We seem to have a rather large problem with political correctness here in America. I mean, really, it’s gone completely overboard, become totally out of hand. It’s ridiculous, really.
Political Correctness is for wimps.
Or … is it?
As I have followed recent events and national news I have become increasingly alarmed by the attempts to redefine “politically correct.” Sure, language is fluid, I get that. But to actively redefine the term in such a way that the new definition casts aspersions upon and otherwise belittles those who would dare to try their best to be sensitive to the feelings of those different from themselves in race, religion, worldview, or what have you, troubles me greatly.
Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary gives this as the simple definition of “Politically Correct”: “agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people”.
The full definition is: “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated”.
Why a person’s gender or race should be a point of politicization is beyond me, but it’s rampant. What is so wrong with being civil and kind? Not a darn thing.
I thought it would be interesting to look up the definition of “politically correct” in the Urban Dictionary in which its users create definitions for … well, everything, and then the definitions are voted upon. Below is the redacted version of the most popular Urban Dictionary definition for “politically correct”. I redacted it due to it being on the crass side:
Vaillancourt Fountain (1971) in San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza
“A way that we speak in America so we don’t offend whining [redacted]”.
This sentence immediately follows as an example: “Only pathetically weak people who don’t have the [redacted] to say what they feel and mean are politically correct [redacted].” I’ll admit, I did raise an eyebrow at the screen name of the user who submitted the above definition and sentence because it struck me as somewhat apropos for them to come from one with an apparent overly inflated sense of self.
Sadly, I would say that far too many Americans have tossed aside the real dictionary definition and have instead wholeheartedly adopted the Urban Dictionary/popular culture definition. This terrible definition is sweeping our nation and, in fact, there is a man who was once President who just stated after a horrific tragedy that: “…our leaders are weak …We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore.” From that statement, it is quite apparent that this person has adopted the popular culture definition, rather than the proper academic definition. I find this most unfitting for a man who desires to lead one of the world’s largest countries. I find it most unfitting for a man who would presume to represent me in any fashion. If there is ever a more fitting place for civility in discourse and consideration for others, it would certainly be in the words coming from the mouth of a nation’s potential leader. But enough about him. He’s just a product of culture gone horribly wrong.
I am left wondering, at what point did one being politically correct become an issue to divide and belittle another over? When did we lose our collective soul? The definition above on Urban Dictionary has been in place since 2004. As is common with culture, the more base ideas tend to take a while to work their way into the cultural fabric at large and I suppose that may be what happened here, though admittedly culture is not often defined by the best of qualities.
Even more than seeing how our culture at large is seeking to redefine ‘politically correct’ I am deeply dismayed to see those who are brothers and sisters in Christ jump on that bandwagon. See, as Christians we are not to fall prey to popular culture, but rather we are to be so overtaken by a supernatural love that every person is seen correctly as Imago Dei, the very image of God, that is a representative figure. (Imago Dei is a theological term that originates from Genesis 1:27 which tells of God making man in His own image.)
How are we honoring Christ when we proclaim that entire people groups should be automatically suspect, banned, or exiled from our country?
In Exodus 23:9 the nation of Israel was clearly ordered to NOT oppress the stranger. The Hebrew root word for stranger means sojourner or alien. A sojourner is one temporarily in a country. An alien is one who is not a naturalized citizen, it also encompasses those from another nation. That covers a lot of ground, doesn’t it? It includes a lot of people who don’t look like I do. There are many who claim our nation was founded upon the Bible, that we are a Christian nation … who claim that we *should* be a Christian nation. Well, if one holds that view should it not also follow that we should then act like a Christian nation and hold ourselves to biblical principles? From my experience it is many of those who are the most vocal about claiming Christianity that are the ones who would seek to dispense with an entire subculture within our country. Do they not see how that view does not line up with the very scripture they claim to revere? It baffles me.
Jeremiah 22:3 tells of a prophecy where the king of Judah is told to help those who are being oppressed, to be just and do no wrong to the disenfranchised, including the stranger.
In Zechariah 7:10 there is another call for mercy and justice where Israel is told to not oppress the poor, the fatherless, the widow, the poor… the stranger.
