By Andrew Sandlin
Almost everybody has heard about political correctness. It is the policy on numerous American campuses to stifle discussion deemed to threaten the sensitivity of “under-represented” groups: homosexuals, blacks, women, the handicapped, etc. The supposed liberal tenet of free speech must now yield if under its protection comments are made that might offend the easily offended “minorities.”
If, as Dinesh D’Souza asserts, the university in a democracy is a microcosm of the society surrounding it (a fairly tenable, common-sense assumption), we may be fairly certain that the current controversy raging over “political correct-ness” in the university is one of the early signs and harbingers of a monumental ideological and religious conflict potentially disrupting the present social order. Initially considered, this claim may seem exaggerated, but further thought should demonstrate its factuality.
The “PC” fracas has demonstrated that the rationalism which stands behind Western liberalism in the tradition of Enlightenment cannot survive indefinitely. The great irony is that while Western liberalism has always been the avowed enemy of conservatism, the former is discovering that its basic tenets of “free inquiry” and “objective appraisal” are not hardy enough to withstand the onslaught of vigorous leftist and radical views impatient with the inability of Western liberalism to make good on the cherished goals of liberal ideology: absolute autonomy and equality.
The forces of rationalism and the advocates of “PC” only appear to be arrayed against each other. They are both actually arrayed against biblical Christianity. Western liberalism embraces the primacy of reason; advocates of “political correctness” embrace the primacy of “equality.” Neither embraces the primacy of the God who revealed himself in Holy Scripture.
The disciples of “political correctness” argue against Western liberals that the professed neutrality of modern university liberalism is just a covert scheme to obscure presuppositions designed to maintain the status quo. Where they are wrong is in pinpointing that status quo. They say it is chauvinism, sexism, racism and Westernism. On that, I believe they are egregiously wrong.
The hidden presupposition the classical liberals are endeavoring to protect is the same that the salesmen of “political correctness” are trying to protect: the autonomy of man.
The Myth of Neutrality
Under the guise of free inquiry and objectivity, classical liberals idolatrously enthrone the human mind, just as “PCers” do under the guise of egalitarianism. The controversy demonstrates the futility of the pipe dream of Enlightenment liberalism: that where reason is employed, truth prevails. It does not account for the fact that (a) reason is never objective and that (b) reason can never answer the ultimate questions of life since it has no absolute standard by which to judge. Reason, for example, is no bulwark against tyranny, for according to some presuppositions, tyranny can be perfectly reasonable. Rationalism serves the purpose of depraved mankind in its rebellion against the Creator God.
The disciples of “political correctness” know that the supposed neutrality and objectivity of Western intellectuals is a farce, but they do not recognize that their own politically correct views are equally farcical. “PC” is breaking the back of the old utopian liberal intellectual faith in reason. Devotees of “political correctness” will not concede for one minute that neutral, objective reason should reign in the university because they recognize that the position of “objective” liberalism springs from subjective presuppositions. Of course, disciples of “political correctness” are mistaken in their insistence that radical feminism, Afro-centrism, and homosexuality should be exempted from criticism. All who embrace the truth as revealed by God in His Word will fervently oppose each of these deviations – as well as the others supported by the “politically correct.”
The point is that the controversy surrounding “political correctness” should force “neutral” liberal educators to concede that some ideology will govern the university (and every other sphere of society, for that matter). If men do not worship God, they will worship themselves and other created things (Rom. 1) and eventually Satan (Rev. 13). The “PC” controversy is a perfect example. The children of the intellectual liberals rebelling against their “reasonable” heritage (worship of the mind of man) now defy God by demanding that professors avoid any criticism, implied or expressed, of homosexuality (an abomination in God’s eyes according to Romans 1).
Because the course of idolatry is degradation (Rom. 1), if universities permit “political correctness” to dominate, they will become not only increasingly depraved but also increasingly mediocre and incompetent. When “PC” educators employ race rather than merit as a chief standard of enrollment policy, the result will be less knowledgeable and less equipped individuals to perform important functions as citizens of our society. When administrators block intelligent Asians in favor of incompetent blacks and whites, they are sealing the mediocrity of a country.
When they refuse to require courses in Western literature because it is dominated by white males, and require instead courses in Asian and African literature (most of which is abysmally inferior to that of Western culture) they slit their own throat – or, I should say, the throat of their students who must one day assist in sustaining a society whose glorious benefits derive directly from the ideas of white males, the validity of whose ideas has nothing to do with race.
If the old liberalism were to win this debate and reassert itself in American universities, the results would be only slightly more favorable; however, the classic liberal utopia of a “neutral creed” is doomed because its “neutrality” cannot forever withstand the onslaught of commitments like those of the “politically correct.” In the long run, pretended neutrality is no match for fervent ideology. The Weimer Republic’s pitiful collapse before the militant, though misguided and tyrannical force of National Socialism, is a striking example.
A Strategy for the Culture War
Epistemologically conscious Christians on campus should seize the initiative by demonstrating the bankruptcy of the old Enlightenment classical liberalism and the perversion of the “politically correct” corp. They must, further, press the claims of the authority of Christ in all spheres of life, including the life of the university. Nor will the commitment to historic Christianity jeopardize the free flow of ideas as the classical liberals charge and as the ideal of “political correctness” obviously does.
Rather, if the university is not to become a “multiversity,” it must embrace the epistemology of the Christian faith which, if properly practiced and understood, guarantees the free flow of ideas, precisely because as the only viable foundation of intellectual life, it can afford to confront the challenges posed by secularism, Marxism, materialism and all other ideological perversions. As long as the validity of the Christian faith is presupposed, all alternatives will be found wanting.
The battle on campus is merely the most visible dimension of the larger conflict in Western culture. The (rapidly diminishing) classical liberals wrongfully claiming neutrality, as well as the overt covenant-breakers of “political correctness” rightfully denying neutrality, are arrayed against the (rapidly diminishing) Christian pietists wrongfully claiming neutrality, as well as the overt covenant-keepers rightfully denying neutrality. The classical liberals, one will note, are analogous to the Christian pietists – both erroneously believe they can remain neutral in this conflict. The classical liberals are really on the side of the overt covenant-breakers, for Scripture claims all the unconverted suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18).
The Christian pietists are really on the side of the overt covenant-keepers, but they just have not become consistent with their presuppositions yet. The overt covenant-keepers and the overt covenant-breakers are actively locked into a life-and death struggle to the finish (literally so, at the doors of abortions clinics). These are two fundamentally irreconcilable, mutually exclusive presuppositions. They cannot simultaneously succeed, nor can they long simultaneously co-exist.
God created this conflict (Gen. 3:15): the seed of the serpent (Satan and his disciples) war against the seed of the woman (Christ and His disciples). God instituted this hostility. Christians must not retreat from or smooth over the differences. This conflict (Mt. 16:18), will be escalated not impeded. On campus, at the shop or office, at the polling booth, in every venture this conflict between God and Satan will escalate.
Andrew Sandlin is a staff member of Christian Evangelistic Endeavors. CEE sponsors Intensive Revival School, a two year discipleship training program designed to prepare students for the ministry. If you want more information from CEE, write:
CEE, 35155 Beachpark Dr., Eastlake, OH 44095