Growing up, I was taught that there were at least two sides to every argument. Scripture reminds us that “The first to state his case seems right until his neighbor comes to cross-examine him” Proverbs 18:17 (GW). Getting another perspective is both wise and biblical!
Regrettably, there is a growing intolerance to hear any other side but my own – it is called “Cancel Culture.” It goes like this: when someone doesn’t like or disagrees or is even mildly offended by what another person does, says, thinks, or writes – they simply “cancel” them. Initially, it was a way for the disenfranchised to be empowered: they may not have the power to change public sentiment or structural inequality, but as an individual, they have the power to acknowledge or ignore the person with whom they disagree. The danger is that also cancels meaningful conversation and shuts down teachable moments on either side of the fence. And it has snowballed.
More and more people are being shut down, fired, ostracized, and humiliated simply because they have a different perspective. In a culture that prides itself on diversity, we lack it in one of the most critical areas – the diversity of thought.
Believe it or not, last week, a group of 100 progressive writers wrote an open letter expressing their concern and were promptly criticized for misusing their platform, and distracting from other (some would say more) critical issues. Even the progressive writers of what has become known as “the letter” are shocked by how far this has gone awry! In part of their letter they say:
We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal.
A Letter on Justice and Open Debate
July 7, 2020
We see the “Cancel Culture” in our social media and even between believers. The church is not called to cancel people, but to care for them, even those we disagreed with. Ryan Emerick, lead pastor of New Life Nazarene in Medford, recently wrote about this on his Facebook page. He gave me permission to repost his thoughts. Here they are:
Someone makes a mistake, has a moral failure, or even disagrees with us (or the group we represent), so we distance ourselves from them by unfriending/unfollowing them, denouncing them, and deleting them from our lives. In short, we “Cancel” them. I get it. It’s easier to do. It’s easier to surround myself with people who think, speak, and act like me; people who like me, and laugh at all my jokes. It’s easier to distance myself from people who disagree with me, and especially from people who don’t like me. As a Christ-follower, however, there is one major problem with adopting the cancel culture: Jesus didn’t do it, and he certainly didn’t teach it.
Jesus said to love your neighbor, but then he took it further…Love your enemy (Matt5:44). He had close proximity to a diverse group of people. Zealots, Pharisees, tax collectors, prostitutes, Roman soldiers, Jews, Greeks, men, women, rich people, poor people, etc. He had neighbors and enemies. Some of them loved him, some of them hated him. He never canceled them. He did forgive them.
When Peter denied him to save his own skin, Jesus forgave him. When Judas was set to betray him, Jesus invited him to the Communion table. When the Pharisees falsely accused, Jesus forgave. When Pilate Sentenced, Jesus forgave. When the soldiers hammered the nails, Jesus forgave.
We also shouldn’t forget that our sin made us all enemies of God. Still, Jesus loved us at our darkest (Romans 5:8). Instead of canceling us, he canceled our sin (Colossians 2:14). Then, he invited us to do the same (Ephesians 4:32).
The Church doesn’t cancel people. We care for people. LET’S CANCEL THE CANCEL CULTURE. Let’s cancel the practice of unfriending every person that disagrees with us, or offends us. Let’s stop distancing ourselves to the outer edges, only hanging out with people who think, speak, and act like us. Instead, let’s start hanging out in the messy middle. Here, in the messy middle, we will find conflict, sure. But we will also find opportunities for grace, forgiveness, and love to abound.
BEFORE YOU GO
Generally speaking, social media is an okay place to share your opinions, but it a lousy place to debate them. There is too much emotion and misunderstanding in our responses. When sharp disagreements arise, and they will, consider meeting face to face or chat on the phone. The other week a gentleman who disagreed with one of my blog posts met with me over coffee. We still don’t see eye to eye, but we respect and care for one another.
The Apostle Paul wrote that we should “never let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesiahs 4:29 (NIV)
As Christ-followers, we are repeated called to compassion, to listen, to limit our own freedoms for the benefit of others. Taking the challenge as Ryan phrases it above will require innumerable acts of courage and of private grace. This is what we signed up for…by this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.