Awhile back, I read one of those “gotcha” statements on Facebook. You know the kind I mean — the one that is intended to stop everyone in their tracks, generate 987 likes and obliterate all opinions to the contrary. The post read, “It’s time to stop being politically correct and be biblically correct.” I almost posted a comment, but I have this self-imposed rule about wasting time and energy. I would have said, “What if they are the same — political and biblical correctness? And who gets to decide that?”
I realize a segment of our society believes that careful, considerate speech has gone too far. They even make jokes about it. We can’t call a person short. She is vertically challenged. I am not bald; I am less-follically-enhanced than others. Usually, when people identify something as being politically correct, they are actually engaging in Orwellian doublespeak. They really mean it’s incorrect.
But there is a reason we use language carefully. Words matter. They have the power to exclude others and to create hurtful categories. When Jesus taught us to treat others the way we would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12), he was asking us to respect each other’s personhood. That surely includes using nouns and adjectives carefully. That child at the learning center is not “slow;” she is a human being with an intellectual disability. Some people in my church still call our Hispanic mission “our Mexican folks,” even though we have approximately five nationalities represented at any given time. Applying Jesus’ Golden Rule, if you are from Missouri, would you like to be referred to as a Canadian?
Honestly, my intention in this column is not to police socially insensitive speech and behavior. After all, I misspeak and misstep plenty of times myself. My problem is with people who denigrate political correctness by using the phrase as a sort of king’s X. It’s as if they think they can be rude and culturally insensitive, and then be excused for it by simply adding the snarky statement, “Oh, I guess that wasn’t politically correct.” Or even better, some do what my Facebook acquaintance did — assume that political correctness and biblical correctness are always opposites.
Shall we excise the Book of Ruth from our biblical canon? All that politically correct stuff about kindness to refugees! And speaking of homeless immigrants who are hounded out of the country, what’s with Matthew? Including that bleeding-heart story about baby Jesus and his parents having to flee their homeland and hide in Egypt!
In Luke 10, where Jesus tells about the man who was attacked by robbers, why did he have to go and ruin a perfectly good story by making the hero a hated Samaritan (insert Muslim, gay, trans, Hell’s Angel biker, anyone who doesn’t vote like you do)? Can’t you just hear some of our Lord’s critics? “Jesus, I didn’t come to church to hear political correctness! Just preach the Bible!”
And wasn’t the Apostle Paul just a bit over the top — maybe even socialist-tilted — when he tried to imply that male and female, Jew and Greek, slave and free are all included in God’s love (Galatians 3:28)? Come on, Paul, let’s not let political correctness cloud our pragmatism.
Playing the “politically correct” card is lazy. It attempts to dismiss ideas and attitudes we don’t like without having to deal with them. Playing the “politically correct” card is selfish because it assumes that our vantage point is normal and everyone else’s is abnormal. Playing the “politically correct” card is a culturally acceptable way of putting our personal biases above Scripture.
Remember — Jesus had his harshest words for people who were good, but not kind. When all is said and done, perhaps political correctness is simply about being courteous and considerate of others. I’m pretty sure that’s true. I saw it once on Facebook.