By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jul 02, 2003

Dan Seligman's review in Commentary of Diane Ravitch's The Language Police contains this gem:

Educational bureaucrats in California ruled against one edition of The Little Engine That Could -- a long-time favorite in the kindergarten leagues -- because the anthropomorphic engine in the illustration appeared to be male.

Risible? Yes. Insane? Probably. Unsurpassable? No way. Look no further than the revised psalms of the New American Bible, where precisely the same phobias are armed with chain-saws and given no bag limit. In effect, the corrected psalter declared war on masculine imagery for God, cheerfully rewriting Scripture in the process. Psalm 111, for example, does not address God directly but refers to Him in the third-person:

Gracious and merciful is the Lord.
He gives food to those who fear him,
mindful of his covenant forever ...

And so forth. Now in 1991 the U.S. bishops approved a version in which this psalm is entirely recast in the second-person, so as to eliminate "he" and "his" used of God, thus:

You gave food to those who fear you,
mindful of your covenant forever, etc.

In printed editions there is even a footnote that declares their intention: "the psalm refers to God in the third person throughout. The shift to the second person is for the sake of inclusive language."

But who could conceivably be excluded by the literal translation, which refers to God, i.e., the God of Israel? Clearly the change was motivated not by a desire for accuracy but by fear and loathing of the masculine per se. It takes a deeply twisted mind to feel threatened by the maleness of the Little Engine That Could, but only the same mind and the same sensibilities could be so alarmed by the masculine pronouns of the Old Testament (which are there in the original Hebrew, by the way) as to take a machete to the sacred text. The Holy See rejected this psalter outright, but the neurosis that produced it lives on. Our gender-bending bishops are still, perhaps, a minority, but they continue to do damage, quietly unfastening the rivets at the key junctures of the Faith. The bishop who ran interference for "Always Our Children" recently ran over somebody else, and henceforth will exercise his caregiving in other venues, but his diversity-celebrating brethren persist in their soft sabotage -- loosening this, warping that, tactfully effecting the makeover.

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