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The Price of Political Correctness Last update: September 2012

I will challenge the reader to dismiss this issue as largely irrelevant. Read on and think again.

If anything, watch the video below for a secular perspective of political correctness.

It is a proper thing to be polite. It is correct to do the acceptable thing. To do as everybody does. To fit in. To assimilate. To integrate. To coordinate. To play the game. To be on the team. To obey the rules.

Wait a minute. What rules? Rules of sophistication, ... of course! Of education, enlightenment and instruction. Of culture, edification and teaching. Of maturity and intelligence. Rules of political correctness .... rules that distinguish the culturally and intellectually endowed from the culturally and intellectually weak! Rules that put us on our own, personal, imaginary pedestals. Those rules!

Rules that shape the way we talk to each other, write to each other, kiss each other, rebuke each other, instruct one another, learn from another. Rules that shape what we know, who we know it from and the extent to which we know it. Rules that literally shape the world we live in.

These are rules created to help us discern ‘good’ from ‘bad’, ‘right’ from ‘wrong’. And, these are rules that help us create social stereotypes and reinforce Biblical ignorance.

Stereotypes

Stereotyping happens when we ascribe certain characteristics – real or imagined - to an individual or group of people based on their behaviour or based on their (external) characteristics. Thus, stereotyping projects as true assumptions based on limited information. Now, this does not mean that the said assumptions may not be correct, only that a judgement is made based on very limited information.

For many years people who wore spectacles (reading glasses) were considered more intelligent than others because they were seen to have read more books or were seen to be more educated. The same type of stereotyping happened or is happening to people of ‘Middle-Eastern heritage’ following 9/11. They were and still are seen as potential terrorists. Or, supporting terrorism, at least. Again, the assumptions made may in fact be accurate. Or, they might not be.

In the same way the Democrats in the United States are projected (by the mainstream media) as being intellectually superior claiming ‘advancement’ in the form of socially liberal norms and cultural sensitivity while the support of ‘free thinking’ celebrities and academics reinforces such labels. On the other hand, the Republicans, riding on the back of Sarah Palinism (refer her profile), George W. Bushism (refer his profile) and incidents accredited to The Tea Party enjoy the ridicule of their rivals while being branded “redneck” or “brash” or “stupid”.

Amongst Christians we also form opinions of the intelectually superior by outward appearances. The wise words of popular TV preachers of this world convert to books, DVD’s and conferences while the knowledge of God by the one who sits at the door of the soup kitchen simply does not count.

And so, stereotypes abound. And, in stereotypes we as Christians trust. For by stereotypes we make decisions. Decisions about who to hear and who not to hear. If he or she looks or sounds the way we like them to, then they must be right!

Christian thinking is shaped

In the end, even Christians have adopted the secular approach of 'how one looks and how one sounds is what counts'.

As Christians this is important because it shapes the way we apply our ears to instruction and correction. In a society where ‘speaking the right language’ or behaving in a culturally sensitive way has become somewhat of a metaphor for intelligence or ‘informedness’, communicating in a way that does not resonate with the majority of people around you is bound to create enemies, or, at least, win you no friends. 

Imagine how many Charismatic followers a person like say Joel Osteen would have had (no, I am not picking on him) if he stuttered and had a nervous twitch in his one eye? Or, how about the Pope – imagine he had no entourage and wore a regular short-sleaved checked shirt and khaki slacks – would he have come across as much holy and reverend as he does to so many followers? Physical attractiveness stereotype, suggests neither would.

Scientists postulate (claim) that there is a direct link between the impression formed of an individual and the extent to which that person is considered to be successful or ‘in the know’. The physical attractiveness stereotype suggests that people who are attractive or 'finished' are perceived to be happier, kinder, more outgoing and successful. Such stereotypes create self-fulfilling prophesies where the relevant individual receives preferential treatment and ends up being more successful as a result. There are studies that link the relative attractiveness (or 'finishing') of an individual with their relative income. The more attractive you are the better your prospects of earning more money or being more successful in your profession. This includes the profession of Biblical teaching, of course. The premise of this phenomenon is the physical attractiveness stereotype. Attractiveness can be defined as physical features, eloquence (how well they express themselves) or both.

Why is this topic important?

Why is this important? Because the ‘fruit’ that a person such as preacher or a Biblical teacher bears is not as man judges but as God judges. The Lord sees right through what we might project to the world. That’s not to say that the men mentioned above are false or dubious, only that we as followers tend to pick those who are externally well-finished. What looks right or sounds right is right – right? Wrong.

