Or, how to stick up for political correctness when it gets ridiculed at church.
A few weeks ago in Sunday school I was chided for suggesting that Christopher Columbus didn’t merit our unalloyed appreciation. I did it with as much diplomacy as I could muster, making sure to emphasize everyone was entitled to their own opinion. My observation was dismissed as the product of too much “political correctness” in the world. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard “PC” being spoken of disparagingly at church—even some general authorities have spoken of it as something to be lamented if not rejected. But it was the first time my own observation directly provoked the disparagement. And it felt terrible. In the current political climate of the United States we’re seeing compelling evidence that dismissing the idea of political correctness wholesale is a huge mistake.
I’m not debating the merits of the idea here. This post is for you if you find yourself in a class discussion where fellow sisters and brothers in the gospel ridicule the “PC Police” and you want to offer a different perspective without tanking all your social capital. Here’s an example (with my commentary included) of how you might steer the discussion in a better direction:
- “I apologize in advance for lingering on this point a little longer since it’s a bit of a sidetrack [This windup helps alleviate the teacher’s and class’s anxiety that a rant is on the way], but I’m interested in what it means to be ‘politically correct,’ because sometimes we talk about it like it’s a bad thing [Using more neutral language like being “interested” establishes a better tone than “I really don’t like when people talk about PC like this,” etc.]. I’ll be very brief. According to Webster’s Dictionary [Mormons gonna Morm!], political correctness means ‘agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people.’ I like that definition. Don’t we all do that sometimes? When’s the last time you heard someone say a word like ‘bullcrap’ in a sacrament meeting talk? [Provide an example people can relate to.] Sure, political correctness can be taken to an extreme [anticipate/circumvent reasonable objections]. But I think most of the time it just means we try to show respect and love for other people in what we say and do. I believe political correctness is just another way of showing charity for others [testify!].”
Try it out. Craft your own statement using some of those bracketed principles and post it in the comments. Did I miss anything?
Of course, fellow church members might push back on this comment by observing that sometimes truth can be offensive: “The guilty taketh the truth to be hard” (1 Nephi 16.2). A person could invoke this scripture while making a judgment they aren’t qualified to make: that an offended person must be the guilty party. The attitude is like this: We have to “tell it like it is,” and if they don’t like it we can assume they take the truth to be hard.
But what if the offender is the one who can’t accept the hard commandment to love one another? It’s possible that the truth of political correctness is too hard for the person guilty of breaching it to take.
Here are few additional resources you might use because sometimes you’ll need some scriptural or General Authority backup:
- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Tongue of Angels,” April 2007 General Conference:
“The voice that bears profound testimony, utters fervent prayer, and sings the hymns of Zion can be the same voice that berates and criticizes, embarrasses and demeans, inflicts pain and destroys the spirit of oneself and of others in the process. ‘Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing,’ James grieves. ‘My brethren [and sisters], these things ought not so to be.’ (James 3:2–10). … So, brothers and sisters, in this long eternal quest to be more like our Savior, may we try to be “perfect” men and women in at least this one way now—by offending not in word, or more positively put, by speaking with a new tongue, the tongue of angels. Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today.”
[This example is especially strong because it exemplifies the principle it is trying to teach. Note how Elder Holland inserts “sisters” into the KJV text, evincing his desire to employ more inclusive language. In other words, being politically correct.]
And Aaron answered [the king] and said unto him: “Believest thou that there is a God?” And the king said, “I know that the Amalekites say that there is a God, and I have granted unto them that they should build sanctuaries, that they may assemble themselves together to worship him. And if now thou sayest there is a God, behold I will believe.” And now when Aaron heard this, his heart began to rejoice, and he said, “Behold, assuredly as thou livest, O king, there is a God.” And the king said, “Is God that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem?” And Aaron said unto him, “Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he created all things both in heaven and in earth. Believest thou this?” And he said “Yea, I believe that the Great Spirit created all things, and I desire that ye should tell me concerning all these things, and I will believe thy words.”
Both figures in this passage sort of exemplify political correctness. The king grants his subjects the right to assemble and worship even though he doesn’t exactly share their religious views. As for Aaron, he could have responded to the king’s question about the Great Spirit by saying something like “the Great Spirit is an apostate idea; I’m talking about the true God.” Instead, he’s perfectly willing to adjust his vocabulary with the king when speaking of God/the Great Spirit. He’s being politically correct.
Again, feel free to write your own hypothetical classroom response in the comments and/or add your own favorite scriptures and quotes about the importance of reflecting love in our language.