18 October 2017

Consider: Welcome to the era of Political Correctness.

In our contemporary western culture everyone from members of our government to the local shop keeper is going to great lengths to ensure that their choice of language and terminology are inoffensive and ‘correct’. In our PC world, for example, a short person is now described as ‘vertically challenged’, a bald person is ‘follically challenged’, a dish-washer in a café is called a ‘utensil sanitiser’ and one who is overweight is ‘a person of mass’. At best, PC terms are an attempt by our society to show respect and give dignity to the individuals that make up our communities. At worst, if we look beyond the comical titles, I believe that the trend for political correctness has a more disconcerting side to it, particularly in relation to our freedom to express our Christian beliefs. Consider this with me…

For the first time this year, it was reported that members of the White House in the United States referred to their Christmas Tree as their ‘Holiday Tree’. You may respond quickly and dismiss this as something ‘typically American’, but let me assure you, this is as relevant an issue on our own doorstep. Last Christmas my husband went into a well-known coffee chain and asked for the ‘Christmas Blend’. The lady behind the counter smiled at him and said, “One ‘Holiday Blend’ coming up!” My husband explained again that he actually wanted the ‘Christmas Blend’, again the lady replied, “Yes, ‘Holiday Blend’, what size would you like?” When my husband queried if the ‘Holiday Blend’ was similar to the ‘Christmas Blend’ the ‘Barista’ admitted that it was one and the same and that they were being encouraged to call that particular coffee the ‘Holiday Blend’ as they were keen not to offend those who did not like to use the word ‘Christmas’. Whether it’s the coffee or the tree, it’s clear that we are in danger of letting political correctness turn the overtly Christian festival of Christmas into just another generic holiday where the focus is on mankind rather than the Creator God, made humble in the stable for the good of us all.

In response to hearing about the ‘Holiday Tree’ in the White House, Ben Stein, the well known American actor, writer, and commentator, was moved to express his views on this issue. He explained that it is political correctness gone too far. As a Jew he isn’t the least bit offended when people use the word Christmas in relation to trees, lights, and in greetings at this time of the year, because in a nutshell – that’s what they are! He, quite appropriately, highlighted the danger of this type of political correctness – it curtails Christian freedom to share their faith, and in so doing, creates a far less appealing world to live in. As he puts it, “Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to Hell.”

Ben Stein highlighted the fact that political correctness takes away our freedom to speak of our faith for fear that we may offend someone. This issue is clearly demonstrated through a story covered by the Daily Mail in September 2011. The headline read, “Police Tell Café Owner: Stop Showing Bible DVDs Or We Will Have To Arrest You.” It was reported that Jamie Murray, the owner of ‘The Salt and Light Café’ in Blackpool was in danger of being arrested under section 29E of the Public Order Act. He was accused of “inciting hatred against homosexuals” through the screening of Bible verses on a small flat screen TV at the back of his café.

Jamie Murray explained that for years they have shown a 26-hour-long DVD set in which a narrator reads through the entire New Testament. The sound is muted in the café and the words only appear as text at the bottom of the screen, accompanied by a pleasant background picture. The police acted on a complaint made by a woman who claimed to be “deeply offended” by the words that were on display. Jamie Murray feels that it must have been the section from the book of Romans, wherein Paul speaks against many forms of Godlessness, particularly in chapter 1v26-28 where he says, “God let them follow their own evil desires. Women no longer wanted to have sex in a natural way, and they did things with each other that were not natural.” Murray was pressed to turn off the DVD and, at the time, the police warned that they would be keeping an eye on his premises to ensure this type of political incorrectness was not continuing.

So, how should we react when we hear about ‘Holiday Trees’ and reports of Christians being silenced for the sake of political correctness? Jamie Murray decided to take a stand. He said, “It’s crazy. Christians have to stand up for what they believe in.” The Christian Institute is currently supporting him and their lawyers have assured him that he is free to display the Bible in any way he chooses. Through this support and Jamie’s refusal to just accept the situation, he has received an apology from the Lancashire police. Clearly, when we react appropriately, we can achieve positive outcomes.

In 1 Thessalonians 2v4 the apostle Paul says, “We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.” This Biblical teaching clearly reflects the fact that we cannot live our lives constantly bowing to the trends and popular practices of the day. If we see that Christ is being removed from Christmas, then surely we must take a stand, speak out and do something to stop this from happening. From a practical point of view we can begin by praying about the situation, asking God to intervene and reveal Himself in a mighty way to many this Christmas. We can also show our support of Christian events this Christmas Season. If your church is planning to go carolling door to door in your community, or if they are holding a Christmas fair, perhaps you should attend, and invite as many others to go with you as you can. It is up to us, as Christians to stand up, unashamed, unapologetically, and show that Christ is the centre of our Christmas celebrations. It is key to approach this graciously and firmly, always remembering, that, while there is no need to give in to the political correctness this Christmas, we must always express our faith with love. When we do this, our neighbours will be compelled by the love of Christ who lives within us.

Christine Cordner