Written by: Brett Johnson
Article Source: Supplied
I am writing this short article for those who have an interest in positively impacting society. I am honored to have had so many people go through the various Repurposing Business programs and now the Transforming Society training. The wonderful aspirations of would-be world changers may get seriously undermined if we do not discuss the current talk about culture since its flames are in danger of scorching the best efforts of many.
There is a lot going on with culture nowadays. Some of it is supposed to be positive and businesspeople have jumped onto the “culture eats strategy for breakfast” bandwagon. (This is a partial truth, also known as a lie, in my view. I have written about this elsewhere.) In the broader world, the social cancer of cancel culture is spreading like a plague. What is cancel culture? Wikipedia says “Cancel culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to have been “cancelled”.” Webster defines it as “the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.” It includes deplatforming someone, which means to take the mic away, whether the mic be Twitter or Facebook, or a radio program, or a media outlet. If the platform itself is not removed, then the platform hosts “demonetize” the voices with whom they disagree. As a medical doctor said recently, “some 25-year-old in Silicon Valley is making judgments about my medical opinion.”
My friend Vern Hyndman says, “With cancel culture comes the larger picture of Critical Theory… initially advanced by folks seeking to avoid the slip into fascism, they avoided the right wing but were initially in the left ditch… they dumped Marxism as they saw the net outcome that the Russian revolution. Critical Theory is a means of nulling out some of the propaganda we bathe in. These days everyone is on the Critical Theory bandwagon… on the right as the new boogie man of the left… a sort of modern Marxism… and on the left anyone with a grievance is framing it with the language of critical theory.”
As followers of the teachings and life of Jesus we must cojoin key concepts in scripture: accountability and restoration, repentance and restitution, justice and restoration. Restorative justice is the heart of God; “cancel culture is just crowd-sourced retributive justice.” (Hyndman) things, how people defined cancel culture. Most leaned towards holding people accountable.
The wise King Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun.” While it is true that society reinvents itself on a regular basis sometimes the new culture is based on old lies. This is true for cancel and cancel culture: it is neither new, nor good. The Insider had an article on “8 slang words from the last decade we can’t stand” topped by Bae (Before Anyone Else), Fake News, and Cancel. Insider goes on to point out their concerns with cancel culture—this is a long quote, but it makes a good point.
And when people use the term unironically, it reveals a big problem with our culture. It’s good to call people out, particularly celebrities and those in power, and hold them accountable for their actions. Some people have committed acts
so egregious and deplorable that they do deserve to be cancelled.
However, cancel culture has exploded online to such a degree that public figures now run the risk of being canceled the moment they make a mistake, or even for mistakes they made in the past.
The main issue with the word doesn’t come down to the fates of celebrities. It comes down to the mentality surrounding it. Canceling someone the moment they make a mistake is, by definition, inhuman. Humans make mistakes — it’s what we do.
Cancel culture as it currently exists doesn’t give people a chance to learn from or apologize for their wrongdoings. It doesn’t give them a chance to grow. Especially today, with teenagers growing up and putting their lives on social media, that can be incredibly dangerous. Very few people truly deserve to be “cancelled.”
The culture of the kingdom of God includes redemption, grace, repentance, restoration and what we might call personal growth. When mistakes are made scripture recommends a process for verifying facts, obtaining witnesses, fair hearings and avoiding a rush to judgment. This is quite the opposite of the mass canceling of people with whom you disagree.
Not all cancel is “woke”
You might think that cancel culture is the domain of self-proclaimed woke people who view themselves as the defenders of justice. [Woke: aware of and actively attentive to important facts
and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).] They know what is right and wrong, particularly with regards to previous generations. This week I was reading a chapter in the gospel of John. Usually scripture is remarkably efficient in its telling of events; this is not the case in John 9 where an entire chapter of 41 verses is given to the story of a man born blind. Today the subtitle could be “Jesus got cancelled” or the less snappy, “How the religious establishment leveraged cancel culture to defend their entrenched position.” The brief facts are as follows:
- The man was born blind and there is some debate about why
- Jesus spits, makes mud, tells the blind man to wash off, and he is healed
- The crowds wonder whether this was the blind beggar; he confirms it: Yep, it’s me
- The religious phonies are incensed because this all happened on the Sabbath, a day when one should be doing more spiritual things than healing a blind man.
- The Pharisees decide Jesus is not from God because he violated the rules: he made mud cakes on a Sunday and then told the blind man to work by washing the mud away
- The religious guys try to muster up supporting evidence: they ask the healed man who this Jesus is. “He is a prophet.”
- Completely ignoring the positive outcome, they didn’t believe the formerly blind guy and call for his parents.
