Thursday, August 6, 2015

Putting Political Correctness in its Place

Think of an insult, epithet or slur; got one in mind?  That was easy wasn’t it?  We humans are exceptional at tearing one another down, inventing all types of ways to debase our fellow humans.  We have abusive slang based on race, economics, culture, style of dress, religion, mental aptitude, sexuality, physical stature or traits…you get the picture. 

The social forces of the past 50 years have led to a philosophy designed to do away with such negative appellations; we call it ‘political correctness’, PC for short.  We can no longer call someone who cannot see ‘blind’ but must refer to them as ‘a person with vision challenges’.  Someone who we might have once referred to as ‘retarded’ we now are told is ‘developmentally delayed’.  This movement leaves many people perplexed, and sadly others deliberately increase their use of degrading terms as a direct challenge to the forces of political correctness.

As I randomly reflected on this the other day, I wondered: Have I misjudged the PC movement?  As a social-political conservative, my initial response to PC is negative resistance, but shouldn’t I instead, as a professing Christian, stand shoulder to shoulder with such a movement?


I should be better.

Here is the problem with political correctness.  It sets itself up as its own subjective moral standard, a humanist creation, which demands adherence for its own sake.  Political correctness is a self appointed judge, jury and executioner, the goal of which is not to lift people up, but to drag them down; restricting the voice of any who do not think or feel the way they determine to be ‘right’.  Its desire is submission to its own rule; its method is fear and intimidation.  Ultimately the underlying principle is control, which lies at the heart of all human systems.     

As a Christian, I look at these matters from a different perspective- the fundamental dignity of a human being; a person as a person with no thought to their color, gender, ‘handicap’, sexual choices (gasp!) or any other attribute or trait.  To see a person as a person and therefore to extend to them the elemental respect to which personhood entitles them.

There should be no debate over what makes a person a ‘person’.  All those belonging to this species we classify as ‘human being’ is a person- period.  From conception to end of life, this ‘human being’ is a full person.  The only reason we debate this is to gain our own selfish ends (i.e. abortion, euthanasia, etc.).

Humankind was uniquely created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).  I am not going to debate what this entails, the prime importance lies in the fact (the ‘what’) not necessarily in the details (the ‘how’).  But of greater importance is the ‘why’.  We human beings are created in the image of God in order that we, among all the creatures of the earth, may relate to and communicate with our Creator in a unique way.  The ‘fall’ of the first parents into sin marred that image and ability (see the wording of Genesis 5:3) but it did not eradicate it.  Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, reveals the full and true image of God (Colossians 1:15) and in Him the way is thrown open for that image to be renewed in human beings (Ephesians 4:24).

The well known story of the ‘Good Samaritan’ (found in Luke 10:30-37) is told in response to the question, ‘who is my neighbor?’ (see Luke 10:29).  In the story the religious personages debase the needy man by ignoring him.  The Samaritan acts for the well being of the man in need, not out of ‘political correctness’ but because it was the right thing to do!  The man in need was a fellow human being- period.  That’s the answer to the question.

Only through Jesus do we recognize that other people are my neighbors.  I would like to quote at length from Malcolm Muggeridge:

“Jesus…provides the possibility of loving God through, and in, Him, and, as part of the same process, of loving other men, our neighbors, through, and in, Him.  Thus the two commandments become one; to be celebrated in a Man –Jesus– Who dies, and sanctified in a Man –also Jesus– Who goes on living.  As out of Jesus’ affliction came a new sense of God’s love, and a new basis for love between men, so out of our affliction we may grasp the splendor of God’s love and how to love one another.  Thus the consummation of the two commandments was on Golgotha; and the Cross is, at once, their image and their fulfillment…[and] at last, triumphantly, we know what it is to love God, and looking outwards from within this love, we see our fellow men, all of them…every variety of human kind; see them all as brothers and sisters, members of one family, at once enfolded in God’s love and chained together by it…” (Malcolm Muggeridge ‘Jesus: the Man Who Lives’ Fontana 1976 p132-133)

PC does not seek for me to love my neighbor.  It rather demands I keep my mouth shut, my opinions to myself and my nose in my own business.  It tells me what I can or cannot call someone else, but isn’t that simply a continuation of the problem of assigning labels?  God, through Jesus, demonstrates a compassion and respect for the full dignity of a human being as a human being; a Christian dare do no less.         
As a Christian I roundly reject the presuppositions, assumptions, motives and humanistic underpinnings of political correctness.  Instead, I challenge Christians to step out in front, to take the lead in recasting the discussion.  It is about the fundamental dignity of a person as a person, something that should be upheld by every Christian, demanded by every Christian.  We refrain from insulting people, not because we are told to by the priests of political correctness; we treat people with dignity and respect because it is the right thing to do!  

When we hear slurs or derogatory comments, can we be bold in challenging those actions and attitudes not with the bullying threats of the PC philosophy, but in the compassionate and well articulated presentation of truth?  Not that we may exercise control over others, but that we might be agents through which the Lord may redeem a small piece of this fallen world.