These are just a couple of examples and it’s not meant to be an exhaustive list by any means, for there are certainly more. But many would argue that the more something is mentioned, the more serious we ought to be about heeding the words. Matthew 25:31-46 should be a sobering passage for any who claim to follow Christ or who claim to take his words seriously. The passage talks about the final judgement of those who claim Christ and what good will result from their faithfulness. What I find interesting is that those He finds righteous are in effect those who ministered to those who didn’t matter, societally speaking, those to whom society at large ascribed little to no value. Those who society shunned. Sound familiar? It does to me. For as much as things change, they stay the same.
To fear is to know what it is to be human. To fear or be fearful is incredibly easy. But to love? There is no harder commandment in my opinion. I fail at it daily. It’s sobering and humbling. We are told to reach out, to spread God’s love and the gospel message. How do we expect to do that if we are too busy living in fear? We cannot speak out of both sides of our mouth and expect to be taken seriously. We can’t say “Let me tell you about Jesus” and then be known for our fear or hate of others. Of ANY others. Love and hate, God and mammon.
I used to be totally wrapped in fear, it is my default, so to speak. When one spends years surrounded by a culture of fear, well, fear tends to reign. There was an extremely painful and pivotal point in my life where I faced a choice: I could choose to live in fear and make decisions out of fear, or I could choose to take God at his word believing that fear was not from Him and as such had no place in my mind or heart as a believer. (2 Timothy 1:7) I chose to take the leap and leave fear behind. It required a serious re-orientation of my thinking. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that I made the decision once and was good from then on out. That would be a bad assumption. Fear is still my proclivity, I still have to make that choice daily. It’s still hard, but it’s still the right choice.
But “They intend to harm us!” So? What do the intentions of some fringe members of any religion or ethnicity have to do with our directive? Nothing. What would the presumed evil intentions of an entire religion or ethnicity have to do with our faith directives? Nothing.
I didn’t say it was easy.
My family and I lived in NYC for about 6 years and on 9/11 we were living just outside NYC. Our church met not far from what is now called Ground Zero. In fact, we couldn’t attend church for a few weeks as the area was cordoned off by the authorities while the remains of the towers continued to burn. I will never forget the acrid stench. It seemed as if the towers would never stop burning and we’d be seeing the pillar of smoke forever. We lived with the city filled with a military presence for quite some time. I don’t recall how long, exactly. What I find interesting is how my perspective differs significantly from others, many of whom were nowhere close to NYC at the time. It would seem by all rights I would be in favor of any and all measures, no matter what, to have a sense of safety and security having lived through 9/11 in a very personal way, but that would not be accurate. I hold no animosity against those of the muslim faith and never have. In fact, even from the time I found out what had happened (we went a week with no forms of communication) I’ve felt more compassion than anything. I immediately understood that an entire people group was going to be vilified. I think part of what may account for the difference of my viewpoint is that I feel very strongly that God is in control. I know that I would not want to be associated in any way with the crusades some who claim Christ have taken up. Our armed forces are important, yes, but I do not place my faith in man’s military might and I think this helps me to hold onto a healthier perspective. It is not my job nor right to correct wrongs and I’m glad for that because my view is sure to be skewed.
Political Correctness is not for wimps, rather it’s for those who would seek the be compassionate and empathetic towards others who are made in God’s image. We don’t get to choose who we think is made in God’s image, but we do get to choose our response to the truth that ALL humans are image bearers of God and deserving of respect, even if that means we must do the hard work of being politically correct and communicating respectfully to those with whom we may disagree.
That Urban Dictionary definition? That’s the language of wimps.
The big problem with political correctness is that it’s very difficult to be respectful towards others with whom you have serious disagreement. It requires a great deal of self-control in which many are entirely unwilling to invest, it’s really quite hard to consider others as better than ourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
P.S. Here is a post that I think ties in quite interestingly with this blog post. It is titled: I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup . It discusses how differently we see differences of race with how differently we see differences in politics. It’s a bit lengthy, but I think it well worth the read. I learned a bit from it and recognized a lot of truth in it.