The Case for Pronouns: Why Christian Parents and Educators Should Care

Parents and educators will likely see new pronoun inclusivity guidelines in student textbooks. Learn what they are and a biblical response.

The Case for Pronouns: Why Christian Parents and Educators Should Care

 

Between 1962-1963, the Supreme Court ruled that school-sponsored prayer and Bible readings were unconstitutional. A decade later, Roe v. Wade decided that a woman has the right to abort an unborn child. In 2015, the Supreme Court recognized gay marriages as legal.

Do you see the trend here—the chipping away of biblical truth from the tenets of our country’s Christian heritage? What started as the simple act of removing prayer and God’s Word from school escalated into the murder of the unborn and the recognition of same-sex marriage.

The latest battlefield is a basic, genetic fact: the distinction between male and female. The LGBTQ+ community wants to blur this distinction, and their ideology is now permeating textbooks, curricula, and style guides to target young minds with counter-biblical beliefs.

As an English teacher, I have a front-row seat to this attack that includes pronouns. Our culture advocates bending grammatical rules to neutralize the male and female distinction. One way is by using the plural pronouns “they” or “their” as singular pronouns.

At stake is more than a grammatically correct sentence. At stake is our God-given identity. Christian parents and educators need to recognize that this ideology is infiltrating schools and be prepared to defend the case for pronouns on biblical levels.

A Basic Grammar Lesson

Humor me with a basic grammar review. We know that a pronoun is a word that renames a noun, and the noun renamed by the pronoun is called the antecedent. Pronouns and antecedents should agree in number, case, and gender.

Since case is not related to this discussion (and currently not under deconstruction), I’ll leave you to review those details on your own. For now, let’s examine the matter of pronoun number and gender.

Number means that singular nouns require singular pronouns, and plural nouns work with plural pronouns.

  • Singular: The book belongs on its shelf.
  • Plural: The books belong on their shelves.

Gender means that masculine nouns require masculine pronouns: he/him/his. Feminine nouns require feminine pronouns: she/her/hers. Gender-neutral pronouns are it/its.

  • Masculine: The boy gave his dog a walk.
  • Feminine: The girl wanted her bike to have purple pedals.

The situation becomes complicated if you have a singular noun like “student” with an unidentified gender or an indefinite pronoun like “anyone” that is singular by definition.

The traditional approach is to use the singular masculine pronoun because we understand (or used to) that it refers to both men and women. When we say “mankind,” we mean both men and women; when we use the singular masculine pronoun to replace gender-neutral nouns or indefinites, we mean that the pronoun can refer to both men and women.

  • Ex: The student rode his bike to school.
  • Ex: Anyone can bring his friend to church.

However, other workarounds include using the “his or her” construction, which still meets the requirement of number, though it is awkward at times.

  • Ex: The student rode his or her bike to school.
  • Ex: Anyone can bring his or her friend to church.

A final solution is to make the noun plural or simply not use a singular indefinite pronoun.

  • Ex: The students rode their bikes to school.
  • Ex: All attendees can bring their friends to church.

Our Culture’s Attempt to Redefine Singular Pronouns

The previous rules were accepted until recent years when our culture officially “bent” them to neutralize the gender of singular pronouns. Instead of adhering to one of the acceptable methods outlined above, some people prefer another alternative: using the plural pronouns “they” or “their” as singular pronouns.

This April, the Modern Language Association (MLA), the widely-used style guide in secondary schools, released a revised ninth edition that includes a new section on “Principles of Inclusive Language.” It has this to say:

“In formal writing, the use of singular they has been considered a less desirable option than revising to plural constructions or rephrasing without pronouns. But it has emerged as a tool for making language more inclusive because it helps avoid making or enabling assumptions about gender.”

Dummies, a well-known resource for learning virtually any subject, concurs:

“Your own beliefs about gender and those of your reader or listener must guide you to a decision about whether to write his or her, for example, or their when you traditionally need a singular pronoun.”

However, by definition, they is a plural pronoun. Everyone is entitled to his worldview beliefs, but those beliefs—again, I underscore beliefs, not facts—shouldn’t redefine grammar.

Unfortunately, the culture has already rewritten the style guides, and it’s only a matter of time before this political correctness makes its way into your child’s textbook. Private school families, don’t think you’re exempt.

