Belligerent pt.19: When PC Isn’t PC

A member of my Small Church Pastor group page on Facebook asked a question and addressed it to “…his brothers in the ministry.”

A woman pastor lightheartedly responded, “Hey…what about your sisters in the ministry?”
The first pastor wrote back, “Sorry, no offense intended. It’s just habit I guess. I’ll change it.”
Another male pastor immediately said, “Don’t be so sensitive.”
Another female pastor took issue with the pastor who said, “Don’t be so sensitive.”, posting a rather lengthy, heated response   and calling for gender-neutrality language in our conversations.
A different pastor private messaged me to tell me that a woman in the group was pushing her feminist agenda.

“Wait. What? Where? I must have missed that.”, I told him. And then another comment appeared on the thread.

“Gender-neutrality language is a bunch of crap, PC crap! I hate political correctness! That’s what’s wrong with the church today. You need to take a chill pill.”

“Whoa Nelly”, I thought to myself, “That’s not cool.” I immediately private messaged the pastor to tell him that his response was inappropriate and unacceptable in our group. He left the group and so did the female pastor who was so upset.

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In preparation for this blog I posted on my Facebook timeline and my Small Church Pastor group page:

Help me out: Give me a brief definition of PC (Politically Correct). Not an example but a definition. Don’t look it up in the dictionary. How would you define PC? If you give an example instead of a definition there is a good chance it will be deleted.

Why the last sentence? Remember, I’ve been moderating my group page for more than eight years. I’ve been learning a lot about some, not all, but some pastors. Some pastors can’t simply answer a question without adding their commentary. It’s the commentary or examples in response to a question like I posted that often lead to mean-spirited controversy on my group page and we are working hard at avoiding that. Despite my warning, a number of pastors still managed to give specific examples of what they thought were attempts at being politically correct. True to my word, those entries were deleted. Some pastors don’t like it when I delete things they post that I feel are a departure from our group rules. I would guess that about half the time when I feel a need to remind pastors privately of our rules they handle it really well. The other half of the time they get mad at me and leave the group.

Well, back to my question. Over fifty responses came in over the next two hours. I really didn’t expect that many comments. I also didn’t expect how passionate some pastors are about the subject of political correctness. If you listen to some Christians and some pastors you would come to the conclusion that PC is one of the biggest problems in our country and probably the main problem with the church today. I’m not sure. What if the problem isn’t that we are too PC but that we aren’t PC enough?

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When I see the phrase politically correct, I first focus on the word political. Then I think of politics. Then I think of politicians. From there I think of things some politicians do or say in order to get elected. There is a dishonesty associated with it and a manipulation of the electorate.

Only one of the 53 responses to my question came close to mine: “Whatever phrasing or actions that will gain you the most (or cost you the least) votes.” Many of the comments were similar to these:

  • To go along with what the masses say instead of what is the truth.
  • The willingness to cast truth aside in order to not offend someone.
  • Not speaking truth
  • Setting aside all personal convictions to appease others.
  • It is a thought control tactic used by the liberal left which on the surface has the express purpose of not offending the disadvantaged and those who oppose Christian values, but which the unexpressed undercurrent is to silence truth and erode religious freedoms.

On the other side there were definitions such as:

  • Being kind and speaking in love.
  • Using language that isn’t offensive.
  • Choosing vocabulary for referring to people that is not based on prejudice nor intended to hurt or demean.
  • Choosing alternate, often unfamiliar language or practice, in an attempt to minimize actual or perceived offense toward a particular group.
  • A term that only people of privilege use to describe with disdain those who think differently about the power of language than they do.

I found it interesting to trace the origins of the phrase ‘political correctness’ or ‘politically correct’. I thought of sharing with you the history of PC and how it has evolved in meaning over the years, but that would digress from my point. When you have the time Google it, I think you will be surprised.

My point is that many Christians today are accusing other Christians of being PC. This indictment is usually accompanied by an air of contempt and belligerence. The claim is that certain believers, churches, and entire denominations have caved in to social pressure and have knowingly walked away from the truth of scriptures in order to better fit in to the non-Christian culture. Are there PCers like that out there? Probably, but I don’t know any of them…and I know a lot of Christians and Pastors and churches.

What I see happening is that there is a growing group of Christians who are trying to walk out their faith as closely to the example of Jesus as they can. As they attempt this they are becoming more kind, more accepting, more tolerant, more loving. They want to avoid offending others as much as possible. They love God. They believe in the Bible. Theirs is a different kind of PC, not ‘politically correct’ but ‘people compassionate.’ Do they get it right in every area of doctrine and practice? Of course not, but neither do those who are on the other side. Nobody gets it completely right.

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Few would argue that the apostle Paul was not afraid to speak the truth, confront sin and doctrinal error. His letters are filled with examples. Recently while reading through I Corinthians I came across two passages that made me see how balanced Paul really was.

I Cor. 9:20 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.  (NASB)

I Cor. 10:32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.. (NASB)

They say, “You can’t please everybody.” but is seems that Paul tried. Paul didn’t want to offend if he didn’t need to. Paul was trying to build bridges rather than walls in order that he might win people to Christ. I could imagine that if I said the same things Paul said in the above scriptures that some would accuse me of being too PC, a people-pleaser, that I’ve caved in to societal pressure.

I don’t want to call someone PC too flippantly, especially if my words accompanied by contempt and belligerence. I don’t want to accuse someone of being PC without talking to them and seeing their heart, their motives, their convictions. And if I happen to actually take the time to get to know the person I’m concerned about and end up not liking their motives, convictions and heart, if I still strongly disagree with them…I don’t want to attack or be offensive, I don’t want to be belligerent.

I think there is more PC out there among Christians than we imagine but it is not political correctness, it is people compassion.