PC Culture. The great enemy of honest, forthright, down-to-earth, can’t-fence-me-in, independent thinkers. A quick google search will define PC, or “Politically Correct”, Culture, as a culture devoted to using terms “to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.”
With wider social awareness and greater access to information, waves of new terminology and more nuanced verbiage roll in almost daily. Many are exhausted, annoyed, even downright enraged by the increasing scrutiny over the phrases we casually throw around in conversations to describe people.
And here’s where I tell you—I’m embracing the scrutiny fully.
Let’s go back to that description again: “Language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.”
So to break it down, being politically correct requires me to think about what I say before I say it, and to do my best to speak lovingly, inoffensively, and respectfully of others, especially when it comes to people or lifestyles that I am woefully ignorant of. While not easy, it makes me wonder, what exactly do we find so terrible about that?
And more than that, despite our feelings, this is completely scriptural. Just one example of watching what we say and speaking in love is found in Romans 12:17b-18:
“Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
I will take a beat here to mention that I’m not into “cancel culture”— a new name for an old song, where you belittle and exile people based off of one misgiving. While I think that reckonings have been and are coming for many long-ignored evils, not all of these situations are created equal. You find out a church or company has been abusing employees and has racist practices? Speak up, boycott, absolutely. But you didn’t like a sermon you heard one time? Maybe we shouldn’t leap to call them a bad person and spread negativity about them. Call me crazy, but maybe they were just wrong and aren’t evil to their core and undeserving of basic respect. With so much partially-disclosed information being spread on a daily basis, I think we need to learn to take a breath so we can thoughtfully respond with intention and care.
But PC Culture? Where you have to be curious, and learn about realities other than your own, discipline yourself to think from other perspectives and speak in measured, compassionate, intentional, humble speech? I’m very, very into that.
And I don’t use the word “discipline” there lightly. Trying to change, and being willing to be corrected, are no joke.
For example, many of my fellow white people get extremely frustrated when they’re told a phrase they’re used to employing is actually racist. Which, as a white person who’s heart breaks over racism, I totally understand. No one wants to hear the implication that they may be even a little racist.
But when we refuse to change our speech and reject any form of political correctness, we show that our real concern is not with opposing racism, but with our comfort. I’m just going to say that I firmly believe this is one way white supremacy shows its ugly face in our daily conversations— When you’re used to everything belonging to you, any imposed boundaries feel like oppression.
Austin Channing Brown puts it perfectly in her book I’m Still Here (which I cannot recommend enough) when she writes,
“White people desperately want to believe that only the lonely, isolated “whites only” club members are racist. This is why the word racist offends “nice white people” so deeply. It challenges their self-identification as good people. Sadly, most white people are more worried about being called racist than about whether or not their actions are in fact racist or harmful.”
That last sentence. Phew. If that doesn’t inspire some serious self-evaluation, I don’t know what will.
If we’re going to love our neighbor as ourselves, we have to be more humble. We have to be open to learning, to getting it wrong, to asking questions, to being uncomfortable. We have got to be more curious than prideful. Because our speech matters. The words we use to describe people matter.
Preston Yancey wrote a thread on Twitter on the importance of our words, especially as Believers: “BY A WORD God created all things…BY A WORD you and I live and move and have our being…If you are a Christian, words do not only mean things, they create things and so words don’t just matter they are power.”
Consider what that means, then, when we speak careless words over people.
Oppressed people. Marginalized people.
Image-Bearers, sitting in cages at borders, or precious ones who identify as different genders (or no gender at all) needing, deserving, to be seen and loved as they are—Beloved children crying out in the streets for the deaths of their sons to matter.
Don’t make people beg for dignity when God has given it to them freely.
This is why if I have the ability to bestow even a little dignity, show even a little love, simply through reframing how I’m accustomed to talking, my heart, and what I know of my faith require that I do so. As much as it depends on me, as Paul said.
I’ll get it wrong, no question. I’ll fumble, for sure. But I’ll take my cues from PC Culture and I’ll try. Again and again, I’ll try. I’ll pay attention and adjust as needed, because love compels me, and because I believe, to my core, that people are infinitely worthwhile.