Political correctness sucks. It really does. We miss out on so much richness and depth when we keep our language free from all shocks and surprises. I don't think Jesus of Nazareth was politically correct, and that's why the English translation in my Holman Christian Standard Bible seldom smacks true of my outspoken Galilean peasant — especially the famous story in Luke (11:37) and Matthew (23:1). You remember the story:
One day, a Pharisee asked Jesus to have lunch with him and Jesus did, but Jesus didn't do the ritual washing first. You know, kinda like not saying grace. The Pharisee was shocked. But I'm sure he was even more shocked with the outpouring of anger from his guest: "You clean the outside of the dish," Jesus shouted, "but inside you're full of greed and evil." And then it just poured out: "Ouai hemin!" says the Greek text, and he said it six times in a row, each time with more volume.
I would love to know the Aramaic words he must have used, but this Greek rendition is pretty powerful, and I can tell you for sure that the paltry "Woe to you" doesn't come close. It may be politically correct, but it doesn't pick up any of the outrage and anger and frustration.
We have an American translation of the Bible called "The Message" and they put it this way: "I've had it with you! You're hopeless." That's a little better, but when I read the whole story in context I think the angry shout sounded more like: "Damn you, Scribes and Pharisees!" Of course, that's just my translation.
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It's obvious that the historical Jesus got lots of flak from these elite members of his upper class. They were always right. When they quoted Scripture (and they did it just like the violent readers of my columns) they didn't want to discuss these items; they didn't want to learn anything. They just wanted to trap him. I know the feeling. Well, Jesus wasn't going to take it anymore and he exploded — in a very politically incorrect way. I'm a little surprised that our PC evangelists actually recorded it.
Political incorrectness is appealing to the masses but appalling to the establishment. Look at Trump. I can't remember any political candidate with this much chutzpah. Whether you love him or hate him (it's one or the other) there's no denying his popularity. None of the candidates has the wildly loyal following that he has, coupled with the millions of dollars being spent to dump him. He never softens his language; never kowtows to donors; doesn't even know what PC means and doesn't care to know.
Trump reminds me of the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber. On the back cover of her best-selling biography "Pastrix" (female pastor) her publisher wrote: "Heavily tattooed and loud-mouthed, a former alcoholic stand-up comic sure as hell didn't consider herself to be religious leader material." But she is now. She's a Lutheran priest and the founder-pastor of a church in Denver called: "House for all Sinners and Saints." Read her book. Talk about "politically incorrect."
The more I study Jesus of Nazareth, the more I see his political incorrectness. He ran headlong into two very powerful political groups: The Romans and the Pharisees. He could have softened his message to both. He could have made friends with the Romans the way his fellow Jew, Josephus, did, and he could have become more scholastic like Paul did and pleased the Pharisees. But he didn't.
And two things happened as a result:
His popularity grew. He attracted hundreds, even thousands, of followers, who traveled miles over the Palestinian desert to hear him talk. They loved the way he battled with their established leaders and never backed down, in spite of what they did to him. After he was killed, they continued their faithfulness and immortalized his memory.
His enemies grew. Both the Romans and the Pharisees hated his political incorrectness; they took it personally. It violated everything they stood for. So they plotted his murder, and eventually were able to topple this popular leader.
There is always a price to pay for political incorrectness. Sometimes we can pay it and win; sometimes we can't. But I think once we start down this path — like Trump and Nadia and Jesus — there's just no turning back. It's a fast and exciting race to the finish, whatever that might be.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His blog is www.progressiveheretic.com.