Thus, if we are smart about it, we will listen to what a person says not how he says it. I will suggest that the emotionally mature person can do that. The emotionally immature person cannot. He or she listens to how a person delivers what they say and compare that with how well the person fits the supposed paradigm (example) of a knowledgeable person before they open their ears to him or her.

The politically correct person listens more to how a person says something than what they are actually saying. The impact of the message is thus easily 'lost in translation'.

I once heard an lecturer suggest that the Apostle Paul had a personality defect because he could not articulate his thoughts in a socially acceptable manner. As an example it was suggested that Paul did not deliver his message with much tact (compare Galatians 3:1). As such, it was further suggested that Paul was culturally insensitive and that his writings needed not to be taken too seriously. That is Political Correctness gone mad. For if it is believed that the Holy Spirit inspired the Holy Bible then it should be trusted that whatever is written in it ought to have been written in the way it was written. Was God so 'culturally insensitive' that He penned something that would bring unintended offense? I think not.

A popular school of thought also suggests that the Bible is one large book of culturally sensitive assertions meant to be understood only through the lens of the well-informed minority who have been trained in historical cultural analysis. It is suggested thus that what is written in the Bible cannot be understood clearly without the reader understanding the culture at the time of writing. It needs special ‘spectacles’ of cultural instruction, not the Holy Spirit, to guide one’s understanding. Well, so much for receiving the Kingdom as a little child!

Find the connection

Political Correctness determines who we listen to - it teaches us to discard those who do not fit the politically correct discription. And, who we listen to will determines what we believe and what we do. Do you see the connection? Political correctness decides who are worthy teachers and who are not, even amongst Christians.

That was the case for the lecturer mentioned above. And I will suggest that most of us unwittingly reason in the same way in our hearts every day.

This is exactly why I believe why Jesus was not a physically attractive man – on the cross that is, at the very least. Neither was Moses well spoken and nor was the Apostle Paul attractive or eloquent. We know that Jesus spoke in parables and suggested to His followers that only those who were closest to Him would really understand what He said. This, I believe, was by design. Those who minded not how He spoke but what He spoke ended up being closest to Him - they wanted to know what He said and they reaped the rewards for it. They were less interested in what He looked like and how He sounded and whether or not He used socially 'acceptable' terminology.

Whereas the Jews were expecting a hero-like David-figure to conquer and charm, Jesus did the exact opposite. He was born into humility. He spoke the word of God clearly and without hesitation of a person’s potential offense. Those who had ears that were truly tuned in to what God wanted to say heard Him. Those who were tuned into what the rest of the world prized - appearance, eloquence, diplomacy, tact - these did not hear Him.

And so, those who only heard a mere carpenter speaking turned away in offense to seek the reincarnated David - the man of great acclaim. I see that happening almost every day. Yet I see it as part of God’s plan. In the end, we choose not to hear God. It is not Him avoiding a conversation with us. It is our choice to hear Him, especially when He speaks through the untrained and the uneducated and the non-Men's Health look-alike.

Jesus' political incorrectness

Jesus sometimes knowingly offended people. Yet He said, “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (Luke 7:23). Jesus wants us to overcome our social stereotypes and grow to maturity. He wants us to prize His truth over our feelings.

Other times it mattered not to Him whether or not others were offended – as long as He spoke the truth. How about Matthew 15:11-15 where Jesus calls those who are offended “blind leading the blind”! And, how about the time He overturned the money tables in the temple - even taking the time to make a whip before He pursued their greed with vengence?

At other times He avoided offense altogether – compare Matthew 17:27. And at times He pursued peace.

Was there any greater politically incorrect man of God than Jesus Christ? I think not. Yet, what I am saying here is not that Christians should seek offense, only that we should not readily flee from it at the expense of truth.

Have a look at the case of Nicodemus, a Pharisee and part of a group of people who were very well educated, eloquent in communication and certainly looked the part with special clothing decorated to illustrate their sense of ‘holiness’. Notwithstanding, these were a group of people who generally received the harsh end of Jesus’ teaching as He spoke what was guaranteed to offend them, “you are of the devil”, “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:33), while John the Baptist – a rough man (I'm thinking farmer from the Outback of Australia) eating wild honey and wearing animal skin for clothing - calling them a “Brood of Vipers”.

Yet, Nicodemus was different. He minded not this humble carpenter’s demeanour. He minded not that He came from Nazareth (“can any good come out of Nazareth?”). He minded not that He had uneducated fishermen for disciples. No, what Nicodemus was concerned over was not the how Jesus said things but the what He said instead? Goodness me, how much we can learn from that?!

