Being Biblically Correct in a Politically Correct Culture Part Two
Topic: Culture Passage: Luke 6:45
Riding the Rapids: Navigating the Whitewater of Today's Culture
Grace Community Church
Dec. 6, 2015
Riding the Rapids: Being Biblically Correct in a Politically Correct Culture Part Two
Luke 6:45The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
For our guests, we have been in a series called Riding the Rapids: Navigating the Whitewater of Today's Culture and this week we're going to finish up a two part message on the issue of political correctness. Looking ahead, next week our friend Matt Slack will be here to bring us a Christmas message, and the following week we will be finishing up the series on cultural whitewater by stepping into the issue of evolution.
A lot of people might think that a message on political correctness is going to be a message on politics, but it's not. My focus is on ways that political correctness cuts cross grain with biblical truthand last week we looked at two ways that being biblically correct will make us politically incorrect:
Political correctness encourages a victim mentality - the Bible encourages us to rise above trials, hatred, oppression, and injustice through faith in God
Political correctness views offending someone as one of the worst things we can do to someone - the Bible tells us that the gospel of Christ has offense built into its DNA
The third way that PC-ness and biblical faithfulness go in different directions is that:
Political correctness seeks to control language through authoritarianism - the Bible says our language can only be changed by having our hearts changed.
It might surprise some to hear me say that PC-ness seeks to control language through authoritarianism, especially since PC-ness is largely a young person movement, but increasingly the impulse of PC-ness is moving away from freedom of speech towards an authoritarian approach to that seeks to control words, thoughts and behavior and punish those who step out of line.
In her book, The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech, liberal Democrat Kirsten Powers makes a well documented case that strict advocates of PC-ness don't want freedom for people to dialogue, debate, and persuade people of their views. Increasingly PC advocates want to shut down debate and dissension by demonizing and delegitimizing anyone who holds a viewpoint that doesn't line up with theirs. I don't think a lot of young people realize that this is the consequence of PC-ness, I think that a lot of our young people have been so indoctrinated with a certain point of view - and certain "trigger words" have been so high-jacked by the PC movement- that in their minds having any other view point is illegitimate and means that you're an awful person. The PC movement stands for tolerance, diversity, inclusion, civility, and the end of racism and bias and discrimination. Therefore, in their minds, if you don't agree with the PC movement then you must stand for racism, discrimination, intolerance, etc. And that needs to be shut up and shut down. No debate or discussion necessary! But we need to be careful: nice sounding words can, and often are, used to disguise authoritarian control as actions done for the higher good.
Last week I mentioned the book 1984 by George Orwell. In this classic novel one of the things the dictatorship called the Party was a master at doing was giving nice-sounding names to terrible things. They make their 24/7 surveillance over everyone sound warm and fuzzy with the slogan "Big Brother is watching you". Who could object to a big brother watching over and protecting them? The hero of the story Winston works at a place called the Ministry of Truth - that's a noble sounding work environment if ever there was one. But what they do at the Ministry of Truth is to go back and rewrite news articles so that the historical record always supports the party line, and then they are tasked to destroy the original articles so that there are no existing historical records that contradict the party's rewrite of history. The truth becomes what they want the truth to be.
When Winston is caught committing a thought crime he's taken to the Ministry of Love - where he's tortured and brainwashed until he snaps. The names sound so good - the reality is terrible. There is a warning in that book to all of us that just because someone uses a noble word, doesn't mean what they're doing is good. BTW, churches can be guilty of this too. There are some churches that speak passionately about living holy and righteous lives, hating ungodliness, and avoiding worldliness - all of which are good and biblical things. But when you dig a little deeper you find that they have a narrow, rigid, legalistic definition of what these things mean - and if you step out of line with their definition - even if the Bible gives you freedom to do so - they will judge and ostracize you.
I saw a pop up ad on the computer for two bottles of a certain supplement for FREE! It looked mildly interesting to me so I decided to check some reviews on the product and learned that FREE means they will send them to you for free and if you don't return them in 14 days they will charge you $90 a bottle. Free doesn't mean to them what it means to most of us. Words aren't important: meanings are.
I think that many young people sincerely want good results, but don't recognize the dangerous impulse of authoritarianism that has convinced them that any view that isn't PC must be motivated by hate and racism and intolerance. So they feel justified to shout down, disrespect, loathe, and, if possible, punish anyone who has a different value system or sees things differently than they do.
79 year old UCLA professor Val Rust sparked a protest when he corrected a student's capitalization of the word indigenous. The offended student claimed that the professor disrespected her ideological viewpoint. Without any due process, the campus administration removed this kindly man from the Graduate School of Education and Information Services for one year and commissioned an "Independent Investigative Report on Acts of Bias and Discrimination Involving Faculty at the University of California". That's a nice name for a committee- it's got all the right sounding words in it. Their report recommended frequent investigations of professors, noting that investigations might deter those who would engage in such conduct." Conduct such as correcting the capitalization on a paper. Does anyone really think that frequent investigations on the smallest infractions with punishment handed out without due process will inspire professors to their job better?