– They intimidate the parents, threatening them with the wrath of being ostracized. (“His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.”) Put in today’s terms, “If you don’t support our opinion, you will be cancelled.”
– They then label Jesus a “sinner” and tell the healed man to disown him. He just reiterates the facts. “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
– They insult the innocent witness.
– They claim to be maintaining the integrity of the historic establishment. “We are disciples of Moses! …but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
- This blows the mind of the healed man. “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
- They threw him out since he spoke an inconvenient truth and he, a blind (and presumably uneducated beggar) had a better grasp of truth than the experts, and it showed.
The perpetrators of “cancel” against Jesus were not the Jerusalem hipsters sipping espressos in skinny robes but the pot-bellied, balding religious leaders. They discredited who Jesus was and what he did by resorting to slandering the chief witness.
Jesus came to set people free from shame and past wrongdoings; cancel culture is designed to bring shame, ideally in a public manner. Since cancel culture gets its gasoline at the pumpstation
The mechanics of cancel culture
of hell, it is insatiable. It may start with people who are influential, but the judgmental spirit behind cancel does not stop there. Actors, athletes, comedians, politicians and presidents will soon be followed by a whole generation of teenagers who said/posted stupid things on social media back in the day will be its victims.
The corollary is that teenagers are being schooled in cancel, and obnoxious behavior is seen as acceptable. A father of teenagers told me, “if you have teenage children like me, the celebrity nature of the ‘movement’ has introduced to younger people a fashionable way to behave very rudely and insensitively” while such behavior is “accepted by their peers and society. And although this has always been a problem in the ‘Lord of the Flies’ stages of life – it was not viewed as acceptable to label and shame people.”
Cancel culture does not bow to facts. It goes in search of evidence to reinforce its perspective. People who hold a contrary opinion are slandered. (To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!”)
Cancel says it is in favor of free speech but wants to vet the voice of those who might offend them. Offense, of course, is very subjective. Supposedly super-progressive, open-minded people are often not inclusive or tolerant at all; they get mortally offended by a tweet, joke or dis. They are not looking for an apology, but for an execution. Jesus knew this firsthand.
Cancel culture does its best work when there are victims to protect. It stands to reason that selling victimhood is essential to cancel culture’s survival. By way of contrast, scripture holds out hope. “You are not a victim: you are made in the image of God, in his likeness. If you were bruised or broken, Jesus can heal you. If someone has offended you, forgive them and move on. You don’t need to stay where you are since you can do all things in Christ Jesus. In fact, your past hurts can become a launchpad for your future calling, and what was meant to harm you can be turned for your good. I, Jesus, am with you, and I will never leave you. Anything you have been through or are going through or will go through… I have seen, and I have made provision to overcome. Your name is Victory, not Victim.”
Cancel culture pretends to be protecting historical truth but is often just protecting its entrenched philosophy. It wants to see its version of ideology prevail and explains away facts that point to a better reality. Beyond that, it would rather see the whole population suffer (in blindness) than admit there is a better culture in town. Cancel culture masquerades as “we the people” but is really just “we the elite… no one can have what does not align with our worldview.” This is true in politics, media, academia and the church: the group that experienced the last awakening is often the fiercest opponent of the new thing.
We fail to understand the Kingdom of God
One of the reasons Christians get sucked into the latest left or right philosophy is simple: we have a weak understanding of the Kingdom of God. We know church, we could spot a cult a mile away, we have a view on who is going to heaven… but could we describe the Kingdom of God and how it differs from church, religion and the kingdoms of this earth? I won’t try to explain all of the little I know about “the kingdom”, as we call it, but simply highlight a few differences from the counterfeit kingdoms masquerading in cultural costumes today.
The kingdom of God supersedes all cultures; it is the meta set in which every other culture finds its identity. Greek, Hebrew, British, American, Indian, Moroccan… all other cultures overlap to some extent with kingdom culture and differ in some areas. When Jesus came he said, in effect, “There’s a new culture in town.” Paul the apostle expanded: “In Christ there is neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Greek.” If you are preoccupied with your culture—whether Panamanian or Portuguese, woke or bespoke—then you are missing the kingdom. Yes, kingdom people honor the positive distinctives of each culture looking for the redemptive keys and the unique expressions of glory, but they are not so enamored with this or that culture that they forget they are from a bigger place: the kingdom of heaven. The same applies for cast and societal rank. Ditto for gender: if you have elevated the righting of gender inequities (and you can insert race, cast, etc. etc. etc. here) above the furtherance of the kingdom of God (which itself addresses these issues) then you are in danger of being sidetracked.
