How far is too far?

By  Jenna Murphy, YSN
  • January 22, 2007
Do you find yourself tripping over your words more than usual lately in the effort to appear politically correct? Over the past Christmas season, more than in previous years, I was especially aware of the awkward "holiday" jargon such as re-naming the Christmas tree a holiday tree to try and be more inclusive. To me, it is obvious that we belong to a society whose members are so fearful of stepping on toes that they often do not step out at all.
This past spring, I spent a month working in the shantytowns of Peru with the Canadian Catholic Students' Association (CCSA). While there, we had the chance to work with the Christian Life movement, a spiritual family of sisters, brothers, priests and consecrated, founded by Fr. Luis Fernando Figari about 30 years ago.

On one particular evening our group of 60 Canadian university students heard Fr. Figari speak. I will never forget this. At the beginning of his talk, he warned us that many of us Canadians would find him abrasive and some of us would be offended. Fr. Figari then proceeded to speak at length on all the "hot topics" such as abortion and pro-life issues, "state-driven" degradation of marriage and materialism. He told us that we were headed toward destruction if we continued to create our own truths such as defining where life begins and redefining the covenant of marriage. Figari said that God's ways are so above the ways of humanity and that we must not rely only on our own understanding.

He was right. Many people were offended and some people walked out. On the bus on the way back to our lodgings, I remember hearing people protest that there were too many exceptions to his absolute ideologies or that Fr. Figari obviously did not understand the multicultural reality in Canada.

When I think about the conundrum of political correctness, I think about a verse from John: "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). This freedom that Jesus speaks of does not suggest an obsessive fear of insulting people. We learn from Scripture that while on earth Jesus used tact, but He was far from what we would call politically correct.

If we follow Jesus, He promises that sin will not lay a claim on us. In this spirit of obedience to God, we are not promised popularity, but we are promised peace for living in the Word. This is not to say of course that we should become blunt or ignorant, but we should not live in a country where we are frightened to fully embrace the faith of our ancestors.

Lingo will continue evolving, and our children will frown at the "correct" terminology of our time, but Jesus, the source of our salvation and the realities of His church, will not change.

I often reflect that the people who have most radically changed the world for the better, all those unanimously exalted individuals throughout history, were not politically correct people. In fact, the most admired of the world's heroes defended their beliefs sometimes to the death.

It is becoming clear to me that becoming bold does not mean becoming reckless, but it does mean reconsidering who it is that we live to please. Let us not be afraid.

(Murphy, 22, is a recent graduated of Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. She currently works part-time and lives in a religious community in Halifax.)

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