This past week two popular Yale professors, Nicholas and Erika Christakis, resigned their teaching positions after a controversy erupted over an email Erika wrote addressing the heavy-handed rules the Yale administration had distributed over what Halloween costumes students could or couldn't wear. Her point was that it is more dangerous to give the administration increasing power to censure and prohibit student's choices than for a student to have to deal with a costume that might offend them.
Student outrage erupted over her email, interpreting it as a violation of the rights of students who felt offended or threatened by certain costumes. At one point a student accosted Nicholas Christakis on the campus grounds and as a crowd gathered she was videotaped screaming at him that Yale was supposed to be a safe place, that he was disgusting, and that he shouldn't be able to sleep at night, while students stood by snapping their fingers in approval of what this girl said. These two popular teachers felt that the climate of shouting down anyone the students disagree with was not conducive to dealing with the issues of the day and so they resigned their positions.
What is surprising is that in both these cases, the PC-driven students were comfortable giving more and more authority to the powers that be in order to see behavior they didn’t approve of prohibited and punished. This reflects a growing trend among young people. According to the 2013 First Amendment Center annual survey, 47% of people between 18-30 believe the 1st Amendment goes too far and protects too much. Almost half. What these young people may not realize is that if the powers that be can take away the free speech of that person you disagree so strongly with today, what will stop them from taking away your free speech tomorrow? Of course they will do it in the name of tolerance, and kindness, and civility, and eradicating bias and hate. As they define it.
There's always a danger of trying to mandate proper behavior, language, and thinking through authoritarianism. I am sure that many of these students sincerely want to see an end to hate speech, racism, mistreatment of gay people, and other forms of intolerant, offensive behavior. As Christians we can join them in wanting to see an end to these things. But the truth is, true tolerance, kindness, civility, respect, and ending bias and hate can never be accomplished by authoritarianism. What will happen is what is happening: authoritarianism will only be tolerant, civil, respectful, and unbiased towards those who agree with it. Those who have a different viewpoint are fair game to treat with intolerance, utter disrespect, and do whatever is necessary to shut down and shout out their voices.
Dictating the right kind of speech never works because it doesn’t get to the root problem of unkind, or bigoted, or disrespectful speech, which is our heart. Jesus said, The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
The Bible tells us that evil speaking comes from evil hearts, and Jesus came to change our hearts. As Christians, God hasn't called us to shout down those who disagree with us, or try to punish them for not believing what we believe. Just the opposite: As followers of Jesus we are called to love people who disagree with us, even if they do hurtful things to us because 1) God loved us while we were yet His enemies, and 2) Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for them. We want to be kind to people because we have experienced God's kindness to us. We want to treat people we disagree with respect because they deserve our respect. That's true tolerance. We can firmly believe what we believe and still absolutely respect and be civil to those who don't believe what we believe. I am afraid that the church has alienated many people because they don't feel love or respect from us. Too often they feel a carnal anger and contempt coming from the church. We end up fighting the flesh with the flesh and that accomplishes nothing - we need to walk in the power of the Spirit if we're going to see hearts changed.
The gospel isn't about making people conform, it's about seeing people transformed! Jesus didn't come to get into a shouting match with the world. He came to give his life as the highest expression of love, dying for us while we were yet his enemies, in order to win our hearts by his love. And so, church, we want to stand against the authoritarian impulses of the PC movement, but not by countering it with angry rhetoric but by humbly and courageously standing for what we believe to be the truth - and seeking to win people to Christ one heart at a time. Political correctness seeks to control language through authoritarianism -the Bible says our language can only be changed by having our hearts changed.
Political correctness is focused on what is "culturally correct". The Bible is focused on what is truth
As we looked at in an earlier message in this series, many people today do not believe in an absolute truth - truth is relative, they believe. If there is no absolute truth, then what is "correct" is as changing as the weather. Like Jesus said in his parable, we're building on sand when we're building on the changing standards of correctness as defined by the current culture. What's correct today won't be correct a year from now, just as things that were correct to believe, say, or do ten years ago are no longer correct.
Let me return to an example I gave last week. When Mozilla co-founder Brandon Eich was announced as Mozilla's new CEO and gay rights supporters found out that he had six years previously donated $1000 to Prop 8, a ban on same sex marriage, they demanded that he could not run the company he founded because this donation revealed that he held a bigoted, hateful ideology. In March of 2014 when all this broke out, a majority of the nation had come to believe that same sex marriage should be allowed and many states had already adopted it as a law. But when Eich made that donation, six years earlier, the vast majority of Americans and almost everyone in public eye stood against same sex marriage, including Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Prop 8 was approved by a vast majority in California (which is hardly a conservative state). Eich's conviction that marriage should be between one woman and one man was at that time a belief that was held by a majority of people in the country, including our current President. But over a period of six short years the sands of culture had shifted and gay rights supporters wanted to punish him now for what he believed then.