Political Correctness in modern history

Indeed political correctness – recorded to be a leftist liberal initiative since the 1970’s through the continuation of the civil liberties struggle in the United States, has not only defined the things we talk about but also the way we talk about things and the people we listen to. Be branded as an “extremist” and you are less likely to attract any hearers. Be seen as contra politically correct and you are cast out as intellectually inferior and culturally misguided, ‘riding rough shod’ or 'he who does not fit in'.

Political correctness is defined by Wikipedia as “a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts, and, as purported by the term, doing so to an excessive extent.”

It is a term that is now deeply entrenched in the value system of the West. Moreover, it is a set of rules – created by those outside of Christianity - which dictates to Christians whom we hear and what we perceive as true. It suggests what is acceptable and what is not.
And, because of how it positions itself within the Christian faith, it is a term that has come to even mean ‘Christlikeness’ or ‘gentleness’ or ‘harmony’ – it is the avoidance of offense at all cost.

What the church has lost

Yes, of the many things the church as let go over the ages, it has also let go of its integrity. Christianity, like the secular world around us, wants to be “in”. It wants to be cool, inoffensive, acceptable, nice. Christianity wants to be the go-to religion for those who want to be pious. Those who want to be accepted. It wants to be tolerable, conventional, pleasing. Christianity wants to lose its offense. Christianity wants to be Politically Correct. And so I wonder how those politically incorrect men - Jesus and John the Baptist - would view such playing with empty words?

Yes, indeed, so we claim moral rectitude as we quote Paul, We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed” (2 Corinthians 6:3-10). Yet, we read not what he means by it – ‘our ministry gives no cause to stumble from the truth’. Paul is not saying that people will not take offense of the Gospel. On the contrary, he is saying that he does whatever can to ensure that whatever he preaches sees no-one stumble from the truth (even if some don't like the message).

Now, there is sense in being inoffensive, of course. Why be a sledge hammer if you can be a chisel? But that is hardly the point. The issue here is that we – Christians in particular – have become accustomed to hear only those who look the part and sound the part. We have grown accustomed to be entertained. To be led by outward appearances. To be swayed by popular opinion.

And so, those who look not ‘holy’ are considered unholy. Those who look not godly are considered ungodly. Those who sound not polished are considered uninformed. Those who sound abrasive are considered arrogant.

“Oh, foolish Church, who has bewitched you?” one might want to quote Paul.

The documentary - the origins and effects of Political Correctness

As I looked for references to back up what I am saying here I came across a very interesting video – something new to me. Though it addresses socio/political issues at large its findings are absolutely relevant and true for all of Christianity. Watch this 22 minute video about the origins of Political Correctness and see how, through adopting Political Correct attitudes, Christianity at large has been hoodwinked.

The start of this video may be off-putting or 'over-the-top' to some since it refers to Marxist initiatives. But if you can work through it you may in fact be the wiser following. This video really is worth watching. (Top)

 

The History of Political Correctness (Complete)Flash FLV Embed by VideoLightBox.com v2.5

(Top)

Today we make assumptions about knowledge and competence on the outward appearance or the sound of a tongue. And so, a small minority of socially savvy wranglers, by introducing to Christianity its sense of moral rectitude through ‘correct’ language, terminology and behaviour have high jacked the minds of millions.

The price

But the most important price that is being paid this very moment is the thing which I see at the bedside of sick people every week – loneliness.

When life slows down and people get time to reflect on the things that matter most, many come to realise that the relationships they thought they had really were ‘shallow graves of pleasantries’. What should have been sources of authenticity and truth where a true 'connection' between people is made, communication had become lifeless rhetoric in the interest of ‘respect’ and the avoidance of offence.

What people have intended for the preserverence of relationships have become the very enemy thereof.

So tuned in are we to avoiding offense and ‘fitting in’ that we have lost our ability to carry our thoughts with integrity. We have lost our ability to say what we mean and to mean what we say.

What we see not in churches almost anywhere is the straightforwardness of love, the respect of differences, the authenticity of expression and the tolerance of the Truth.

As the Gospel is truth, so it is offense. To avoid offense altogether is to avoid the Gospel also.

And so, like Paul in communicating with others I choose to err on the side of caution - caution not to stop sharing the full counsel of God and thus not have my "hands stained with the blood of men" (Acts 20:26-27).

I endeavour to say with Paul that I want to grow up in expressing truthfully what love means, not acting like a child but like a man: "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." (1 Corinthians 13:11)

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Remember: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (Jesus)

Please consult the Bible and test what is written here. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in this area. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not Scriptual. Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

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