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I try to have a sense of humor, so when someone sent me a video about Social Justice Warriors, poking fun at my culture of political correctness and moral outrage, I played along and chuckled. I can be over-the-top. It’s funny.

My kid was sick the other day, and after bailing on an evening commitment we decided to lay low and watch a movie, “The Wizard of Oz.” His little brother proclaimed, during the “Lollipop Guild,” that the Munchkins were really kids and not grownups.
“No, they are…,” big brother attempted by way of correction, “What’s it called again?”
“Little people,” I said. He was skeptical. Didn’t seem like it could be right.
“No, when someone’s body is different so it doesn’t grow as tall,” he explained.
“Yes. People who have that prefer to be called ‘Little People,’” I told him.

He smiled. “That sounds weird,” he said.

My memory flashed back to that hilarious little video.

Being politically correct is annoying — a way to wedge your way into conversations to nit-pick at people’s language, a holier-than-thou mother wagging her finger, ready to jump all over you.

And yet, if Roseanne taught us nothing this week, it’s that you can’t just say *whatever*.

I wonder about the church’s role in shaping and policing language. We are, none of us, perfect. Church isn’t a place for perfect people, that’s for sure. So I can understand a criticism against a veneer of carefully-crafted language that simply intends to avoid offense and conflict, and that talks around issues rather than using plain speech.

But I get frustrated when church members, on Facebook or in their pew, insist that they’ll use the term “illegal” to refer to an immigrant who is here without authorization. “It’s dehumanizing,” I tell them, and they roll their eyes.

Two weeks ago, President Trump declared certain immigrant gang-members to be “animals,” and has since tested this all over his campaign trail, to great applause. A helpful FAQ was even posted on the whitehouse.gov website, entitled “What you need to know about the violent animals of MS-13.”

The SJW in me is, I admit, tempted to get stuck there, just on the words. Problem is, behind the words of powerful people is action, policy. Suffering.

For example:

  • More than 600 children have been separated from their parents at the border since Jeff Sessions so blithely declared, “If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” in his announcement of his new “zero tolerance” policy.
  • The U.S. will resettle its smallest number of refugees this year, not even half the shockingly low number that the President set as his goal for 2018, since our resettlement program began.
  • Despite agreement on both sides of the aisle regarding the critical need for a solution for Dreamers, there is still no law that allows them permanent protection. Instead, we may soon see a bill pass the House that attempts to slash legal immigration through eliminating visas that allow U.S. citizens to reunite with immediate family members.
  • This month, a family in my community had their door crow-barred open by ICE, who pointed their guns at children and parents alike upon entering.

Language won’t fix this, of course — I’d rather have a President who actually says the foul things he is thinking, rather than covering them up with a veneer of acceptable language. Political correctness is, I concede, not the goal.

I guess, for this SJW anyway, the real goal is this: I’d love for those in power to ascribe to, be elected because they hold, and be held accountable to maintain a standard of human dignity — through their words, but mostly through their actions and policies — that allows us to put some trust in the Apostle Paul’s words, “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.”

 

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

 

Kate Kooyman

Kate is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who serves in the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

13 Comments

  • John Kleinheksel says:

    Glad to be a SJW with YOU, Kate!
    Thanks for your comments here.
    Check out Dionne’s op-ed on DT today.
    Thanks for your kind comments the other day.
    JRK

  • James Schaap says:

    Don’t know if it’s quite fitting for me to say this, Kate, but “me too.”

  • Shannon Jammal-Hollemans says:

    Thank you, Kate. In a time when pastors who think they are “tolerant” or “woke” can’t even recognize white supremacy, we need desperately pastors who do. Please continue to preach. Being a Christian isn’t about being nice, it’s about being brave.

  • Grace says:

    Thanks, Kate. You do a great job of reminding us of our Christian responsibility. Keep up the good work.

  • Elly says:

    I agree so much with Shannon- “being Christian isn’t about being nice, it’s about being brave”!
    May God give me the strength to be brave! I know I fail to be brave time and again.

  • Dean Heetderks says:

    Love your way with words, Kate: “We are, none of us, perfect.” Keep writing them! And preaching this.

