God's Word for today

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Words that offend

One thing that one constantly discovers when living in a multicultural environment such as SMMS is how certain words or phrases that seem totally benign to some, cause deep offense to others.

For instance, in our sessions yesterday we were discussing the broad subject of "Finding Joy in the Ministry", and when we got to gender issues, the atmosphere got quite heated.  But the sparks really flew when one of my colleagues made a statement along the lines of males in certain patriarchal congregations holding leadership positions, irrespective of their capability or spirituality, simply because they "have a penis".  Another colleague took deep offense to the word "penis", stating that one should not publicly refer in any way to one's "private areas".

Personally, I can't see what all the fuss was about.  We don't talk about "smelly things" when referring to our noses, since the proper word for this particular appendage is "nose".  In similar vein, it would be considered immature by most people for an adult to speak about a "willy".  However, that the use of the word "penis" should have caused such offense is an interesting observation, and reminds one of the need to constantly be aware of cultural differences.  It always worries me, particularly in a ministry context, that an innocent remark or the use of a particular word can cause unintended but intense offence in others, and so the need for tolerance on both sides is paramount in all interactions.

1 comment:

Gus said...

semenary :) life can be interesting.