Jesus warned that He was sending His disciples out as “sheep in the midst of wolves,” and they should not be surprised when they are flogged in the “synagogues” and “dragged before governors and kings” (Matt. 10:16-17, ESV).[i] These warnings came to pass. Peter and John were jailed and forbidden from preaching about Christ (Acts 5:17-42), Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:54-60), and first-century believers were scattered (Acts 8:1-3). Paul was no stranger to speaking God’s truths to a hostile audience either, having been thrown in jail, beaten near death, whipped, stoned, starved, and exposed to the elements (2 Cor. 11:25-27). All, however unpopular, continued to speak the truth (Acts 5:42).
Over the last several decades, the term “political correctness” has come into the American lexicon. It is often mocked in popular culture, and several news outlets have entire sections dedicated to tracking political correctness in society. Yet, many do not understand where it originated. Political correctness started with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under the leadership of Mao Zedong in 1967. Mao used political correctness to control public dissent at the start of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–1976).[ii] The Cultural Revolution aimed to fill the government with leaders who were faithful to Mao’s thinking, solidify the CCP, and provide China’s youths with a revolutionary experience. Mao pursued these objectives by mobilizing China’s urban youth, who organized into groups called the “Red Guards.” To empower the Red Guards, Mao ordered the government and the military not to suppress their activity.[iii]
One of Mao’s early politically correct objectives during the Cultural Revolution was to eliminate the “Four Olds”—old things, old ideas, old customs, and old habits.[iv] This is where the CCP’s political correctness and the “PC” culture of the US intersect. A New York Times article from 1971 recounts how the CCP and Mao attacked the Four Olds.
“In the turbulent years from 1966 to 1968, what remained of old religious practices, old superstitions, old festivals, old social practices such as traditional weddings and funerals, and old ways of dress were violently attacked and suppressed.”[v]
Unpacking this, we find many analogies to the PC movement in the US today. First, orthodox religion and social practices are attacked. This attack is evident, especially in the area of marriage, gender roles, and gender identity. Not only was the idea of marriage in the US legally redefined in 2015, but a recent article in Harvard Law Today made a case for recognizing polyamory.[vi] PC culture in America has also attacked “old ways of dress” by attacking gender itself. The NYT article continues, “women wear the same” clothing “as men,” and “dressed like men, women work alongside them in manual as well as office jobs at the same pay.”[vii] As a note, there is nothing wrong with men and women working together or equal pay; what I would like to highlight is the radical egalitarianism and the elimination of a distinct “manhood” and “womanhood.” PC culture has taken egalitarianism to the extreme. So extreme that many now assert there is no difference between men and women, as gender is a self-determined spectrum.
As Mao combated the Four Olds, he also unleashed his Red Guards on “old books and [the] smashing of old art objects.”[viii] This is analogous to the statues toppled around the nation in 2020,[ix] or Amazon’s efforts to ban books that do not meet their PC guidelines.[x] Just as Mao gave the Red Guards autonomy to carry out their work, in “city after city, mayors and governors decline to act against vandals, the police stand down, and the devil is allowed to take the hindmost. Corporations fall over themselves to advertise their virtuousness, and give what looks very much like protection money to organizations whose goals are openly subversive of the fundamental American political and social order.”[xi]
So, what is a Christian to do? First, we need to stand united around biblical truth, no matter our political preferences. When Jesus’ mother and brothers attempted to meet with Him through the crowds, He said, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers” and responded, “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:48-50). We cannot let the politics of this world divide us. Christians must be united around the Gospel and Scripture. Next, we need to understand that the Gospel is offensive to the world.[xii] Most people assume they are good and question “what do they need to be saved from?” As Paul admonished, “None is righteous, no, not one” and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10, 3:23). Yet, we understand this call to repentance is out of love. Recognizing that people will be offended, we cannot shy away from sharing the truth because we may offend in this politically correct culture. Jesus called us to be salt and light to the world (Matt. 5:13-14), knowing that the world would not simply be hostile but “hate” us (John 15:18-19, 17:14). I’ll end where we started, remember when “they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matt. 10:19-20). Take comfort; God is with us!
Citations & References
[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are in the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).
[ii] Xing Lu, “An ideological/cultural analysis of political slogans in Communist China,” Discourse & Society 10, no. 4 (1999): 487.
[iii] Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. “Cultural Revolution,” accessed August 19, 2021, https://www.britannica.com/event/Cultural-Revolution. One may make the analogy that the CCP Red Guards are similar to the Black Lives Matter and Antifa movements in the US today. Both comprise urban youth, and in 2020 were largely supported and sheltered by political elites.
[iv] Tilman Durdin, “China Transformed by Elimination of ‘Four Olds,’” New York Times, May 19, 1971, https://www.nytimes.com/1971/05/19/archives/china-transformed-by-elimination-of-four-olds.html.
[v] Durdin, “China Transformed by Elimination of ‘Four Olds.’”
[vi] Elaine McArdle, “Polyamory and the law,” Harvard Law Today, August 3, 2021, https://today.law.harvard.edu/polyamory-and-the-law/.
[vii] Durdin, “China Transformed by Elimination of ‘Four Olds.’”
[viii] Durdin, “China Transformed by Elimination of ‘Four Olds.’”
[ix] Wilfred McClay, “Of Statues and Symbolic Murder,” First Things, June 26, 2020, https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2020/06/of-statues-and-symbolic-murder.
[x] Wesley Smith, “Amazon Bans Transgender Critics but Sells Suicide-by-Starvation Book,” National Review, August 15, 2021, https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/amazon-bans-transgender-critics-but-sells-suicide-by-starvation-book/.
[xi] McClay, “Of Statues and Symbolic Murder.”
[xii] David Platt, Counterculture: Following Christ in an Anti-Christian Age (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2017), 8.
Tyler TenniesSee More Essays
Tyler Tennies (BS, Henley-Putnam University; MS, Michigan State University) is a husband and father of two currently studying Christian theology and doctrine at Liberty University’s John Rawlings School of Divinity.