When we think about fathers, we usually think of a male parent. However, phrases like God of Our Fathers or Faith of Our Fathers have a different meaning. When these hymns were written, people often used male language to refer to both genders. However, that is not how we talk now. Today, we try to be more inclusive to both genders without giving preference to any gender. It wouldn’t be hard to change fathers to parents.
However, there is another problem. These songs assume a common heritage that isn’t necessarily shared by all members. Most of the early converts came from a strong Christian background or had pioneer ancestry. Singing about the faith of their parents made sense for most of them.
However, as more people joined the Church from non-Christian backgrounds, these hymns can be more difficult to process. For many, joining the Church involves a significant change from the tradition of their ancestors. Many have experienced serious conflict and a feeling of turning their backs on their ancestors. Some have even been rejected by their parents. Songs about following the faith of their parents may just exasperate the conflict and can be alienating.
In our new hymnbook, we should be as inclusive as possible. We should avoid male-centric language. We should help everyone feel welcome even if they don’t have a Christian heritage.