The waters get really muddy when our standard becomes correctness rather than truth. But there is a deeper spiritual war going on. Jesus said that if we hold to his teaching, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. Jesus is the Truth, and that truth doesn't change, doesn't bend, doesn't shift according to consensus. Romans 3:4 says let God be true, and every human being a liar. Having a lot of people believe something doesn't make it true. God is true - even if every single human being believes otherwise. But more than anything Satan wants to keep us from the truth. Jesus said Satan is a liar (in other words, to his core he is a liar, by his very nature he is utterly untrue and deceptive), and is the father of lies. All lies trace their family heritage back to the devil. He is a master at spinning threads of lies until he weaves a web that is tailored for that specific culture.
PC-ness isn't about truth, it's about a certain kind of correctness that drives a deeper agenda. Romans 1:18 gives us frightening insight into men's hearts: the agenda of the ungodly isn't content with believing lies, it wants to suppress the truth. Satan wants something (agenda), he uses lies to get it. Sinful men's hearts want something (agenda), and they will not only lie, but they will suppress the truth to get it.
I want to close with a biblical example of this agenda-driven suppression of truth. There are transferable lessons for the PC movement today in this story. Turn with me to the gospel of John 7:45-52.
Do you see what the Pharisees do? The temple guards come back and say, "no one ever spoke like this man does." Their hearts were being stirred by his words like they had never been stirred before. Truth was resounding in their hearts. The Pharisees don't engage in a reasoned, careful consideration of the truth or lack of truth in Jesus' teaching. They don't go into an in-depth biblical explanation why Jesus can't be the promised Messiah. Instead they first insult the guards: you mean he has deceived you also? Implied: if you don't agree with us, you have been duped. And then they intimidate them by pointing to consensus: have any of the rulers or Pharisees (the important people - our Hollywood actors, prominent scientists, popular politicians, etc) believed in him? They shame them by saying, sure, these uneducated, unsophisticated, know-nothing mobs fall for him. But you're not stupid enough to follow them, are you?
Do you see the intense pressure that is being applied to fall in line with their thinking. But there is no reasoned thinking, no persuasive dialogue, no respectful discourse. It's all, "if you disagree with us, you are idiots". BTW, Jesus would have welcomed respectful questioning and probing into his messiahship if it were coming from an honest desire to know the truth. But they had an agenda, and Jesus didn't fit that agenda, and so they pressed people to fall in line with their thinking through intimidationBut the story isn't done. There's a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who had earlier gone to Jesus in the night, and he reasonably points out, hey, doesn't the Bible say that we are supposed to carefully hear this man out and investigate his claims rather than condemn him without hearing him?
That is a reasonable question. But the Pharisees don't answer it. They again try intimidation by association: hey are you also from Galilee? It's a city of losers, Messiahs don't come from there. Only idiots do. Is that where you're from?
I am always amazed at how the Pharisees could ignore so much amazing evidence that Jesus was from God. But what I come back to time and again is, agenda drove them, not truth. They didn't want to jeopardize their position. And so they promoted correctness (as they defined correctness) and suppressed the truth. Even after Jesus was raised from the dead, they never engaged with what that said about Jesus and his claims to deity. All they cared about was scheming how to suppress that information through deception and misinformation. . I submit to you that that kind of pressure goes on all the time today, based on shame, insult, consensus, and condescension.
In less than two weeks is Christmas, when Jesus, the Son of God, entered the world as a baby. He didn't come to condemn the world, he didn't come to rail against the evils of the world. He came to be a light of truth in a dark place and then to die in order to save the world. And he left us here to be his lights in the world. There are many sincere politically correct people who want to see things change for the better. They want to see things like intolerance, injustice, oppression, discrimination end. As Christians we share that desire. And we can point them to a stable, and a cross, where the Savior of the world gave his life not only to end the greatest tyranny of all - the tyranny of sin - but to set us free in the greatest possible way. Free to know the love of God in Christ Jesus. Free to serve the Lord and His eternal purposes in this temporal world. Free to help others come to know the love of Christ in their lives.
PC-ness is focused on what is "culturally correct". The Bible focuses on what is truth, and Jesus is the Truth our souls seek. Jesus said "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." John 8:31-32 With loving and humble hearts, let's stand for, and in, that truth. Let's pray.
More in Riding The Rapids
January 3, 2016Evolution and Creationism Part Two
December 27, 2015Evolution and Creationism Part One
December 6, 2015Being Biblically Correct in a Politically Correct Culture