Writing

Censorship

Dear Religion Editor,

I was shocked to see the editing of my reflection in the paper today.
You have done me a theological disservice by removing a female pronoun
used to refer to God but allowing a male pronoun to remain. In writing
or preaching, I never use one without using the other. I am frankly
ashamed to have people read my piece and associate me and my church
with an exclusively masculine and therefore limited presentation of
God. I am committed to expanding our human understanding of God, to
raising it beyond personifications that are strictly patriarchal, and
this is why I make references to God as feminine as well as masculine.

I had written:
There are days I crave a micro-managing God. She would not put up with
the injury people inflict on other people just because they have the
means to do it. He would not allow it to continue. She would put the
leaders in a room to talk and say, "Don’t come out until you’ve figured
out a way to live together."



You have published:

There are days I crave a micro-managing God who
would not put up with the injury people inflict on other people just
because they have the means to do it. He would not allow it to continue.

A micro-managing God would put the leaders in a room to talk and
say, ”Don’t come out until you’ve figured out a way to live together.”

You have had this piece for several weeks. I would have been happy to
change the references to God to be gender-neutral had you asked me.
Does the City By the Sea Newspaper have a policy about the way in which God is
described?

I was disappointed in the way my last piece was edited, but I
understood there must be some discomfort with the dialect aspects of
the story about Little League Mama. In this case, however, you have not
simply changed my words or edited for length. You have mis-represented
my beliefs. In fact, you have censored my religious speech.

I hope that we can have an opportunity to speak about this. I am deeply
disturbed.

Sincerely,
Songbird

14 thoughts on “Censorship”

  1. I think it is a perfect letter – you make a point without being strident and open the way for further discussion. Please let us know whether you decided to send it!

  2. I’m not sure if I’d send the letter (I like it) or make my next submission about how it feels to be excluded. It would be about how God includes us all, reaches out to us all. And God is all, we can’t limit him by race, gender, etc.
    And I’d include a note about contacting me before editing for content as it may disturb the theological message.
    But your letter would certainly be appropriate too.

  3. I exchanged e-mails this morning with my former pastor, a mentor for many years who is also an occasional columnist.
    He wrote:
    “I read your good piece and was surprised to see you using ‘he’ and only ‘he’ for God.”
    He offered to go with me and have a conversation about the problem, since the editor has taken a faith development class with him recently. It’s my hope this will become an opportunity to talk about inclusive language. I’ll probably write a softer version of the e-mail and ask for a meeting. But it was good to write it out this way!

  4. Amen!!!
    I remember when I first realized that some Christians refer to God in more than just male pronouns. (It was the year when I’d just graduated from college, when I’d decided that I could no longer believe in God…I’ll have to blog that one of these days.)
    It was such a relief to have a larger view of God. But it took a while to feel comfortable with inclusive language. Think of this as your chance to help the editor learn more about the dangers of creating God in his own image. 🙂

  5. I affirm your anger–it is justified! And this letter rocks.
    But I agree with the others who suggest you talk with the editor directly.
    Back at the magazine where I used to work (and long before email existed!), we had a note next to the fax machine that said: “Face to face is always better than fax to fax.” 🙂 I think this helped a few tense interactions between our three offices across the country.

  6. You know, it occured to me just as I posted that last comment, that another piece of my history working at a magazine might help. Like Chartreuseova mentioned, next time you get a contract for a column, make sure it includes that you must review and approve all editorial changes prior to publication.
    And finally, one more thought–while speaking directly with the editor might help to educate him, it doesn’t help clear up the misrepresentation of your theology. You may wish to go into the meeting with an outcome in mind–whether you would write a more tame “letter to the editor” to be published in the appropriate section of the newspaper or the paper would print a correction (you know, usually on page two of each newspaper, where they correct any errors in reporting).

  7. I like everybody’s ideas. Meeting face to face is always the best way, but you should get something out there in writing too, so that others don’t misunderstand you as well. Brava to you!

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