  • Marty Wondaal says:

    Ok… I will try to be brave here:

    1. I agree with you – SJW’s are funny. They are also quite ineffective, with their moral outrage and virtue signaling, in winning people over. Also, underneath a thin layer of seemingly gentle civility often lies the heart of a totalitarian who is willing to use the levers of Statist (or college, or denominational) power to achieve their ends. This could be a reason that, in the CRC, there is such an aversion to funding the OSJ.

    2. Have faith in the Apostle Paul. Donald Trump was put in authority over you for your good. It’s in the Bible, so it’s true.

    3. Be optimistic. Look for the good things happening. It seems like the Administration will be cutting funding to Planned Parenthood. That’s great, isn’t it?

    • George E says:

      Amen, Marty!

    • Paul Janssen says:

      Oooffff. Each of these three points could quite easily be turned on their heads. 1. No “totalitarian heart” in any of the rightist authoritarian regimes. Ever, right? (Since we’re playing ‘whataboutism, may I play?). 2. Have faith, my dear volk. Adolf was put in authority over you for your good. It’s in the Bible, so it’s true. (Not equating AH with DT….merely making a rhetorical point ad absurdum) 3. Are you quite aware of the broad range of services that PP offers, especially to the most needy? And that – with the full understanding that money is fungible, that it has long been the case (Hyde amendment) that federal $ are not available for providing abortions at PP? Kick up all the fluff you want, but if your aim is to convince anyone of your cause, your effort will sadly fail. And if you’re speaking in hopes of energizing the like-minded, then you are virtue signaling just as surely as you claim Kate was. Peace be with you.

  • Beth Jammal says:

    Being uneducated, I’m obviously not a progressive. Yet in my 64 Year’s, I’ve seen and experienced life.
    I was abused as a child, and realize that feelings matter, as well as the consequences of verbage and behavior. In this, truth is the most beneficial gift we have in life. After all, God is Truth. If He were not, faith hope and love, would be inconsequential.
    As Christians, we have very different perspectives on issues. Don’t we all want the right to love and worship God in the way we believe we are led by Him? This is not going to be the same for all. It shouldn’t be. We need to balance each other and hold each other accountable.
    It seems to me, that progressives, (I hope this word doesn’t offend, I’m not p.c., so I don’t know) look at issues with a compassionate “what if this would make things better?” attitude. Conservatives look at the possible consequences of these changes and if this could/would hurt us (our families). There is great need for both perspectives to be heard and respected, even if disagreed with. Is there room for political correctness? Yes, but never at the expense of truth. I believe it is good for us to at times, offend and be offended with truth, not by referring to people by animal names or through innuendo. I also would not want to be the judge as to whether someone is a true Follower of Christ if they have a different outlook or behavior than I do.
    We need to care ourselves, each other and the outside world as followers of Christ. It is at times, necessary to care first for ourselves.
    When my husband and daughter were both diagnosed with cancer the beginning of this year, I didn’t have much room in my life for caring for others outside my family, but I sure depended on others to care and pray for us. And they did. Now that the crisis is over, I can again, care for others. This is how Christianity works.
    My hope is that OSJ would not consider conservatives as the enemy, but as fellow Christians with a different perspective. Some of the posts I’ve read in the past, have left me with the thought that uneducated or conservative Christians don’t have the right to thing of themselves as Christians. That hurts.
    Just my opinion.

  • Alina Abbott says:

    “Political correctness is… not the goal.” So true, but it IS one of the steps towards the goal. Language is powerful, and the words we use shape our thoughts and culture. When our culture has a word for something, it says something about the significance of that thing to our culture. And when a word is destructive, it tears at the Christian notion that we should be building each other up with our words. (Ephesians 4:29)

  • RLG says:

    Thanks Marty, George, and Beth for your comments. It’s good to hear someone add some balance to the conversation. I get the idea from Kate’s article that she thinks we should have an open door policy on immigration. Any and all are welcome. I know, that’s an overstatement. But if there are laws and regulations in place, as to who may come into the U.S. (as there are), then there should be consequences for breaking the law. And, better yet, it is good to know ahead of time what the consequences of breaking the law will be. And certainly, if the consequence serves as a deterrent to breaking the law, then even better yet. Separating children from parents is such a deterrent. Because the U.S. is a democracy, should the citizenship want to change immigration laws there is due process to follow. Encourage your elected officials to see your point of view. Thanks, Kate, for challenging our thinking.

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