. I find it annoying and distracting and theologically problematic when the person doing the changes doesn’t realize that a particular song is referring to Christ as God, so the pronoun is changed from “Him” to “God”, negating the obvious reference to Christ and causing potential confusion regarding the divinity of Christ.

    I would write to the music minister and pastor, if I thought it would get anywhere. The music minister has been there for years, while my family is relatively new to the parish, and the pastor, while a very good man and enthusiastic Christian, has his own habit of being innovative with the prayers of the Mass.

    Finally, just to throw another cold water balloon on this post, isn’t the correct title “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlmen” (the comma coming after Merry, not after Ye)? 😉

    Blessed Christmas season to all!

  14. If the language doesn’t include the female half (or more) of the world, then they haven’t been included.
    That’s not hard to understand!
    I am so tired of these old vacuous arguments.
    Grow up, and wake up.
    I’m sorry if this offends, but so much of the Christian church is all but hanging by a thread of relevance when it comes to matters of gender and sexuality.
    Good will to everybody. May it be so.

  15. Concerning “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring” vs. “Jesu, Joy Of Our Desiring”: normally I concur it’s unnecessary and annoying to be politically correct and change lyrics to be gender-neutral when the result sounds convoluted such as “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentle Friends”.

    But, “Jesu, Joy Of Our Desiring” actually sounds just as good, doesn’t it, as “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring” – if not actually slightly better?

    And remember, either way it’s only an English version of the words, which can’t be called a “translation” because the English words don’t have at all the same meaning as the original German. The original German words, which Bach himself considered to be good enough, are “Jesu Bleibet Meine Freude” – Jesu Remains My Joy – which says nothing about “man’s” or “our” or “desiring” and happens to be gender-neutral.

    Therefore on balance I vote it’s not unreasonable to approve, at least as an acceptable alternate, the “Our” gender-neutral version here.

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