With the situations of Charlie Hebdo and Margaret Cho about which I blogged previously, we are forced to reckon with political correctness (henceforth “PC”) in our own pulpit ministry. Every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to have an opinion about this or that and some confidently and at times, offensively, speak on variety of subjects.
Many people automatically say that they’re not PC when they speak their version of the straight truth. Reality is much more complicated. How can we be sure that we’re not being offensive jerks versus being non-PC truth speakers? Here’s the litmus test.
The offensive jerks usually haven’t participated in the issue about which they speak. They could be speaking about race or political freedom without ever being a participant in either. For example, when I wrote about the Rick Warren Red Guard controversy, many of his (mostly white with token privileged Asian) fans just say that I’m being PC, and by speaking up against me, they’re not going to go by the PC rule of society. A small problem surfaces. The same critics haven’t even read a book on the Cultural Revolution, and certainly, many of them don’t understand the Chinese (and in many cases, Asian-American) culture at all. Sure, they might have a token diffident Asian friend who’s too afraid to call them on their prejudice, but that doesn’t qualify them to criticize or make a comment on my culture.
The non-PC truth speaker is different. S/he has participated in the issue on which s/he speaks. Such speakers speak with authority. Why do Cornel West or Cameron Carter speak plainly about race? It’s because they’ve worked in a system that discriminates against their people all their lives. It’s really very simple.
The litmus test is simple. Participation is the key. In other words, unless a person has participated, that same person is not really qualified to address the issue. Not all opinions are valid. In this internet age, we’d do well to remember that when we speak on the pulpit, lest we’d be discounted for our opinion.