Tag Archives: political-correctness

Outrage

bq. If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying enough attention.

That bumper sticker seems to sum up the state of our world these days. Everyone is angry about something. Demonstrations, both violent and peaceful, seem to be cropping up all over the place. Riots break out in the most mundane, and often the most bizarre, places. Road rage continues to be a problem, as do violent crimes of all varieties.

It almost seems like being outraged is the new fashion, complete with the red face, furrowed brows, clenched teeth and fists, and high blood pressure. Apparently, anger and outrage are the only ways to express oneself and to effect change in our world. At least, that seems to be the mindset of so many protest groups. Christians are angry about _Brokeback Mountain_ and _The Book of Daniel_, Muslims are angry about political cartoons, (some) Americans are angry about the Iraq war, and the list continues. With all these angry people, I have to wonder if there is any around with a level head.

Of course there are, but most of them have to work harder to be heard – the roar of global outrage is that deafening. That level of anger and vehemence gets things done, sure, but such changes rarely last in the longterm. Angry people are bullying people, and by forcing the change they ensure that it is a shallow one because the hearts and minds of the people they are influencing have _not_ been changed. Things quiet down for a little while and then the change is reinstated, albeit better disguised.

I’ve never gone in for protests and marches, exactly because I feel like they don’t really accomplish much of anything. It’s one thing to state your mind in a town council, a letter to the editor or your congressman, in the voting booth – it’s quite another to go face-to-face, quite literally, with someone, all the while shouting and screaming and spouting obscenities. I have yet to see anything productive accomplished by such means, and even if it has the victory is tainted by the means in which it was acquired.

I have my own fair share of cynical attitudes, even to the extent of finding myself saying bitter things against particular people. It just goes to show you I’m not perfect, but I want to avoid engaging in such behavior, treating people with respect, instead – whether they deserve it or not. I don’t want to bully people into doing what I think is right; I would much rather sway them into seeing things the way I do, if at all possible. But even barring that, I can, and must, continue to live my life according to what is right and good and true. There can be, and should be, no place in my life for outrage.

Renaming Holidays

Scanning through the news this morning, one cannot help but notice the flurry of debate over the use of ‘Christmas’ versus the use of ‘Holiday’ this season. Everyone is trying so hard to be politically correct and all-inclusive that we find ourselves avoiding anything that might smack of intolerance (whatever that _really_ means). The trouble that I have with this is that in doing so, the emphasis is taken away from the meaning of the holiday. Christmas was originally established as, yes, a _Christian_ holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Over the years it has, of course, become greatly secularized and commercialized and some of the religious and spiritual emphasis of the day has been replaced by a more mythical, magical focus.

But if we are going to rename Christmas in the interests of not offending anyone, then let’s just take this to its logical conclusion. We should rename (or disband) MLK Day, because much as we might wish otherwise, there are still racists who are offended by black people. Valentine’s Day should become Romance Day or Heart Day or something else in order to escape the eroticism that it symbolizes. Presidents’ Day — let’s face it, they were all crooks and dishonest politicians, something that offends the sensibilities of anyone with a brain. Maybe we should just forget about this one. I’m surprised that we there hasn’t already been a suggestion to rename Good Friday and Easter because of their Christian symbolism. I mean, we can’t have holidays that are specific for just one group now, can we? Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, July 4th, any holiday relating to the military and war should be renamed to something less confrontational. No one likes war, and there are many who are outraged by the existence of such outdated institutions like armies, so obviously something needs to be done.

The point of all this is simply that people are offended by Christ and by Christianity. The only holiday, the only terms that have become ‘required’ changes are the ones that have ‘Christ’ in them. Even though these have been the established terms for hundreds of years, they have now become offensive and preachy and in-your-face pushes for religiosity (they’re not). What’s ironic about this is that if this sort of thing had been suggested for another religion, it would have been put down as intolerant and discriminatory. There is a definite double-standard in our culture, one that specifically targets Christianity (though not always exclusively, to be fair). The mentality seems to be that whatever is in the majority needs to be brought down in the name of fairness. Or it could be that Christians just aren’t well-liked (sometimes with a degree of justification). Or it could be that people feel convicted and threatened by Christianity (or more specifically, by Christ and the idea of God and His existence) and so retaliate in this way. Or it could be a combination all these factors and more. Whatever the case, because Christianity is the predominant religion (or predominantly claimed religion) in America, it is viewed as being unfair. I am always amazed at how few voices it takes to get action, especially in cases of religious ‘discrimination’.

Personally, I don’t care what you call Christmas — it will be, for me, always the time to celebrate the birth of my Savior. I think that all the hubbub is ridiculous in the extreme, both by the people trying to replace it and by those trying to defend it. America is a country of religious freedom, where people are welcome to practice their beliefs as they see fit. It is also a country of democracy, representation of all, majority vote rules, etc. and so forth. If you really want to settle the debate, put it to a vote. Of course, then you would have people calling for a recount. You just can’t please everyone all the time.

