Political correctness and an excuse for bullying

Much is being said about political correctness these days. Apparently being politically correct has come to mean that we fail to speak truth because we are trying too hard not to offend.

At one time, being politically correct meant, at least from my perspective, sensitivity to prejudice and bias. For example, writers became more aware that using the singular pronoun “him” (when referring to a non-specific gender) excludes women, so writers substituted “her” or “him and her” or shifted to the plural “them” rather than use the masculine pronoun exclusively. This change in style was an attempt to be more inclusive and sensitive to female readers.

Nowadays, the term politically correct has taken on negative connotations. I suppose this results from the belief that political correctness seeks to please everyone and offend no one.

Yet, our public discourse has become cruder, not less crude. It’s rare when I read something on the Internet or in the news that I would suggest is politically correct to the point of absurdity.

If anything, the opposite has been my experience, especially on the Internet. People are not holding back, and many times they use the excuse of not wanting to be politically correct to spew their venom.

Maybe political correctness has unintentionally backfired. Perhaps public awareness of the need to include and not offend the other has sparked a rebellion. Many blame politicians for this backlash. In order to win votes, people believe, politicians will say whatever potential voters wish to hear. The public claims to be tired of these empty words and longs to hear “straight talk.”

Saying anything to win votes is not being politically correct as I define it. Saying anything to win votes is being politically expedient.

Ironically, however, the “straight talk” which pleases some is not usually the truth. When public figures speak out without concern for offending others, they are sometimes praised as being courageous. Casting aspersions on a race of people or on someone’s religion or insulting someone’s appearance or gender, while politically incorrect, are not based in truth.

Thus, this attempt to speak boldly, to shun political correctness, while claiming to be morally superior, is, in fact, divisive and hurtful. Yes, perhaps the words are spoken honestly, but there’s a difference between honesty and truth. Sometimes, honest opinions are far removed from the truth.

The truth is difficult for many people to hear but is never based in stereotypes or prejudice or insult. The truth reflects the best of humankind, not the worst. People are never condemned by the truth; they are united around it. Christianity was built around the truth and continues to exist to this day because of the truth.

The truth unites us around a conviction that God deeply loves each of us and invites us to build God’s kingdom on earth.

The truth Jesus spoke was politically incorrect, not because he created scapegoats or rallied people against each other. The truth Jesus spoke caused the people in power to punish him, and that’s how it was politically incorrect. The powerful of his time wanted nothing to do with his message of inclusion.

The truth Jesus spoke was politically incorrect because he defied the stereotypes and social constructs of his time to show that even the despised and condemned were beloved children of God.

To proclaim this message required great courage. It still does.