Honouring the Image of God Through Word Choices

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This past week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a comment at a town hall in Edmonton, Alberta claiming, “We like to say peoplekind, not necessarily mankind. It's more inclusive." In a statement following the town hall, Trudeau claimed this was a failed attempt at humour.

Criticism of Trudeau’s “failed joke” has filled the media. Countless internet memes have been created mocking his use of “peoplekind”, renaming places like Manhattan “Peoplehattan” and Manitoba “Peopletoba”.

While Trudeau’s comment may have been a joke, it reminded me that our language and word choices evolve over time. Related to gender neutrality, we’ve gone from saying things like stewardess to flight attendant, policeman to police officer, fireman to firefighter, and housewife to homemaker. Recently, the Brethren in Christ Church of Canada decided to change their denomination name to Be In Christ Church of Canada, retaining the “BIC” short form but using language that is inclusive of men and women in the denomination, and ultimately putting Christ at the centre.

There are other areas as well where our language is changing, including how we talk about race, ethnicity, and people with disabilities.

The preamble of the CRCNA editorial style guide reads "Our word choices are important. The CRCNA affirms the fundamental truth that all humans are made in the image of God, and we believe that this truth should guide the language we use. This means we are careful in how we communicate about others, avoiding word choices that exclude some people or create an artificial ‘us and them’ kind of mentality. To assist in this effort, the Editorial Style Guide includes guidelines for inclusive language so that we may speak with respect toward all who are made in God’s image. In general, this means that we use people-first language and avoid words and terms that can perpetuate stereotypes or paternalism."

As we attempt to respect each other’s dignity, has your church made attempts to use language that is respectful to all people as image bearers of God? Where have you seen this successfully carried out in the church? What are some areas that need improvement?

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