Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Speechless

He brought me here to make very sure
I would never take it lightly again
that I would feel it deep in my soul
that pat answers will never do.

He's stripped them all away.
I can't hide behind them any more
and I stand here naked in my mind
the world's evil gazing upon me.

Helpless I begin to see it
for what it really is. It is evil.
My heart for once perceives
the terror of its malice.

And here, exposed, I know it,
that speechlessness without which
I am unfit to speak
to the subject of evil in this world.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Political Correctness and the Gospel

When I was growing up children were taught to address adults formally as:  Mrs. ___, Mr. ____, Miss _____, or maam, miss, or sir, for short. Back then that was then how adults preferred to be addressed by youngsters as well as by those in service professions. In those days it was considered rude for anyone to address any adult by first name unless permission had been given to do so. These customs were in place to show respect for individuals. Customs have changed over the decades. Nowadays most adults seem uncomfortable with formal titles, preferring to be addressed casually in most situations. It's not my intent at the moment to place a value judgment on that change (that's a topic for another day), but to note that, when it comes down to it, the reason we seldom use those formal titles now is the same as the reason we seldom failed to use them a generation ago: good manners. It is disrespectful and therefore impolite to knowingly refer to anyone in a manner that insults them or makes them uncomfortable.

I took guitar lessons when I was in the fourth grade. My teacher insisted on correcting my pronunciation of my own name. My name is pronounced by me, and my mother before me, with a long O sound, Laurie. This fellow explained to me that it is meant to be pronounced LAWry, and then went on to call me that gagging sound at every opportunity. I quit guitar lessons. For all I know he may have just been joking around, but I've come to learn that jokes about given names are rarely funny to the person with the given name. It's never appropriate to mock a person over things over which they have no control (not that I think mockery is ever really appropriate).

Now, suppose you gave birth to a beautiful child - the joy of your heart. As time passes you realize your little one is not keeping up with the child development charts. As more time flies you begin getting calls from teachers. Your baby needs to be tested. More time and baby comes home from school crying. "Mommy, they call me retard!" What do you say to the little one? "Tough up! Don't be so danged sensitive! Get over it!"? Your child already has, through no fault of her own, so many challenges to face in this world, is it too much to ask that people not call her derogatory names? Does she not deserve to be treated with the same dignity that every human deserves?

Jesus famously taught "...in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
Elsewhere in the Bible, Paul rephrases it: "Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

What I am getting to is that "politically correct" speech, that is: "avoiding vocabulary that is considered offensive, discriminatory, or judgmental, esp concerning race and gender" should not be something those of us who profess Christianity resent or rail against. Rather, it should be our habit. It is our Christian duty to strive to speak to and about others only in ways that do not dishonor them as human beings. This does not mean, of course, that we only tell people what they want to hear, but it does mean that our speech should be characterized by gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15), not mockery, slurs, or other demeaning language. Though we should personally strive to overlook offenses (no easy task), it is not our place to decide the boundaries of another - what someone else should or should not be offended by.
"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved." 1 Cor. 10: 31-33
Politically correct speech isn't just a matter of good manners, it's a matter of the Gospel.