Monday, April 16, 2012

Political Correctness for All

In a recent CNN article, the focus is on the actor Kirk Cameron, who has recently produced and starred in the documentary movie, Monumental. The movie seeks to investigate the Christian faith of America’s founding fathers and attempts to draw attention to a historically revised culture whose soul, he claims, is sick.

In response to challenges to the veracity of his claims and the accuracy of the historical work done by his colleagues, Cameron insists that his detractors are the ones who “bow to the god of political correctness.” I suspect that the historians who have critiqued the movie—some from Christian academic institutions—might see their motivations differently.

I think, however, that there really is such a thing as the attitude popularly known as “political correctness.” I’ve been in settings where the mere mention of a different way of looking at an issue raises cries of horror and claims about personal offense. I find that such hyper-sensitivity does not allow for creative, thoughtful dialogue, regardless of the issue.

I wonder if there aren’t really two sources of this attitude: Fear, and the desire for power. The desire for power is easy to understand. Propaganda has been used for a long time to re-create the thinking of a culture and to vilify those who see things differently. Creating a new “political correctness” that caricatures one’s enemies and produces popular support is a mechanism of power.

But political correctness can also be generated by fear—mostly by the fear of loss. Certain topics are off-limits or instant fields of battle because of the fear of losing position, orthodoxy, or allegiances.

And we religious folks are not immune to this. I’ve been in settings where questions are raised about the nature of the atonement or the language that properly describes the authority of Scripture, and things get pretty nasty after awhile. Once someone has decided that there is a lot to lose in the conversation, certain things cannot be discussed.

Jesus, clearly, took on a politically incorrect posture, and it resulted in his murder. But Jesus wasn’t the only politically incorrect player in the story; the Sadducees also ran against certain dominant views. The Sadducees were known for their disbelief in the resurrection of the dead, and stood in theological opposition to the Pharisees. I find it interesting that Jesus was willing to engage both parties in dialogue—setting them straight, to be sure, but without allowing their differences to exclude anyone from the conversation.

Let’s face it—we all do the political correctness thing at one time or another. Dumping that descriptor doesn’t mean we have to roll over and play dead for every view that comes our way, but it could mean that we don’t have to be driven by fear or the need for power. When we fall into those traps, any evidence—real or fabricated—that supports our preferred views is often considered acceptable.

I think that the Bible would put that in the category of Bearing False Witness.

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