“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”- Matthew 5:41 NIV
Long ago, I blogged on the importance of inclusive language but I think over the years, I have changed somewhat. Inclusive language and its use is a matter of neighborly love, going out of our way to affirm the experience of others, even if this action is rejected. This is the risk that nonviolent practitioners must take. In a Right-Of-Center U.S. political context, political correctness is looked down upon, with an (undue) fear of the “PC POLICE” and government censorship.
Peace theologian John Howard Yoder in a collection of essays The War of the Lamb: The Ethics of Nonviolence and Peacemaking suggests a possible way forward,; referring to his Just War opponents, Yoder says:
“But even if they refuse to hear me, and to respect the restraints they are theoretically committed to, I owe it to their dignity as fellow humans, some of whom are fellow Christians, to address them in terms of their moral culture, not only mine. That readiness, to make oneself vulnerable to the language world of the other, as a part of the ecumenical conversational process, is itself a minority view. For many, the only honorable stance in ecumenical settings is a vigorous advocacy of the rightness of one’s own orthodoxy. For me, the opposite is imperative on grounds of practicality, ethics, and spirituality. My use of their language, taking its potential integrity more seriously than they do, is a form of the second-mile response that Jesus taught and lived. I am not driven by the integrity of their position, which is what needs to be proven and which I doubt, but by the integrity of my own position, which is not dependent on results to be valid.”
While Yoder was talking about primarily advocates of Just War theorists, secular and Christian alike in ecumenical settings, I think one can take this approach to its logical conclusion, and apply it to Peacemaking Christians who wish to engage a religiously and culturally pluralistic society. The second-mile approach to cultural politics relies gives dignity to our interlocutors, and it also requires a pentecostal brand of Christianity that rejects monolingualism: an intercultural, multilingual Christianity where we are required not only to know our own stories well, but others’ stories as well.
What some may refer to as “being politically correct,” others refer to as being culturally intelligent. Language matters, and as co-creators with the Triune God, our words have the power to create and to destroy. As such, knowing our own internalized biases, whether it be white supremacy, misogyny, ableism or classism and guarding against them should be part of nonviolent ethics. The praxis of peacemaking requires not only the languages of restorative justice and confrontation, but reconciliation and meekness as well.