Scientism reduces spiritual truths to lower level facts. Ethicism in the form of languageism handicaps spiritual truths by unbalanced devotion to worthy social and political values–for example, suppressing talk of the brotherhood of man by linking the phrase with sexism. I feel sad to see the language that expresses this grand concept be put down. To be sure, there are other ways of getting the message across. But still.
The brotherhood of man is all-inclusive. Around the world the term “brotherhood” is used to express high meaning and value.
I understand that the language of conceptual clarity may differ from the language of proclamation. From the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries, those languages were the same: “the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man” voiced the widespread intuition of Deity origin and the solidarity of humankind. I wonder whether this great concept will ever find widespread, intuitive expression again in the phrases expresses it so directly.
As an informal observer from the beginning of the inclusive language movement, I saw the terms “brotherhood” and “man” largely disappear; and I saw the concept of humankind recede as well.
Justified intolerance of unethical practices became unjustified intolerance for language that could be historically linked to such practices. It was guilt by association. A word was associated with a cluster of ideas and practices and certain terms were singled out for abuse. People were criticized for complicity with unethical practices based on the historical associations of the language they used.
By the time of the late 19th century, generalizations about man proliferated without adequate realization of the differences between persons. By the end of the 20th century, generalizations about difference proliferated at the expense of the realization of our human kinship. It is true that those who speak of humankind do so from a particular social location with its particular cultural history, which will affect the concept of humankind in a way that makes it imperfectly applicable to everyone. What is the cure for this imperfection? To assail language that gives voice to that priceless concept?
Most critiques of older ways of speaking aimed to lift up the dignity of oppressed or marginalized groups. In other words, it was to ensure that those persons suffering from lack of esteem in their own or others’ eyes would feel fully embraced and welcomed as persons on the planet. This noble mission is an extension of the implications in the concept of the brotherhood of man.
One unfortunate aspect of social-political critiques has been the extent to which they have been infected by anger and contempt. In such a mindset, more or less hostility toward those labeled as oppressors readily came to the surface. The more that protests sacrificed brotherhood, sacrificed the sustaining ethical vision of the ideals of evolving humanity, the more we failed to make permanent gains.
I say “we” realizing that I am a protester whose counter-critique has suffered from comparable intolerance. I felt oppressed, and I reacted. My public discourse may be measured, but my private discourse and my heart has often harbored ugly sentiments. Realizing that and thereby giving the spirit of God an opportunity to transform my attitude just now, I become happy. I see the concept of the human family alive and well in progressive individuals and groups around the world. I hardly care any more about my language burden. There seems to be nothing to defend.
In God’s time, these matters will be worked out. I do not suppose that the goal of destiny involves intellectual uniformity, or homogeneity of concept and language.
Some of the people I most admire simply go ahead and proclaim the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man in so many words. When I do that I usually add “the equality of men and women and the freedom to use the language that fits the truth you have discovered.” Most often the phrase I use is “the universal family.”
The language of conceptual clarity may differ from the language of proclamation. From the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries, those languages were the same: “the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man” voiced the widespread intuition of Deity origin and the solidarity of humankind.
Baking soda sold well initially, but was going downhill as a product until other uses for it were discovered. I believe that one day the older slogan will come back because of people’s experience with the spiritual realities that the slogan expresses. Whether I win or lose my bet, I see my role as clarifying the topic without making too much of it, using language flexibly, and living, by grace, as a brother to all.
The photos are of a British pop group called Brotherhood of Man. Created in 1969 by songwriter and record producer Tony Hillard, they achieved success in the 1970s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brotherhood_of_Man