Finding Our Way to Clear, Accurate Communication

I’m reminded again of just how important clear communication is. I actually had my employment with my temporary services agency terminated a couple of days early due to what ended up being a pretty major miscommunication. (My contract was to expire at the end of this week, anyway, since I start my new job at Purdue on Monday.) What started simply as an erroneous assumption became something more significant because people failed to listen appropriately and failed to say what they actually meant.

Communication is a 4-part exercise — Person A has to listen, Person B has to clearly articulate the message, Person A then has to clearly articulate in response, and Person B has to then listen to that response. If even just one part of this process breaks down, the message fails to be communicated effectively, oftentimes leading to uncomfortable or angry confrontations.

The philosophy of our politically correct culture doesn’t always help the process of communication. We have attempted to remove, in the name of fairness and sensitivity, all language that would be offensive, that would potentially hurt someone else’s feelings. Negative language has been pushed aside as much as possible because we don’t want to give cause for anyone to feel bad about themselves (or about us). What we end up with is a form of dialogue that beats around the bush without always finding its way to the point. Verbal exchange hints at and implies actual meaning, as we find ways to soften our words.

What’s sad and frustrating about this is that, in a discussion of two, one may walk away feeling like good, productive discussion was had while the other is left feeling confused and unclear about the resolution. The former may think the message was communicated and that the job will get done properly, and the latter may either wonder what the job is supposed to be or think he knows what it is and do it, only to find out later that the actual job was something completely different. Or the former may communicate his dislike for the latter, only using terms that are ‘warm’ and ‘non-confrontational’, which may leave the latter thinking he is well-liked and appreciated. The possible combinations for confusion are endless.

No one likes confrontation, and most people will do anything to avoid it, if possible. Where one runs into trouble, however, is when confrontation is unavoidable. Rather than facing it openly, honestly, and humbly, one might couch his words in softer language, which, in turn, may not communicate the concerns or criticisms as effectively.

Honesty is a virtue, however much it may hurt sometimes. The real world tends to be harsh and cruel, and while we as communicators can avoid behaving similarly, we can still speak honestly and openly in a way that speaks actual feelings and thoughts, rather than shadows of the same. Smoke and mirrors have no place in communication (unless your intent _is_ to deceive). Where possible speak plainly, speak clearly, and speak with a frankness that, althought possibly uncomfortable, is clear, concise, and precise. Add to that the skill of listening as others are speaking, hearing what is said, what is implied, and what is left unspoken, and you will find, rather than a foe, a great friend in open communication.

Not My Voice

They speak as though for many, when in reality they speak for so few. Their cause is just, their motive good, their methods less than desirable. They gain media attention, the negative kind, of course, because their “words are so ridiculous”:http://10ft2ft.com/?p=524. And the negativity they garner is somehow passed along to the rest of us, as if we are somehow guilty of the same attitudes and poorly chosen approach to saving Christian religious rights. The ‘war’ to save Christmas has most of us simply rolling our eyes, while a few in places of power try to exert their weight to keep the ‘Christ’ in ‘Christmas’.

This isn’t a battle to preserve our rights to worship. It’s simply a few companies and cities opting to drop ‘Merry Christmas’ for ‘Happy Holidays’ in the name of political correctness. It isn’t, I believe, something we as Christians should worry ourselves over. Fighting propaganda battles, “filling people’s mailboxes”:http://stupid.steve-miller.is-a-geek.com/2005/12/03/being-human-gets-in-the-way-of-being-christian/ with “spam”:http://www.crosswalk.com/news/weblogs/kmc/?cal=go&adate=11%2F30%2F2005, and “kicking their butts”:http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002661545_christmasfight03.html isn’t the way to win a lost world to Christ. We can’t bring transformation to people by force — it must be presented and accepted by those who would receive it. True change, true transformation can only start on the inside, with the acceptance of Christ, and not by forcing an unwilling nation to accept ‘Christ’ in everything that we as Christians hold dear as symbols of our faith. So, Mr. Falwell, Mr. Robertson, and those who speak with a similar voice, know that I respect your intent but I think your methods are wrong, too brash, too confrontational, too unChrist-like, and know that you do not speak for me nor for many others who call themselves Christian.

My voice is, and continues to be, the story of a babe, born in a barn stall to a lowly carpenter and his wife, who would one day grow up to be the Savior of an entire world. That is my voice, and that is what is truly important.

