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Tuesday, April 16, 2024 at 10:03 PM
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They, them and thon

DELIBERATELY DIVERSE
They, them and thon

Deliberately Diverse represents the individual thoughts and opinions of a group of Taylor friends who almost never completely agree about anything but enjoy diverse discussions in our beloved community. Today’s column represents the thoughts and opinions of The Reverend Terry Pierce, vicar of St. James’ Episcopal Church, not the Taylor Press.

A 6-year-old girl asks, “Is God a boy?” I respond that God isn’t male or female. She is puzzled and reminds me that I always call God “he” when I tell stories on Sunday. That is, in fact, what I do. So once again, I am challenged to think more carefully about language.

Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

We are taught that God is spirit, God is love, God is immeasurable and limitless.

What would it mean to imagine God as encompassing the entire spectrum of male/female rather than being one and not the other?

In Luke 13:34, Jesus says “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings …” In Isaiah, God is seen as a mother comforting her child and a woman crying out in labor.

Much of American culture is based on what is called a zero-sum game. In a zero-sum game, the winnings of one side are always equal to the losses of the other side.

Both/and is a way of representing a world that is not a zero-sum game, where two different things can occur or be experienced at once. Sarah Epstein writes that “the basis of both/and is that multiple things can be true at the same time and that everybody has a right to their experience, regardless of what someone else is experiencing … in a world that promotes a zero-sum approach to emotional responses and individual situations, both/and will crack your world wide open.”

Some of my friends prefer the pronouns “they” and “them” while others prefer “she/ her” or “he/him.” The 1934 Merriam-Webster’s unabridged dictionary featured the gender-neutral pronoun “thon,” short for “that one.”

I have what might be called a gender-neutral name, Terry, which is spelled on my birth certificate with a “y.” Of course, we all know that means it is a boy’s name. I was teased in elementary and junior high school incessantly because I had a boy’s name, loved sports and was at least a foot taller than everyone in my class. Later in life, that spelling got me job interviews I might not have gotten because people thought I was Mr. Pierce rather than Miss.

I would have been happy to just be thon — that one. That one identifies me as the extraordinary, complicated, sometimes muddled, human being that I am.

What if we called God thon or they or them? God is, after all, the they of father, son and holy spirit. God is truly the thon — that one, unlike any other.


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