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The Grand Mistakes of Political Incorrectness

“When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus, some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless.” G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

I believe that Christians often fall into a trap of political incorrectness for couple of reasons: wrong understanding of the truth, non-discernment of spirits and misunderstanding of radicality.

Wrong understanding of the truth

It seems that many Christians find excuse for their incorrectness by stating that they are telling the truth and that it is not important in which way the truth is told. Truth should be told out loud and those who cannot accept it, it is their problem.

This standpoint of course shows only one side of the coin. Looking at the truth integrally, it cannot be brought down only to stating the true facts and correct claims. Particular true facts should be understood in the context of totality, i.e. the whole truth. Each fact needs to be put in relation to the whole truth about the good of the person. For example, if someone has a heart condition and should not be disquieted, we will not share with him that his wife had an affair few years ago, as this true fact would not be in accordance with the true good of that person (more concretely, it would kill him).

Of course, the harsh truth will set you free, but only if you are capable to carry it in that moment. Any other truth will only crush you. Political incorrectness generally does not show any interest for personal story of the other, for his capability to carry some claim.

Particular fact which is not in accordance with the true good of a person, even though it is factually true, in relation to the whole Truth becomes a lie. That is why many, in the name of particular truths, did the most horrible hideousness. Ideology is also attractive because it parasites on a particular truth that gives it attractiveness and then it distorts or absolutizes that same truth at the expense of the real absolutes (e.g. a person).

“Absolutizing what is not absolute but relative is called totalitarianism. … And what could ever save us, apart from love?” says Pope Benedict XVI and in another place continues: “We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith – only faith – that creates unity and is fulfilled in love. St Paul offers us as a fundamental formula for Christian existence: make truth in love. Truth and love coincide in Christ… truth without love would be like “a clanging cymbal” (I Cor 13: 1).”

The problem of political incorrectness is that it does not understand this essential connection between Truth and Love. And consequently, it does not see the connection of Truth with the gentleness and mercy.

Non-discernment of spirits

Some will very gladly notice that Jesus was not some kind of a sentimentalist. He used a whip to expel the merchants from the Temple (Jn 2,13-25), used expressions like “You brood of vipers!” (Mt 12,34), and He called Peter a “Satan” (Mt 16,23).

Even though this is true, it is only half the picture of how Jesus behaved. In the Scripture, we will also experience Jesus who does not respond to accusations (Jn 19,9), who is merciful and forgiving (Jn 8,11). These different ways of Jesus’s behavior should, at least, warn us that in every situation we should ask ourselves: what would Jesus do and in which manner would he do it?

This is not an easy task. Putting yourself a priori in a position of the righteous one is a sign of immaturity in discernment, even of egoism. When we have the impulse to let out our anger and frustration, it is always easier to justify ourselves by saying that this anger is the righteous anger.

But, if we study the biographies of saints, and if we look at the common experience in Christian communities, we will recognize that this is one of the main traps that devil puts in front of us. People who strived for the holiness always saw themselves as the biggest sinners, cleansing their motives and acts to the smallest details, until they gave to God even the slightest trace of evil in their souls. Instead of “God, I thank You that I am not like the other men…”, a saint will always say: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Lk 18, 11-13).

In his book “The Name of God is Mercy”, Pope Francis notices: “The Devil does not always lead into temptation through lies. In the root of temptation, there could be some truth, but experienced in evil spirit. That is a teaching of blessed Peter Faber: ‘… devils, in many things say truth, but they do not speak in the Spirit of Truth, and that is the Holy Spirit.’ From this we can understand that every ideology always needs to be judged, not only for its content but for the spirit that supports it.”

St. Paul said to us: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control.” (Gal 5,22). Are these the fruits of political incorrectness? Obviously not. By understanding this, we can also conclude from which spirit does it come from.

The problem of political incorrectness often is not in the content of what is being said (although there are problems here as well), but in spirit from which it comes from.

Misunderstanding of radicality

Political incorrectness is often being justified stating that Christianity is not for weaklings but for radical people. It is very popular to quote C.S. Lewis who says: “If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity”, or Johnny Cash: “Being a Christian isn’t for sissies.”

