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COMMENTARY: Politically correct or perfect? Shannon Vowell, Apr 26, 2007
(c) 2007 DESIGN PICS
The lie of political correctness is that there is no standard for judgment, says Shannon Vowell.
By Shannon Vowell Special Contributor
We live in a world that celebrates tolerance, diversity and acceptance as self-evident virtues. This is not a bad thing for Christians. Political correctness, at its core, reflects scriptural truth.
Jesus' admonitions not to judge others -- not to elevate ourselves at the expense of neighbors -- are consistent and numerous. And Jesus' actions reiterated his admonitions.
In a culture of extreme prejudices and socioeconomic injustices, Jesus tolerated everyone, even religious hypocrites, even to death. In a time of rigid class, race and gender stratification, Jesus reached out to everyone, even diverse populations of lawbreakers, traitors and women. In a time when being an "outsider" meant being an "outcast," Jesus accepted people as they were and where they were.
But here's the rub: that's the extent of Jesus' political correctness. From that point, Jesus parts company with our politically correct world. Political correctness points to tolerance, diversity and acceptance as virtues in and of themselves. Christ values those qualities as means to His ends.
What "ends" are those? Jesus' tolerance and acceptance of his diverse followers served as a preface to his proclamation of the gospel and his invitation to become new -- to "follow" him. Jesus' ends were nothing less than transformed lives and eternal life, in him. At no time did Jesus advocate a "live and let live" approach to morality or anything else; at all times Jesus offered life abundant to all who would listen, follow and die to self.
And the un-politically correct truth of Scripture is that Jesus never prevaricated about the demand of a perfect God for obedience from his creatures.
Even when Jesus was teaching specifically about the dangers of judging, he was reminding his listeners that judgment was inevitable. Indeed, immediately after saying one must take the log out of his own eye before removing a splinter from a neighbor's eye, Jesus set a standard of discernment-in-holiness: "Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine." And he followed with a warning: "or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces" (Matthew 7:1-6).
So Jesus' message of tolerance, diversity and acceptance was subsumed by his larger intention: radical transformation, salvation, eternal joy in him. And the gracious flavor of his invitation was never meant to undermine the exclusivity of its offer or its claims. He did not offer himself as a way, a truth, a light; He proclaimed himself the way, the truth, the light!
Consequently, when we make anything but Jesus central to our understanding of Christianity, we commit idolatry. Elevating qualities of character under the rubric of "self-evident virtues" is idolatry. Fooling ourselves into thinking that grace means permissiveness or pluralism is idolatry. Re-writing Jesus' message so the preface becomes the whole point is idolatry. And appropriating only those parts of the message which feel cozy to us personally is -- once again -- idolatry.
If we are all sinners being saved by grace, if we all fall short of the glory of God and if Christ died once for all of us, then we are all subject to the same standards of that gracious and saving God. The lie of political correctness is not that we have no right to judge others. The lie of political correctness is that there is no standard for judgment. There is, and it is Christ.
As we approach Annual Conference this year (and General Conference in 2008), I pray that we will all remember who it is we are claiming to follow, because that's the only way to stay mindful of where it is we are trying to go. I pray we will put aside partisan politics, personality conflicts, prejudices and intolerance, not to achieve perfect political correctness, but to "go on to perfection" in Christ, as Wesley enjoined us.
When we come to the Lord's table, may we honor Christ as our Lord. In fact, I pray we will fall short of the ideals of political correctness so as not to settle for anything less than Christ's perfect love.
It may not be politically correct to point it out, but one is a temporary mindset, while the other is Alpha and Omega.
Ms. Vowell teaches Disciple and adult Bible studies for Ridgewood Park UMC in Dallas.