In recent months on social media has been an enormous amount of chatter on the perils of political correctness. Even our politicians have been on this band wagon claiming this or that was political correctness gone mad.
Christian writers including me over recent years have waxed lyrical on this subject. The problem is that it gets locked in with bureaucracies. Once that happens the seemingly only way to reverse is through the courts.
This is such an example.
Some years ago an over-zealous case of 'political correctness' in England was reversed. Olive Jones, a supply teacher (relief teacher) who is a Christian, was removed after offering to pray for a distressed student. She was cleared of any misconduct and was invited back to the school at Weston-super-Mare.
North Somerset Council recognised that it can be appropriate for a tutor to share their faith with a pupil or a family, depending on the situation.
Mrs Jones, who was 54, had shared her faith with a sick pupil after asking the pupil's mother whether she could pray for the child. She has had considerable experience in such informal pastoring. Moreover, she had enjoyed a good relationship with the pupil and her family.
A non-involved third party had made a complaint, and the decision had been made by the school to remove her from the supply (relief) list. Olive Jones said that she felt as though she had committed a crime.
The Christian Legal Service got involved in this situation amidst national publicity and alarm, and found that there had not even been a formal investigation. It claimed that the decision to dismiss had been a knee jerk reaction from an unsubstantiated complaint.
Andrea Williams, the director of the Christian Legal Service, has these words of caution: "We will continue to support people like Olive, who should never have to face this kind of disproportionate action and discrimination for merely living out their Christian faith."
The question therefore, is at what point in every day life might any committed Christian, simply talking about their life as a follower of Christ, or even offering to pray for someone they care about, break some kind of perceived 'political correctness' for which they could be vilified or lose their livelihood.
Christians think about the following guidelines, to help them understand these issues.
Although every Christian person carries within him or her self the joyful challenge, to speak about their life as a follower of Jesus, in many parts of the world today, if they actually do this, they could face punitive action by the authorities. Therefore, Christians need to be mindful of the laws and customs of the countries they are visiting, or are resident in.
Of course, this is not the case in Australia and the western world, so it was not the case with Olive Jones. Due to our history where predecessors in the Christian walk were martyred, thus ensuring our essential freedoms so that 'telling others of Jesus' was nullified as a criminal offence.
Nevertheless, everyone needs to be considerate of others and their beliefs and attitudes. Just as we have freedom as Christians, those of every other faith have the same freedoms to practice and talk about their faiths. Therefore, there are circumstances where being 'plain stupid' and inappropriately announcing ‘Christian commitment’ might cause offence. Being astute and sensible is a responsibility for the Christian.
Within these guidelines, robust debate about such things in western society is part and parcel of democracy and Christians need to be conversant with their subject and become part of this community discussion. This can happen on a train, in a school P & C meeting, over a coffee with friends, in fact anywhere; as long as they do not deliberately offend (to make an offence) those who are obviously not being receptive to the message they are trying to tell.
Western societies are political in nature, they are not Christian Kingdoms, so getting involved in politics is important for those who are movers and shakers. There are times in which Christians need to use 'political correctness' in social issues to ensure the underprivileged get a fair go.
Christians need to be aware that there are those who disagree ideologically with the Christian world view, and some will use 'political correctness' and any other means to oppose anything Christian within the public domain. This appears to be the case in the Olive Jones situation. Nor should the Christian have a persecution complex as many people simply do not wish to be confronted with religious ideas.
A friend of mine is not a Christian and doesn't want to lumped in or seen to be as one with committed Christians - nothing sinister at all. This also needs to recognised and may require God's timing for a word in season.
Christians have confidence in prayer and in the workings of the Holy Spirit. The economy of God and the politics of man are intertwined. There are numerous Biblical examples of this, such as Joseph in Pharaohs court, Esther before the King and the Apostle Paul before Herod's court.
This confidence will help them realise when it is appropriate to share their faith to help others, and where it is 'politically incorrect' to speak out due to the sensitivities of others but not allow that sentiment to dominate in all things due to a politically pressured ridiculous scenarios.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 25 books, and enjoys writing. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded ‘The Gutenberg’ - the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. He and David Chang editor of Christian Today together bought the young writer ministry into fruition in 2009. In 2011 Mark established Laguna Quays Respite (Whitsundays) for missionary respite and replicated at Aldinga Beach 2016 (Adelaide) and Greens Beach Bass Straight (TAS). His ministry is honoured all these years by Christian philanthropist Mr Basil Sellers AM. He is married to Delma (44 years), with four adult married children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/dr-mark-t.html