The main problem is that this pronoun shift reflects postmodern relativism or the idea that each of us defines his own truth. What’s true for you is your truth. What’s true for me is my truth. It denies that absolute truth exists. If we can’t agree on the fundamental difference between a singular and plural pronoun, how can we hope to clearly communicate and avoid confusion in our writing?

If you’re not concerned about this grammar issue and its possible moral extensions, you should be.

A Biblical Basis to Pronouns and Our Identity

Let’s go back to the Genesis account of creation to understand how important pronouns are to the biblical narrative.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27 ESV, bolding added).

First, we see that God is inherently masculine. Also, looking further into the Genesis account, we find that He created man first, and from the man, He created the woman. Even the word “man” is part of the word “woman.”

Other Scriptures underscore that we are made in God’s likeness and have intrinsic value. They also make clear the number of biological genders: two.

  • “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God” (Genesis 5:1b ESV).
  • “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6 ESV).
  • “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own” (I Corinthians 6:19 ESV).
  • “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’” (Mark 10:6 ESV).
  • “He [Jesus] answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female’” (Matthew 19:4 ESV).

The point is that both men and women are made in God’s image. Despite varying beliefs people may choose to follow, there are only two genders: male and female.

I do not deny or disparage the very real struggle some people face with same-sex attraction. To understand it better, I’m currently reading Openness Unhindered by Rosario Butterfield, a former lesbian activist. Her writings on this topic are compassionate, grounded in biblical truth, and well worth your time to read.

However, this article’s concern is the ideological battlefield taking place in schools. Our culture is redefining gender down to our pronouns and doesn’t blink at breaking grammatical rules in doing so. But this re-definition is a dangerous and slippery slope. There either are or are not absolute truths. Bible-believing Christians affirm that absolute truth exists, and we need to defend that position, down to our use of pronouns.

The Diversity of Expression

When we accept biblical truth and reality, we can then experience freedom of expression. Grammar and word definitions provide boundless opportunities for diversity. We serve a creative Creator who has gifted each of us with a unique voice and perspective.

Case in point. Jesus chose four of His disciples to tell the same gospel story in four different ways. Matthew chose to emphasize His kingship, Mark His servanthood, Luke His humanity, and John His deity.

God gifted us with diversity of expression and voice, but He is also a God of order within that diversity. We can express ideas—and even respectfully disagree about them—while still understanding there are absolute truths, including right and wrong ways to use pronouns.

How Can We Respond?

Unlike the famous court cases mentioned above, pronoun “correctness” may or may not get a hearing in the Supreme Court. At this point, it doesn’t need to since our modern style guides have embraced inclusivity over accuracy.

So, what can we do?

  • Parents: Review your student’s textbooks. What worldview belief is it teaching your children through lessons about pronouns and inclusive language? Have honest conversations with your children and take them back to what God’s Word says.
  • Educators: Pay attention to updated curriculum editions and what belief system they reflect. We can’t deny the reality of pronoun inclusivity, but we can have thoughtful worldview discussions with our students in light of biblical truth.

The Bottom Line

If we surrender to gender-neutralized pronoun usage in our writing, we give up more than a grammatically correct sentence. We disregard our God, our good Father, who created mankind in His image, and devalue our own identity as either male or female.

Are there evangelistic situations where inclusive language becomes appropriate to meet people where they’re at? It’s a valuable question posed in this article by the Gospel Coalition. However, I’m not discussing personal evangelism here but rather the education that will lay the framework for the rest of students’ lives.

If you’ve read this far, you may have questions or disagree with something I’ve said. Good. Last I checked, the First Amendment still stands, and we have freedom of speech to agree and disagree with each other. My challenge to you is to search the Scriptures for yourself before forming your convictions.

I hold to mine: Each of us Christians should be intentional about his pronoun use.

Question from Kristen Hogrefe Parnell, the author.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Comment below!

Written by Kristen Hogrefe Parnell

My goal is to encourage readers to find faith in life's everyday adventures. I pray that God’s light will shine through my books, blog, and personal walk to point people to Jesus Christ and His awesome plan for them.

2 thoughts on “The Case for Pronouns: Why Christian Parents and Educators Should Care

  1. Most conscience-disturbing subjects being taught are the machinations of people in “higher” education who want to change our country, and the world to mirror their own evil purposes. Parents need to read the books their children are forced to accept., and they need to object, long and loudly. Congratulations to you for being a genuine teacher who is disturbed by what’s happening.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Joan! Parents definitely need to be informed and speak up to let their voices be heard.

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