Jordan Peterson has become somewhat of a superstar over the past couple years as he has continued his fight against governmental oversight and left wing censorship.
I have been a little nervous about how much Christians have embraced a non-believing, Darwinian psychologist. Nonetheless, he is a brilliant man and has offered some meaningful responses to much of the culture with which Christians also find themselves at odds.
Because of his popularity, his interviews and lectures are highly anticipated and consumed. But perhaps nothing is more exciting to the general populace than a good ol’ fashioned debate. Recently, Jordan Peterson participated in a debate about Political Correctness with Stephen Fry, arguing against Michael Dyson, and Michelle Goldberg, which I listened to in entirety.
The debate thesis was not clear to me, and as Stephen Fry rightly recognized, the debate quickly devolved into a debate on identity politics, rather than political correctness. The debate was sloppy and brief. It was also one of the finest showcases of George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Langauge.” All of the participants, but Peterson and Dyson especially, used rhetoric, vocabulary, and language that simply muddied the water. They were neither precise nor clear. They spoke in lofty academic language, and utilized mere platforms, rather than making specific arguments and points. It was hard to know what either of them said after each spoke.
Dyson and Peterson certainly stole the show. The debate almost seemed as if it were two separate debates in one as Peterson and Dyson quickly honed in on one another, intensifying the tone in an entertaining way.
Being disappointed in all of the presentations (overall, I thought Fry was the clearest and closest to the truth), I would like to briefly share my thoughts on political correctness. Am I for it, or against it, and why?
Defining terms was done excruciatingly poorly in this debate. What even is political correctness? I am sure there are a variety of ways defining it, some making it less problematic than others. My understanding is that political correctness is the public’s way of policing an individual’s language on the basis of offense. In other words, political correctness seems to be a means by which a portion of the population demands certain words and phrases be banned from all people’s vocabulary because of the overall offense they cause certain groups of people.
Do I adhere to political correctness? When I speak, do I take into consideration whether or not I am being politically correct? The answer is no. For entirely separated reasons, I would have been on the side with Peterson and Fry in that debate. I am against political correctness. The reason why is because I am not an idolater.
The reason I attribute idolatry to political correctness is because that is exactly what I believe is required to submit to these societal codes. Political correctness is nothing more than blasphemy, but it’s the blasphemy of other gods, ones who did not create heaven and earth. I do not believe in the gods of Secularism, and therefore I will not pay them homage by subscribing to their cries of blasphemy.
The Relationship Between Political Correctness and Hate Speech
One could not stand on a box in 16th century Geneva, and shout at the top of their lungs, “Jesus is not Lord! He is not God!” Such a person would be hauled away, and likely put to death. Why? For blasphemy. That culture had a shared God, and the God of that culture had certain sacred doctrines which could not be touched.
To take a more modern example, one could not visit Saudi Arabia today, walk down to Mecca, stand on a box, and in Arabic say, “Jesus is Allah, Mohammed is not a true prophet!” Said person would be hauled away, and likely killed. Why? For blasphemy. That culture has a shared god, and the god of that culture has certain sacred doctrines which cannot be touched.
Notice now the striking similarities between those examples and modern hate speech. Today, a person in America or Canada can get hauled away and “reoriented,” or forced into “sensitivity training” on the basis of something they’ve said, for anything which the government has labeled “hate speech.” Why are they getting in trouble? For blasphemy. Our culture has a shared god, and the god of this culture has certain sacred doctrines which cannot be touched.
Hate speech is nothing more than the secular vernacular for blasphemy. Hate speech is to blaspheme the gods of our culture.
The relationship then between these two is that political correctness is the seed of hate speech. When something becomes politically incorrect it becomes a candidate for hate speech. Hate speech is when political correctness is legislated. They are however, very much the same. They are both language the culture is policing on the basis of offense and emotional distress, and at times, the government decides to attach a legal penalty.
For this reason, I equally oppose the establishment of “hate speech” as well as adhering to standards of political correctness. The reason I cannot submit then to politically correct rules is because the gods of this system do not have all authority in heaven and on earth. They do not own my tongue, Jesus does. Jesus gets to police my language. Too often, since the culture’s gods are competing with Christ for dominion, language which has been sanctified by God is deemed politically incorrect by the culture. And when those are in conflict, the God who laid His life down for me deserves my tongue.
I am not afraid of offending gods that do not exist, and I refuse to bow my knee, and submit to the linguistic expectations of idols and their disciples. I am against political correctness because I am not an idolater. Secularism is a religious system, and the sacred cows of their system demand we monitor what we say, but I refuse.
(By way of a side, I take the same issue with the idea of hate crimes. To qualify a crime as hateful is redundant. Qualifying any crime as hateful actually softens the hatefulness in other crimes. Murdering your gay neighbor takes the exact same kind of hatred as murdering your straight neighbor; they are both hate crimes. To serve a harsher penalty for murdering your black neighbor because he is black, over murdering a white employer because he fired you does not honor the image of God in blacks people, it demeans the image of God in whites. It establishes a form of justice not in accordance with the Law of God).
Too often, the requirements of political correctness are so outrageous, they are clearly a power attempt to force us to bow our knees. They are nothing more than a requirement to honor Caesar. They are blatantly a test of obedience, and nothing more. In those moments, we must go out of our way to challenge the authority of the secular gods, and refuse to obey them. However, this important act of religious defiance is not the same thing as purposeful offense. To reject politically correct language policing is not the same thing as embracing the role of provocateur.
Often times I do police my own language, and the boundaries I set are in line with what the self-appointed officers on the Political Correctness Enforcement Agency would require of me. In other words, Christians should be against political correctness in principle, but should find themselves accidentally obeying those standards from time to time.
The proper way to fight against political correction is not to be as purposely politically incorrect as possible. We should always seek to offend people as least often as possible so as to make our message received more readily. We should never be proud of our ability to offend. The difference in these situations is that one is not policing their language for political correctness’ sake, but for God’s sake. We control our tongues and use our language wisely because Jesus would have us do so. Obeying a politically correct requirement because we love our neighbor is not the same activity as obeying the politically correct standard out of obedience and reverence for the standard. We are not adhering to that social law, but to God’s moral law. Thus, we may appear to be politically correct, but it is nothing more than a coincidence; it is nothing more than the rare occasion of different standards incidentally lining up.
I will seek to use the language least offensive to those with whom I am speaking. But when their expectations and God’s collide, political correctness will have no jurisdiction over me. There are some things I must say, and I will say, regardless of the invisible social contract I am expected to assume. I am completely supportive of using language which adjusts to my culture. I want to use the words, phrases, and tones which most clearly and lovingly communicates truth to my neighbor. But, those standards are dictated by God and His Word, not by the secularist’s most aggressive efforts to catechize me.