advent journal: changing the terms


This week I have been posting poems on my Facebook page. I started because a friend half-jokingly asked me to pick up where the Writer’s Almanac had left off, since it stopped when Garrison Keillor was fired after allegations of sexual harassment. That was a tough one for me. I started listening to A Prairie Home Companion when I was in seminary. I have said more than once that I learned more about preaching from listening to the news from Lake Wobegon than I did from studying homiletics. I loved listening to him tell stories. I read what Al Franken had to say as he announced his resignation. I have a feeling their are more names yet to break forth.

It is not surprising, I suppose, that the issue feels more poignant when our heroes fall, and then I feel foolish being surprised. Many, many years ago Ginger and I both stopped asking, “Who gives this bride to be married?” when we officiated at weddings because the language is a hold over from when weddings were an exchange of property between the father and the groom—and the bride was the property. Though we say we have moved beyond that, that question still gets asked at a lot of altars. We are almost a quarter of the way through the twenty-first century and women still fight for equal pay because the men in charge—including many elected officials—think men are more valuable. Across a large part of Christendom, women are not seen as being capable of ordination or, in some cases, even leadership for no other reason than they don’t have the right genetalia. I grew up being told that “man” stood for everyone and that “he” was a universal pronoun for humans and the proper pronoun for God. All of these things have contributed to a world where men think just because they want something they can have it. How we choose our words matters.

There is more that has to change than our sexual harassment policies. Women are not here to be at the mercy of, or for the pleasure of men. It feels kind of crazy to me to even have to write that sentence as though it were something other than obvious. It is obvious. We have let our traditions and our vocabulary blind us to the ways our culture has subjugated women across the board. It is changing now because women are changing it. They are the ones who brought all of this into a new light. Without any guarantee of safety or success. That is where the hope is, for me. And the poetry. Pay attention, men. God is still speaking.



  1. Thank you again, Milton, for sharing your feelings of disappointment, and your support of women. Keillor and Franken remain 2 flawed men who I hope will regain the trust of those who have been inspired and entertained by them.

  2. Thank you. Your post reminds me that in 6th grade, taking French, I was incredulous (though I didn’t know the word) that one man in an auditorium of women changed the pronoun from “elles” to “ils”. More importantly, I am now incredulous that all the harassment and struggle and progress women, including me, endured and accomplished in the workplace decades ago appears to have been for minimal gain. Will my 22 year old face the same? Frustrating.

  3. As a young girl, I cannot remember my age at the time but elementary-something, I remember wondering when things change. That boys cannot be born or become grown without women. So when do they start to think they are in charge instead. It was a childhood mystery that carried into adulthood. And continues …

    • well wow – I LOVE that, and am amazed that I’ve never heard that sentiment before. I had a very traditional, 20th century upbringing. Can’t begin to list all the ways it colors my world view. THANK YOU

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