Litigation to Asinine Proportions

Tied the Leader: The Culture of Litigation

“XerxDeeJ”:http://www.blogger.com/profile/5219727 “writes”:http://tiedtheleader.blogspot.com/2005/12/culture-of-litigation.html about one of my pet peeves — “people who sue”:http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20051205/tc_nm/media_xbox_dc to epic levels over ridiculously petty and ultimately trivial issues. In this case we have a gamer who recently purchased an Xbox 360 console that has a problem with overheating. Rather than call up Microsoft and get a replacement, this gentleman feels he has to sue the company for an undetermined amount. DeeJ’s analysis of the story is spot-on; I couldn’t agree with him more.

I have to wonder how we as a nation got to where we are. These days, anyone can sue pretty much anyone over just about anything, no matter how ridiculous. Frivolous litigation has become an easy way to make a buck. I blame it partly on the people who have ramped up the volume of litigation cases, but I think I place most of the blame on judges who should know better than to allow these sorts of cases get beyond the initial paperwork. There are a lot of cases that merit laughter at their ridiculous and petty nature, that judges should dismiss immediately with just the merest hint of a chuckle.

This is not to contemn those cases that are legitimate, where actual injury or felonious behavior occur. And in such cases, I can sometimes condone litigation for excessive damages, depending on the offender, the nature of the crime, and the import of the lesson to be learned. There is a time and a place for litigation, but I think it might be possible to reduce the current levels by at least half, possibly as much as two-thirds, if only our court systems would cease trying to be politically correct all the time and our judges would stop trying to make a name for themselves and actually practice law with some degree of wisdom. A little bit of discernment and common sense go a long way, and since the average citizen seems to be in short supply of both, the people who have been trained to supposedly know better should make up the lack. Throw out frivolous lawsuits, and let people live their lives without fear of getting screwed over by every Joe Schmoe who’s looking to make a quick buck. Believe me, we’d all be a lot happier for it.

The Name of Jesus Removed From Prayer

Ministers divided over federal court’s prayer ruling | IndyStar.com

The federal court ruled this week that prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives must not mention Jesus or endorse particular religions. Naturally, there have been expressions of outrage. While Judge David Hamilton has also barred all sectarian or denominational appeals, only the “name of Jesus”:http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051202/NEWS01/512020493 was specifically singled out as forbidden. The ruling came down after the ICLU(Indiana Civil Liberties Union) “filed a lawsuit”:http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051201/NEWS01/512010428&SearchID=73228237711458 on behalf of four citizens. The complaint of the lawsuit was that House prayers overwhelmingly promoted Christian values.

It seems that the straws that broke the camel’s back in this case were clergymen who used their opportunities to pray in the House to “sermonize”:http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051201/NEWS01/512010428&SearchID=73228237711458.

bq. One prayer urged that “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Another called for a worldwide conversion to Christianity: “We look forward to the day when all nations and all people of the earth will have the opportunity to hear and respond to messages of love of the Almighty God who has revealed Himself in the saving power of Jesus Christ.”

Rev. Lewis Galloway of Second Presbyterian Church on the north side of Indianapolis responded by saying, “I would pray that in my church, but I would not use that kind of language in a public forum. Jesus practiced hospitality to all people. When we are in situations where there are diverse faiths and ideas, opinions and ethnic groups represented, then we need to practice as Jesus did.” Other pastors agreed that using sermon-like language in their House prayers is inappropriate but are offended by Hamliton’s restrictive decision.

One “editorial”:http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051202/OPINION/512020377&SearchID=73228237711458 rightly discerns that prayer in the House chambers _is_ Constitutional but that the judge’s decision is demonstrative of religious intolerance. While it should be the goal of clergymen to be gracious as they lead their government representatives in prayer, it is impossible to avoid offending someone in the course of such prayer, since it is practically guaranteed that at least one individual in attendance will carry very different beliefs. This ruling is intolerant toward Christian belief in particular because it restricts individuals who believe their faith specifically instructs them to pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

The ideal here is for clergy to pray for their leaders to have wisdom, guidance, and discernment in their task of leading their people. Unfortunately, some religious leaders forget that they are not praying for their congregation and unconsciously fall into habits of prayer-preaching. The editorialist had it right by stating that grace should be the goal of public prayer, keeping in mind the audience. By failing to be mindful of this, Christians have lost one more religious right to the legal system. Prayers in the House can still be directed toward God, though now limited to more general terms, rather than to Jesus Christ, the _specific_ intercessor between man and God. It does make House prayer a bit more complicated, but it is possible to work around it. Fortunately, prayer in the House has not been outlawed, and while a number of clergy now refuse to pray in the House in protest to the decision, it would be better to continue the practice, despite the constraints, rather than letting all Christian influence seep completely from those appointed to lead us.

‘Holiday’ or ‘Christmas’?

