Political Correctness and the Christian
Christians increasingly must deal with political correctness (PC). This is the idea, according to the online dictionary (.com), of “avoiding vocabulary that is considered offensive, discriminatory, or judgmental.” They even add that PC is tied to “demonstrating progressive ideals,” and particularly involves “race and gender.” PC is quite pervasive these days, and at times it feels like we are walking on egg shells just to avoid offending anyone. How ought Christians to look at this issue?
Look at it through a biblical lens, not merely a political or social lens. It’s easy to fall prey to political propaganda today, but this issue must not be decided politically. We must see matters through the lens of Scripture and let that be what determines what we do. Understand the biblical principles by which we operate. There are several, so let’s be reminded of a few:
First, be dedicated to spiritual truth. Our salvation depends on it (1 Tim. 2:4; John 8:31-32), and this dedication is bigger than whatever winds of change happen in culture.
Second, and no less than the first, be dedicated to loving both God and others (the two greatest commandments, Matt. 22:36-40). “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8).
Ephesians 4:15 puts truth and love together. “Speaking the truth in love” helps us mature in both doctrine and attitude. One without the other is futile. Where political correctness violates either of these, then we must avoid it.
Third, we should, as Paul, strive to become all things to all people (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Paul’s purpose for doing this was “so that I might win” others, “for the sake of the gospel,” to Christ.
Fourth, understand the limitations. We are to discern right from wrong (Heb. 5:12-14), which also means discerning what is morally or spiritually necessary from that which is not so.
Fifth, approach the world with wisdom. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:5-6). This should be a major factor in how we consider our reaction to PC.
Correlating to the above, then, here is what we can gather for practical application:
1. If speaking politically correct involves compromising God’s truth (e.g., by refusing to talk about sin), then it must be avoided. Truth is more important than anyone’s agenda, and truth will often be offensive to those who don’t want to hear it. This is what Jesus faced: “Then the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?’” (Matt. 15:12). Paul faced it, also: “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). If speaking truth means the world is offended, we must never give up the truth to placate the world.
2. If our actions that involve political correctness (to whatever degree we practice it) are not motivated by love, then we are not doing anyone any good (1 Cor. 13:1-3). If we purposively speak politically incorrect, not from teaching the gospel of truth, but in order to push buttons and irritate those with whom we disagree, then we are being divisive and acting in a way that will likely drive people away from Christ.
3. Becoming all things to all men means that we try to understand our times, understand where others are coming from, and purposively act in a way that points them to Christ. There may be matters of PC that we personally dislike, but if it is not sinful, and if it helps to provide more opportunities for teaching about Jesus, then we should, in such cases, act lovingly and speak without trying to offend. The gospel makes people Christians, not Americans, so if our motivation is just to act like patriotic Americans, and in that process become unnecessarily offensive, we have missed the point that we are citizens of a much greater kingdom that takes precedence (Phil. 3:20-21).
4. If the PC issue is not a matter of moral or spiritual necessity, then what is our purpose for being stubborn about particular terminology? If someone is offended by being called a certain term, for example, and it really boils down to a preference, then why would we purposively keep speaking offensively? That is just being obnoxious, not spiritual.
5. We should always consider the wisdom of speaking in a manner that is not offensive to others, given the other caveats above. We are told to speak with grace, to act with wisdom, to respond appropriately to each person. If we know something is offensive and yet doesn’t violate the above principles, then wisdom tells us to be gracious about it. Give up what is offensive if possible. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18).
The goal, as always, is to glorify God. Seek the wisdom of His word, and let the biblical principles guide us in how we act toward the world.