Our Christian Language

Peg Tittle

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Several years ago, I held a position at Nipissing University in Canada that involved working with students to improve their writing skills. At the time, all students admitted to the publicly funded university had to take a writing competency test, and I typically used the student’s test as a starting point for our work together. The test required them to write a short essay on one of three given topics, and it was graded by two members of the English Department. Students who failed the test had to take a writing course, and all students had to pass the test before they graduated. All very straightforward, I thought. Until I saw, in one of the student’s essays, “his word” corrected to “His Word” by one of the graders.

I can accept a capital on “God” because the word is being used as a name, and names are generally capitalized. (Though I do find it rather presumptuous to appropriate a common noun. It’s also a bit coercive: to use a common noun without an article is to imply there’s only one. The claim “Cat is happy” demands the question “Which cat?” unless you think there’s only one. So when the rest of us want to refer to the Christian god, because we must say “God” instead of using a real name like “Zeus” or “Hela,” we are unwillingly implying the same belief.)

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