Boston “holiday tree” stirs controversy – Yahoo! News

I have to wonder just much this really matters. The city of Boston deviated from tradition this year, renaming the Christmas tree a holiday tree, sparking an uproar among the conservative Christian community (or at least with Jerry Falwell, who, in my opinion, is not particularly representative). The argument is that Christ is slowly being worked out of the Christian holiday, being replaced instead with a more secular tradition.

bq. Last year, California Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger lit what he called a “Christmas tree” at a state ceremony.

I wonder at the choice of verbiage in this statement. ‘Christmas tree’ has always been the traditional term for the well-known symbol, but the way it is worded in this article almost sounds like it is casting blame.

bq. Christmas has become too politically correct, said 64 percent of people who responded to an online poll by a CBS television affiliate in Boston.

I would fall under this 64 percent. On the whole I think our entire nation has become entirely too PC, worrying more about hurting someone’s feelings than about accuracy and truth.

All in all, I think this is still another stupid and superfluous battle that Christians have engaged in. The spruce tree has long been a symbol of Christmas but not, so far as I know, one of the Christian faith, _per se_. The cross still stands as the ‘tree’ of Christianity. Additionally, Christ will never be completely removed from the holiday season, so long as their are Christians alive to celebrate it. And I don’t think the point in this case is to remove Christ from the holidays, anyway. It seems like it is more of an attempt to include all peoples of all faiths in the holidays, even if renaming the tree (and ultimately, the holiday) is somewhat unnecessary. This is another case where I believe Christians would be best to just let it go.

What’s black and white and gray all over?

Truth. Well, sort of. Honestly, I think that all truth is actually very much black and white, and if it seems to be more of a gray issue, it is simply a demonstration of the limitations of human
knowledge and understanding. Some truths are really very basic, very cut-and-dried, things like, “Gravity is what holds me down,” and “If I touch this hot stove, I’ll get burned.” Others often seem to be purely black and white and end up looking more gray the closer the individual looks. The trouble is that so many things in life involve levels of complexity that quickly overwhelm the capacity of the human mind to process. Human behaviors may seem relatively
straightforward, and we may think we understand the motivation for why one does something, only to find out upon breaking the issue down that we really don’t understand it at all (or, at least, as much as we thought we did). Even the person involved in the behavior itself may not fully understand everything that goes into their own motivation, which is often, I believe, why there is so much confusion in so many people’s lives.

It is so very easy to fall into the trap of using stereotypes and generalizations as definitive answers for any topic or issue. The trouble is that they are only ever just guidelines, general statements of human behavior. People do A because of B. This group will react in such-and-such a way because of such-and-such motivations. There’s your black and white. The gray is examining individual motivations in said groups. Ultimately you will (typcially) find that every individual acted in a similar way for similar, yet different, reasons. And that is where you find that the strength of stereotypes and generalizations to describe behavior breaks down. The irony is that the generalization doesn’t actually generalize all that well. Every individual within the group proves to be the exception to the rule. People will judge an entire group based solely on a stereotype (e.g. “Christians are horrible people because they are so judgmental.”) without ever taking the time to learn and understand that so often the stereotype doesn’t
apply to nearly as many individuals as one might think. Stereotypes and generalizations do an adequate, though ultimately very limited, job of describing group behavior (though perhaps not the motivations behind said behavior) but do a less than adequate job of describing individual
behavior within said group (duh, right?). Clearly, the complexities of the human psyche make it seem as though the truth of the issue is an issue of grayness.

Limitations of knowledge and understanding can gray-out truth. Deliberate action to gray-out truth is an additional factor. There are some who feel threatened by truth. These are individuals who wish to live their lives in their own way and are only free to do so because the ‘truth’ of their lives is appropriately gray enough to let them interpret it however they see fit. These are
the sort who, as soon as an individual begins to try to make sense out of the grayness and move it more toward black-and-whiteness, are quick to try to discredit the individual or to introduce a new level of complexity to the issue in an effort to keep the issue within a
comfortable level of gray. In other words, they deliberately sabotage the effort to achieve understanding. In doing so, they are able to remain within their own comfort zone and continue living life as they see fit because, for them, truth is whatever you make of it.

Is it any wonder that our society is in the place in which we find it? Religion and politics are topics in which it seems nearly impossible to know what is true because such things as debates about semantics, character defamations, complex contributors to situations and behaviors get in the way of making sense out of the gray. Science, as well, often ends up in the realm of the gray, with one study proving a finding where another study disproves the same finding. And in all places, personal and political motivations muddy the waters appropriately so that it seems that the truth can never be truly known, only guessed at, only interpreted, only approximated. Postmodernism, political correctness, and ‘tolerance’ are the results, a dwelling in the land of the gray with black-and-white, clear-cut truth little more than a pipe dream to those who wish to know it.