Features

The abolition of man

"The abolition of man" Continued...

Issue: "Summer Books 2002," July 7, 2002

Even so, Mr. Clapp added, "Most of our authors are careful not to overdo masculine pronouns in reference to God. We recognize that in the past masculine language for God has sometimes been illegitimately used to reinforce the subjugation of women."

Art is the signature of man," wrote G.K. Chesterton in his classic Christian apologetic, The Everlasting Man. Today, an editor would most likely change his phrase to "Art is the signature of humanity," and the book would be retitled The Everlasting Humankind.

Happily for writers who carry on the tradition of Lewis and Chesterton, some publishers are not trendy. While not an exclusively Christian press, Spence Publishing in Dallas has carved out a niche by publishing important conservative books-many written by Christians-that few other publishers would dare to print. "Far from requiring inclusive language," said Spence's editor in chief, Mitchell Muncy, "we forbid it."

To explain his position, Mr. Muncy cited the four reasons for retaining man given by Jacques Barzun in From Dawn to Decadence (see sidebar)-"etymology, convenience, the unsuspected incompleteness of 'man and woman,' and literary tradition."

Mr. Muncy asked, "Does anyone really believe-really-that those who decline to use inclusive language despise women? If such reasons as Barzun's are merely a mask for bigotry, what prevents others from interpreting the reasons in favor of inclusive language as a mask for, say, the desire to impose oneself on others?"

Of the major Christian publishers contacted for this article, only one took a stance in favor of traditional English: Crossway Books in Wheaton, Illinois, publisher of the new English Standard Version of the Bible, a translation that stands against the gender current. "We generally let the authors speak as they wish," said Marvin Padgett, Crossway's editorial vice president. "But we would discourage an aggressive gender-inclusivistic style."

As to why most other publishers encourage "inclusive language," Mr. Padgett speculated, "Maybe because they are unduly influenced by academia. After all, not even The New York Times goes as far as some publishers. Television doesn't either. Real people simply don't talk or write that way. It's only when someone stops to think about it that they engage in pronoun envy."

-Sam Torode is a freelance writer

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