Kingdom culture honors the past. Hebrews 11 has a long list of heroes of the faith. They were not perfect, but God still has a generous view of them. Cancel culture nitpicks the past looking for excuses to throw people under their PC bus. Anyone is fair game: Christopher Columbus, the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, pioneers, settlers… anyone can be trashed. Except the self- appointed Millennial tribunals and woke police: they are exempt. Cancel culture induces a
Society is not advanced by shaming those who disagree with you. Communities are not uplifted by constantly wallowing in past ineptitudes. There is a place for restitution and there are clear bases for reconciliation. Repentance and forgiveness are an important part of healing. Blanket naming and shaming, however, is a close cousin of condemnation. It has nothing to do with the fruit of the Spirit and the nature of a God who made a plan to remove our sin from us “as far as the East is from the West.”
Social justice is a thing at the moment, and this can be a good. It is wonderful to see millions of people alert to whether the everyday things of life are fair, true, kind and noble. That said, be on your guard for those who seek to hijack the noble aspirations of humans; discern the spirit behind whatever social justice issue you subscribe to. I remember years ago when a wealthy businessperson wanted to recruit me to head up and organization that would examine the supply chains of companies, find if there was embedded slavery, and sell them a consulting service to fix the supply chain. If they didn’t comply, they would be named and shamed. It was a winning business formula, according to the businessman. I told him, “The premise on which you want to base this company is no different than the premise of slavery. You don’t fight slavery with another form of slavery.” Too many Christians are band-wagoning with social justice or societal ills and not examining the basis upon which the remediation of societal giants is founded. Two wrongs do not make a right. Before you join the next social justice crusade or stand in a woke or politically correct line ask yourself: is this based on the kingdom of God, or am I doing what seems right but standing on the wrong platform?
Another corollary: where the Church leaves restitution and reparations unattended to it leaves a gap for faux fixes to exploit the sensitivities of cancel constituents. The bible is clear that societal injustices need to be dealt with forthrightly; the mechanism, however, are not name-it-and- shame-it but confess-it-and-forgive-it. Where monetary or other recompense is appropriate, scripture again steers a path. As important, societal inequities have to be addressed at policy and practical levels.
The amazing thing about the Kingdom of God is this: the more diverse its constituents—language, tribe, color, race, nationality, gender, generation, gifting, wiring—the more glory goes to the Father of all mankind SINCE in the Kingdom of God these diverse ones come together in a supernatural unity. God gets no great glory when 100 Swedes get along with each other. If you have seen the Kingdom of God, however, you will know that Afghans to Zimbabweans who have been reborn into the family of God have more in common than homogenous gatherings of similarly complexioned churches, political parties, academics or businesspeople.
If you live by the sword
Jesus said, “People who live by the sword, die by the sword.” (Matthew 25:26 VOICE translation.) In our hypocrisy we don’t mind the cancel sword if it is swinging in our favor. In the USA, the Pew Research indicates that conservatives are the ones currently being put to the sword. This was not always the case. Conservatives have, and still do, cancel those who are not part of their clique. Country singers opposing the George W Bush/Iraq war were cancelled. Liz Cheney—also cancelled. Using the cancel culture sword in the efforts to transform society will never yield a good result.
Culture is not unimportant to societal transformation, it is critical. That said, it is not the influencing of African culture with European values, or Asian economics with Western Capitalism or European post-modernism with Southern Hemisphere traditionalism, however. It is not honoring “first nations” at the expense of other nations. It is not elevating Jews at the expense of Arabs. Nor is it kowtowing to the inherent weaknesses of nations so as not to offend them with a better way.
God designed the world to be a certain way, then mankind messed up. So God developed a remediation plan which journeyed through the Jewish people and culminated in Jesus coming. He built on the prototypes, then ushered in a new kingdom that superseded all that preceded. In his kingdom you can still be a part of your family, a native of your country, a member of your religious group and vote this way or that… AND belong to the greater group, the permanent superset that will not pass away: the Kingdom of God. Kingdom culture trumps all other culture! Fight for truth, justice, fairness, equity by all means, and do so under the right flag. Do not let the current cultural wars and social causes pull you offsides, as it were, undermining your heartfelt intent to change for good. Make sure your “change the world” efforts are founded on the right principles.
In closing, when Joshua encountered a heavenly being and asked, “Are you for us, or against us?” he was asking the wrong question. Here’s the account from Joshua 5:
13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?”
14 So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my
Lord say to His servant?”
The question was not whether God was on Israel’s side, but whether Israel was on God’s side. When the kingdom of God comes all of our pious and petty peeves melt into perspective. Don’t let cancel culture and your cause-of-the-day disqualify you from being in the kingdom.
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