Political correctness in 2013
Political correctness (PC) is closing down freedom in many areas. The great upward path of Western society to produce a society in which, within the rule of law, individuals enjoy liberty of thought and of expression is being put into reverse…
We are beginning to see this bite with the loss of freedom, especially, it seems, for Christians in the Western world. Freedom of speech is under attack.
Pastor Ake Green was sentenced to prison in Sweden in 2003 for expressing the fact that the Bible teaches that homosexual practice is a sin.
Two pastors faced prison in Australia for expressing their disagreement with the teachings of Islam in 2004. In Britain, a teacher was sacked from her job in 2009, simply for asking a pupil if they would like her to pray for them.
These cases can be multiplied. People are no longer free to express things as they were in previous years. Even legitimate public debate or showing care to others may be deemed illegitimate. Freedom is being taken away.
The undermining of law
Another of the most worrying results of PC is its propensity to bring the law into disrepute. Traditionally the laws of the land give expression to social norms for which all its citizens have a respect.
To take a trivial example, throughout society there would, for example, be an agreement that for the speed limit to be 30 mph through the middle of a busy high street is sensible. There may be those who might wish to see it lowered to 20 mph, and there might be a fair argument for that. But to allow it to be raised to 70 mph would bring an understandable outcry.
We prohibit stealing, assault, fraud and such things because almost everyone would acknowledge that such acts are wrong and those who engage in them pose a threat to the entire community.
However, the areas in which PC has intervened tend to command much less support from the general public. As I have mentioned before, there have even been examples where ostensibly for PC reasons local councils have barred the display of Christmas decorations in town centres during December.
It was said that such actions were taken in order not to offend people who belong to religions other than Christianity. But on asking those people of other religions whether they were offended by a display of angels and shepherds and Christmas lights, they said no; actually, they quite liked them.
All this smacks of laws not evolving by common consent from within the community, but of dictats being imposed from above, by a power elite made up of PC people who feel they know better than everybody else, including those they pretend to be protecting.
Every time this happens, respect for the law and the legislative process among the general public is eroded a little further.
There are many other consequences of the rise of PC in our society. They are probably too many to enumerate. We can only pick up on a few things and I state them starkly.
The destruction of justice
Although advocates of PC would say they are fighting for justice and their aim is a redistribution of power, immediately we see that, where PC pertains, society runs in a totally different way from that which we have traditionally known.
Vindication and support is not about who is right and who is wrong in the old fashioned sense. Neither is it about who is telling the truth and who isn’t. It tends to be about obtaining victim status.
If you can sustain a claim that ‘I am more victimised than you’, you are likely to get the verdict. So, to take an obvious example, America, as the world’s most powerful country, can never do any good in the eyes of the politically correct.
Even though it is the largest donor of overseas aid and has done more than any other country to spread liberal democracy, defeating both Nazism and Communism, it is continually attacked by the PC media.
Doubtless, America is far from perfect, but this shows prejudice rather than fairness. God says, ‘Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent — the Lord detests them both’ (Proverbs 17:15).
The destruction of debate
Politically incorrect arguments are simply dismissed and not engaged with. During the debate concerning the redefinition of marriage in 2012, the Coalition for Marriage organised a petition calling for traditional heterosexual marriage to be retained.
They collected well over half a million signatures. This was handed in at Downing Street by a married couple, Rhys and Esther Curnow, dressed in formal wedding clothes. They immediately became the targets of intense ‘cyber-bullying’.
They received over 100 hate messages, including threats of violence and death, to their publicly available Facebook pages. No one from the gay lobby seemed interested in engaging the argument. There was no debate in the messages, simply threats.
Many people who have embraced PC see their opponents as not just wrong, but bad, and therefore they feel free to resort to personal attacks on them.
But God says, ‘The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him’ (Proverbs 18:17). We are called to reason and to listen to both sides of an argument. This is being lost.
The destruction of tolerance
Liberal democracy, which still (just about) rules in the West, has historically been quite happy for people to hold different opinions. There is freedom of speech so long as people do not stir up or promote violence.
Again, the scientific community does not bother to try to send people to jail for believing the moon is made of green cheese or that the earth is flat. It simply believes that reason will prove them wrong. By and large, it is happy to shrug its shoulders and let reality show itself over time.
Although not without its faults and darker moments, generally speaking Protestant Christianity has fostered freedom of speech and given birth to democracy. But, PC allows no dissent. With the abandonment of reason in political correctness, there has arisen an intolerance of other people’s positions.
It appears to wish to legislate for what people are and are not allowed to think. Having set out to promote a more tolerant society, in supporting those it sees as victims, it has ended becoming a vehicle for great intolerance, especially towards religious people.
The self-hatred of the West
Because PC champions those perceived as victims, and because for the last 300-400 years the West has dominated the globe, been generally prosperous and healthy and powerful, Westerners are somehow made to feel guilty about this. We must have got this power illegitimately.
This self-hatred was particularly seen in the way events in the aftermath of the Iraq war were reported.
Although, actually, the coalition forces were there seeking to bring peace, freedom, prosperity and democracy, and it was the insurgents who were causing all the deaths with their suicide bombs, somehow news agencies like the politically correct BBC managed to report events in such a way that often the impression was given that Western soldiers were setting out to kill innocent people every day.
The disenfranchising of the church
Since the PC world is on the side of those it perceives as victims, the church has lost status and credibility. This often seems strange to Christians. ‘Why is preference given to not offending Muslims or Hindus, but no one seems to care about offending the Christians?’ we ask. It seems unjust, and in traditional, common sense terms, it is unjust.
The reason in PC terms is probably to do with the fact that the West, in the past, has been composed of ‘Christian’ countries. There have been state churches across Europe. The church and the government have worked hand in hand.
The Church of England, for example, is headed by the Queen. There are Anglican bishops still in the House of Lords. Thus the church (and sadly all churches get lumped together with the Church of England) is perceived as having been in a position of power and having used that power to press its beliefs on others, ‘forcing’ Christian morality on the nation.
Whether that is a fair understanding of the situation of past years, I doubt. However, that is beside the point. This is how it is perceived by many. Christianity has been part of ‘the establishment’.
To make PC work you have to suppress the truth. The novelist Frederick Forsyth has said, ‘I loathe and despise political correctness; basically because it is a lie.’
Edited from the author’s new book, Christians in a PC world, due to be published in Spring 2013
by EP Books (ISBN 978-085-234-9120)