17 August 2007

Faith of our various relations.

BMP over at Christus Vincit has a cartoon up about what would have happened if Frederick Faber had a feminist wife. I think i know what would have happened: Faith of Our Fathers would look like it does in the CBW III where they have a song called A Living Faith. Someone obviously thought the old song was exclusive, and so they came up with more lyrics, to make it more.... something. So we have lines like:

Faith of our mothers, daring faith,
Your work for Christ is love revealed,
spreading God's Words from pole to pole,
Making love known and freedom real:
Faith of our mothers, holy faith,
We will be true, etc.

There's more:

Faith of our brothers, sisters too,
Who still must bear oppressions might,
Raising on high in prison's dark,
The cross of Christ still burning bright;
Faith for today, O living faith,
We will be true, etc.

These words were added by some guy, apparently, by the name of Joseph R. Alfred, who should probably immediately head to a clinic somewhere and have his blood tested to see if it contains even the slightest trace of testosterone. But I digress.

Now,this strikes some speakers of modern English as difficult- speakers of the Romance languages (French, Italian etc) actually have an easier time with it- but 'fathers' is not an exclusively male term. In old traditions, when you have a large group of people of both genders you refer to the group as a whole as male. Perhaps the old usage was sexist, I don't know- Italians still do it, the French, etc- but the point is the song is not exclusive. Fathers in this case, given the context, means something along the lines of ancestors. But, when a writer starts tacking in mothers and brothers and sisters, the meaning does become exclusive. Fathers now means only fathers, and mothers only mothers. So the traits outlined in each verse are now attached solely to the relative named.

So when we say "your work for Christ is love revealed" we are referring specifically to mothers' work, and no one else. Was Christ's love not revealed through any fathers? or Grandmothers? An aunt? uncle? distant cousin? Some guy on the street? And the line "Who still must bear oppressions might" refers to sisters. Are there no brothers out there who are oppressed? Of course not! Oppression is a female problem. The oppression of anyone else doesn't rate. I could go on, but it's almost not worth dissecting. It defeats itself.

But perhaps- perhaps- if we add a few more verses, we can finally make the song truly inclusive, get everyone in on the deal. I think I feel one coming on right now:

Faith of first cousins once removed,
And drunken uncles, neurotic aunts,
Let's not forget modern techno-o-logy,
Lest we forget those made in a labor-a-tor-y!
Faith of our relatives, relative faith!
We will be true, to you, for now!

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