As I continue commemorating the 15th anniversary of the initial publication of The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook, by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf (New York, NY, USA: Villard Books, updated edition 1993), which began with my post of January 3rd, it occurs to me how surreptitiously many of the words in this book have since crept into our day-to-day speech in ostensibly innocuous fashion, even to the point of assuming a place of privilege in many of our cultural institutions.
ice people. The European-American descendants of northern Ice Age peoples. The term was coined by Dr. Leonard Jeffries, chairman [sic] of the Afro-American Studies Department of the City University of New York, who theorized that humanity is divided into two principal groups, “ice people” and “sun people” (Africans, Asians, and natives of Latin America and the Caribbean). The two groups have diametrically opposed value systems: ice people are materialistic, egotistical, and exploitive, while sun people are humanistic, communal, and caring.
[Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf, The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook (New York, NY, USA: Villard Books, updated edition 1993), 35. Photo and caption of Idi Amin is found next to the definition of “sun person,” ibid., 71.]
The following video was prepared for the 2006 national conference (September 29-October 1) held by John Piper’s Desiring God ministry. The 2006 conference took its name from David Wells’ recent book, Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005). Wells (Ph.D., University of Manchester) is a professor of historical and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts.
You can also view this video on Desiring God’s web site, where you will find a page linking to videos of interviews with other conference speakers.
Weariness hung from his facial muscles like lead weights on fishing lines. His hair, recently mauled by the suburban Chicago winds, reflected the gusts of reproach he had just battled. His jaw was set like that of a courtroom defendant whose guilty verdict was still echoing in his ears as he came to lay his pile of frustrations on the counter just long enough to write out a check to the seminary business office and be on his way.
Something told me he was having a rough day. It didn’t take long for me to dig it out of him. I guess he thought I would empathize.
As we continue to recognize the fifteenth anniversary of the original publication of The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook, by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf, let us consider the plight of the voiceless victims of speciesism. But how can we consider their plight if we don’t know the exact nature of their oppression? Hence the need for a handy reference work that can enlighten (or is it better to say “encolor?”) us on this matter.
One of the things I find a tad irritating about Beard and Cerf’s The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook (New York, NY, USA: Villard Books, updated edition 1993), is that it is actually four separate dictionaries bound in one volume, and it has no index. I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking that that’s actually two things to be irritated about. Well, when it comes to irritability, I’m a multitasker.
So we’re coming up to the fifteenth anniversary of the publication of a Henry Beard’s and Christopher Cerf‘s The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook (New York, NY, USA: Villard Books, updated edition 1993), and I thought it would be a good idea to hunt down my copy of it and take a look at some of its knee-slapping and yet eerily sobering entries.
Douglas Groothius, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary, wrote:
If a Christian apologist of postmodernist stripe were to stand on our equivalent of Mars Hill today, he or she might say something to this effect, something quite different in spirit from the apostle Paul’s original address (Acts 17:16-31).
People of Postmodernity, I can see you speak in many language games and are interested in diverse spiritualities. I have observed your pluralistic religious discourse and the fact that you use many final vocabularies. I have seen your celebration of the death of objective truth and the eclipse of metanarratives, and I declare to you that you are right. As one of your own has said, “We are suspicious of all metanarratives.” What you have already said, I will reaffirm with a slightly different spin.
We have left modernity behind as a bad dream. We deny its rationalism, objectivism and intellectual arrogance. Instead of this, we affirm the Christian community, which professes that God is the strand that unites our web of belief. We have our own manner of interpreting the world and using language that we call you to adopt for yourself. We give you no argument for the existence of God, since natural theology is simply rationalistic hubris. We are not interested in metaphysics but in discipleship.
For us, Jesus is Lord. That is how we speak. We act that way, too; it’s important to us. And although we cannot appeal to any evidence outside our own communal beliefs and tradition, we believe that God is in control of our narrative. We ask you to join our language game. Please. Since it is impossible to give you any independent evidence for our use of language, or to appeal to hard facts, we simply declare this to be our truth. It can become your truth as well, if you join up. Jesus does not call you to believe propositions but to follow him. You really can’t understand what we’re talking about until you join up. But after that, it will be much clearer. Trust us. In our way of speaking, God is calling everyone everywhere to change his or her language game, to appropriate a new discourse and to redescribe reality one more time. We speak such that the resurrection of Jesus is the crucial item in our final vocabulary. We hope you will learn to speak that way as well.
—Douglas Groothius, Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenge of Postmodernism, (Downers Grove, IL, USA and Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 161-162.