Better to live in accord with the Gospel than to think ‘correctly’

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Not so long ago, a U.S. bishop, as part of his commencement speech, challenged the college graduates not to be politically correct. The bishop had made his remarks in reference to the encyclical Humanae vitae of Pope Paul VI, dated July 25, 1968. This encyclical sets forth the church’s teaching concerning contraceptives, while warning of the dangers which would come with a society’s acceptance of contraception. The bishop’s remarks went beyond just challenging the contraceptive mentality, for he challenged the graduates to think about and question many of the accepted opinions concerning the social issues of our times. 

To be clear, “not being politically correct” is not a license to be crude, abusive, disrespectful, racist, sexist or hateful. Nor does “not being politically correct” necessarily imply being traditional or conservative.

In order to have an understanding of “not being politically correct,” it is important to know the origins of the phrase “politically correct.” According to some, the phrase has its roots in political satire. It was used by humorists in the Soviet Bloc to refer to the need for one to hold the party line even if the party was wrong. This sums up well how communist regimes work. In such a regime all citizens are to think and act in accord with the thought of the party, meaning the group in control of the government or state. Those who do not think with the party or who challenge the party’s thought are persecuted. 

Other scholars trace the origins of “politically correct” to certain Marxist groups. These groups realized that the Christian foundations of Western civilization were too strong for the economic revolution Marxism proposed. Instead of focusing solely on the economy, these groups began to fight for cultural change (hence the name Cultural Marxism) to bring about the revolution envisioned by Marx. These groups set about to erode the social mores of the West, that is Europe and the Americas.

Their principle target is sexual morality. By attacking sexual morality these groups subtly attack the most basic institution in society, the family. Once the family is dismantled, only the state is left to dictate what is good and what is evil.

Today, in our country, the phrase “politically correct” is used to make people who hold a view different from the so called popular view feel ashamed or embarrassed. The phrase is used to imply that a particular presumption or opinion is true, while further implying that it is held by everyone else or at least the majority. Those who promote being politically correct stifle the free exchange of thought, hinder debate on matters, and prevent society from arriving at knowledge of the truth.

In his dissenting opinion in the Supreme Court decision concerning so-called same-sex-marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges), Justice Alito wrote of the creation of a “new orthodoxy” which would leave no room for differing opinions. The Justice was particularly concerned for people of faith, individually and as a group, such as the church, who would not agree with the decision. The Justice’s concerns are being realized. This “new orthodoxy” is being advocated by those who promote being politically correct. The promoters of politically correct feel that religion (especially Christianity, particularly the Catholic Church) must evolve, change its teachings so to be in accord with the “new orthodoxy”; if it does not, then it cannot be tolerated.   

In this time of social upheaval, when we are bombarded by so much information and so many trying to sway us one way or the other, what are we to do? Recall the words of Saint Paul to the Colossians: “Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy, and vain deceit; according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). This is done by measuring everything by the teachings of the Church, the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Following this, let us live a life in accord with the Gospel of Christ as professed by the church. In this way, Christians will shape society in accord with what is true and good, leading to justice and peace.               

Father Jason Rocks is priest secretary to Bishop Dennis Sullivan and adjutant judicial vicar for the Diocese of Camden.