Advertisement

The God Squad: The right language for the Lord

February 07, 2014|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

Q: I'm a member of the United States Power Squadrons, and every year we hold a nonsectarian memorial service in a church for members who died the previous year. The doxology is sung after the offering. This response refers to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. While I am a Christian, I think this is disrespectful to Jews and other non-Christians attending the service. Wouldn't it be better to use a response that refers simply to "The Lord thy God"? — C., via godsquadquestion@aol.com

A: The first question I'd ask you is whether by "nonsectarian" you mean a nonreligious service or an interfaith service. Generally, people mean interfaith when they say nonsectarian, so I'll assume that's the type of service you mean. I believe there are two spiritually legitimate schools of thought on how to conduct a spiritually satisfying interfaith service:

1. No Christ, no Jesus, only God

Some believe that for the sake of maximum spiritual comfort all prayers in interfaith services should refer only to God or the Lord our God, and never to Jesus, Christ, or the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. (By the way, feminists don't like the word "Lord," which is clearly a masculine term for God.)

Advertisement

The advantage of this approach is that the generic word "God" encompasses everyone in the congregation. The disadvantage of this approach is that it produces vanilla prayer services that are unsatisfying, particularly to the Christians who are present and who usually represent the majority of congregants.

2. Jesus yes, Christ no

In this approach, the name Jesus is used but not the title Christ, which means "Messiah." If a passage from the New Testament is used in the service, it obviously makes sense to state, as it says in the texts themselves, "Jesus said..." However, when it comes to a directive to the congregation to pray together, it would be wrong to say, "Let us pray in Jesus' name" or in Christ's name. Obviously, non-Christians don't pray in Jesus' name and the leader would be asking those participants to do something that violates their religious beliefs.

I like this way of praying, and my friend and former God Squad partner, Father Tom Hartman, and I used it for years. It's just fine to use the name of Jesus with texts that refer to his teachings. However, when it comes to actually praying together, I think it's best to find a place where everyone in the room can say "Amen" with a full and undivided heart.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|