If you’ve been paying attention to the news the last few months, you know the preceding comments were made by Donald Trump, a frontrunner in the 2016 presidential race.
Trump has refused to apologize for these statements and others like them, saying, “I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness.”
Trump’s supporters may consider him a straight talker, but really he has, as one writer put it, “drawn a false dichotomy between political correctness and authenticity.”
Trump may authentically believe African Americans are “lazy” and undocumented Mexican immigrants are “rapists,” but when authenticity demeans others, it’s not a virtue.
Yet, political correctness at its best is what Megan Barber in The Atlantic calls “empathy culture.”
Empathy, or trying to see things from another’s point of view, is a form of respect. When political correctness is understood as respect for the unique experience of another, a Christian might call it love of neighbor.
When we use language that honors others (or better yet when we stop talking and let the person talk who’s voice has been silenced), we give up power. Power is what is at stake when language sensitive to oppressed groups is dismissed as “p.c.”
This criticism occurs when people who once had power to control others (usually powerful, heterosexual, white men) lose that ability. As our culture’s long-held hierarchy of power crumbles, so does the majority’s power to dictate language to those in the minority.
It’s bitterly ironic that many of the people most resistant to political correctness happen to be Christian.
If the Christian message means anything, it means that giving up our power over others is what is required to follow Jesus.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form.” (Philippians 2:3-7 NRSV)
Donald Trump may view it as weakness, but it takes strength to change one’s language and actions in order to better love another.
It takes more strength to give up power over others than it does to hold on to it. Jesus demonstrated this kind of strength.
If political correctness means giving up control over others, then Jesus was politically correct.
Chase Peeples is pastor of Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ along with a bunch of other things including a father, a husband and a friend.