Political Correctness

  • Dec. 6, 2016
  • #9027

Talking to people who are not exactly like us can be difficult because we are unsure about what to say without causing offence.

Political Correctness

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Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with a word about political correctness.

It’s an issue that drives me up a wall, and probably you, too. You can’t say this or that, for fear it might offend. Isn’t it just easier – and a lot nicer – to just push aside the politically correct protocol, snip off the label, and look at each other as people? I tried this during a luncheon meeting with a group of Chicago inner-city pastors. My goal was to find out about the unique needs of disabled people living in an urban environment. These pastors were eager to discuss with me how they could minister to families that included a disabled child.

 But as we talked, I couldn't help but wonder: ‘Now, am I supposed to refer to these men as "African American"? Or would they prefer the word "black"? Hmm, I wonder if it's okay to say "people of color." No, no, no, that sounds so stilted.’

 I shrugged my shoulders, smiled, and continued talking with the pastors. The subject of color or race didn't come up. Later on though, when we discussed Hispanic churches, I became tongue-tied. I didn’t know how to choose between words like “Spanish-speaking,” "Hispanic" or "Latino." And so you know what, I decided then to just be upfront and ask them what word I should use. To my surprise, they slapped the table and started laughing. I wondered what I had said that was so funny; I only wanted to know what the appropriate word was! Well, little did I realize, the pastors had been wrestling with the same thing. They were sitting across the table from me, wondering: ‘Now, are we supposed to call Joni "handicapped"? Or "physically challenged"? We know we're not supposed to refer to people like her as a "cripple" should we say she’s confined to a wheelchair? What should we say?’

That’s when I started laughing right along with them, explaining that I had been wondering the same thing about them. In the end, we all agreed labels do not matter so long as you respect the individual. And we have as a model for doing that, the Lord Jesus himself. Aren’t you glad that Jesus never spoke to Mary Magdalena as "that sinful woman;" He just called her by her name. He never made mention of someone being a coward; only that certain someone's name being Peter. To a workaholic he said, "Martha, Martha..." The point is Jesus loved people. I'm sure that's why He often used their names when talking to them. That's a great example for us as we talk about people and relate to them. Red or yellow, black or white, standing, sitting, blind or with sight, it's the name, not the label, that means the most; because we want to represent Jesus Christ and the way he loves all people.

By the way, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic of political correctness, especially if you have questions as to how to talk about disability. You might be thinking: ‘Is a person a burn victim or a burn survivor? Is someone like Joni confined to a wheelchair, or should we refer to people like her as wheelchair-users. Honestly, there’s no right or wrong answer, but if, if you have questions, here at Joni and Friends we’re here to help you sort through the confusion, much like those inner-city pastors cleared things up for me. It’s just a matter of prudence, the kind talked about in Proverbs 8, verse 12. And prudence is knowing the right, the appropriate thing to say or do in any given situation. So, any questions? Then ask them on my radio page would you at joniandfriends.org or you can text JAF to 818-707-5664.

© Joni and Friends


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