This really is true, “The kingdom of heaven has been subject to violence, and the violent lay claim to it.” (Mt 11,12). However, for pouring out frustrations or indulging low passions, you don’t need a special vigour or manhood. You don’t need to be very mature to use rude language and sharp condemnations, we all did it in high school.

Real radicalism is the one where we won a war against ourselves, the one where we take control over ourselves and we root out evil and low passions out of our hearts. To be maturely gentle takes more maturity than to be rough. To show respect to the one I disagree with is more difficult than to belittle him.

St. Paul, the prototype of manhood, radicality and intensity, warns us: “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.” (Col 3, 8-13) And also: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” (Gal 6, 1-3)

The Way of Gospel – the Way of Beauty!

After we have seen some of the traps that lead Christians into trap of political incorrectness, I would like to briefly sketch the way that the Gospel suggests for us. Novelty and originality of Christianity is not only in what it says but also how does it say it. “No one ever spoke the way this man does!” (Jn 7, 46) they said for Jesus. There is a specific Gospel way in which Christians are called to proclaim the Truth.

Apart from the specific and often mentioned Christian values like goodness and mercy – greatly emphasized by three recent Popes, I wish to emphasize a particular way of the Gospel that is, in my opinion, not sufficiently explored. It is the Way of Beauty.

In the 2006 document “Via pulchritudinis” from Papal Academy for Culture it is highlighted that “the Way of Beauty seems to be a privileged itinerary to get in touch with many of those who face great difficulties in receiving the Church’s teachings, particularly regarding morals.” In last century, truth was often instrumentalized by ideologies and good was reduced to a horizontal level without being rooted in love of God. And because the people today have difficulties accepting truth and good because they are too “direct and blatant”, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn says it, beauty has a special vocation today.

Solzhenitsyn explains that Beauty has a special power of attracting us with huge strength and gain sympathies even of the most strongly opposing hearts. And as Truth, Good and Beauty converge, as it has been maintained by traditional scholars, with Beauty also the Good and Truth will come. Beauty will do the work for all three of them.

Let’s put it differently. We all agree that today people are more reluctant of hearing the truth and accepting the moral good. One option is to push harder and force people to accept the truth, and other option is to take more subtle way of beauty.

Here is one example. Many young people today have difficulties accepting Church’s teachings with regards to sexuality. The society teaches them differently. But, some priests however manage to get many young people to “fall in love” with the idea of chastity. And they don’t do it by shouting or enumerating louder and stricter the rules and teachings. On the contrary, they show why living chastity is beautiful and why it corresponds with the deepest desires of our hearts and leads to true happiness. “The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by attractionsays Pope Benedict XIV.

That is the way we should go if we want to follow Jesus. We should reveal beauty of Truth and show it in an authentically beautiful way. In beauty lies the power and attractiveness that can achieve the true force and radicality, which political incorrectness falsely promises. “Beauty will save the world, and that beauty is Christ!” exclaims Prince Myskin in Dostoyevsky’s Idiot.

What a paradox of Christianity: power is revealed in weakness, the strength in gentleness, truth in beauty and greatness in humbleness! The same as when the King of the World was born in a stable.

 

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  • brians

    Interesting couple of articles, and there’s much I agree with here. Beauty is certainly the most powerful apologetic of a Church pushing itself out of modernity.

    Let me ask, though: is it possible that tolerance and political correctness are mere tools of the One God all westerners seem to agree on? That is, Money? We’re not living peaceably together out of mutual concern for the other, we’re living together to maximize growth of “Economy,” (a term that’s used to mean exactly what it isn’t – out is in, these days, after all).

    Consider: political correctness is a part of the Liturgy of Mammon. Ought we not reject it? If we’re speaking Truth in Love, is it necessary? The Catholic Worker is a fine example: a powerful, powerful movement of radical love, devolved by P.C. in recent decades to a mere leftist anti-humanist politics, having abandoned even the pretense of the orthodoxy that enabled the radical love that characterized it. Of course, as you point out, we can say the same thing regarding political incorrectness on the right: defining itself by negation. P.C. is a reduction, a twist, on Christian love – as P.I. is a twist, a reduction of Truth – both the very heresies Mr. Chesterton warns us against – for the use of a false god. Christian Love transcends both, without parting itself out into either. Why the defense of P.C.?

    Not an attack on your articles, I’m simply interested in your response. We have much in common.