Canceling Cancel Culture
One careless comment. One missed social cue. One unpopular post on social media — and anyone at any time can find themselves “canceled.” Like the new social justice sheriff in town, cancel culture walks the streets of our modern-day society policing its citizens to toe the line of political correctness, or else cower for fear of being called out, misunderstood, or publicly shamed.
Cancel culture has seeped into all facets of our everyday life: politics, entertainment, religion, education, sports, and medicine, to name a few. According to one definition from Urban Dictionary, cancel culture is a modern phenomenon where a person or group is “ejected from influence … by questionable actions.” Silenced. Marginalized. Erased. “It is caused by a critical mass of people who are quick to judge and slow to question. It is commonly caused by an accusation, whether that accusation has merit or not.”
Cancel culture is akin to what I would call “cancer culture,” a takeover of public opinion that, just like cancer, starts out small (yet malignant) and then quickly grows out of control, multiplying and spreading throughout its host until it takes over. It weakens what is healthy by making no room for it.
Cancel culture is riddled with absolute “nos.” No mercy. No compassion. No grace. But perhaps, worst of all, no legitimate authority for rendering righteous and unbiased judgments. Driven by a herd mentality, cancel culture is the modern-day mob’s current weapon-du-jour, allowing anyone to wield its power by giving them a voice to call out — and pronounce judgment on — perceived transgressors of unwritten and untested social codes of acceptable behavior and speech. And if you’re on the wrong side of whatever that code is, or whoever is coming up with it, you’ve rendered yourself a walking target.
As Christians, most of us have felt cancel culture’s threat, whether we fully understood it or not. Especially in the last year, whether online or in line at the grocery store, we’ve collectively experienced that awkward and uncomfortable sense of walking on pins and needles, preoccupied by the worry that we might inadvertently say or share something offensive. And how could we escape being exposed to the disgraceful and humiliating take downs of so many of cancel culture’s most prominent victims? As tolerance for Judeo-Christian values continues to decline, it’s only natural to wonder if we, or someone we know, are next.
Cancel Culture and the Character of God
Cancel culture is antithetical to the character of God as it is “quick to judge and slow to question.” This is the opposite of how God treats us when we’ve wronged him and transgressed his righteous decrees.
God has compassion on us. Lamentations 3:32 says, “For the Lord will not cast off forever” and “He will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.” God reasons with us (Isaiah 1:18) and woos us back into relationship with Himself (Hosea 2:14). He doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, doesn’t remind us of our missteps, but rather graciously blots out our transgressions like a cloud (Isaiah 44:22).
In other words, God doesn’t cancel us, He covers us. I Peter 4:8 says, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” To “cover” sin means to hide it or hinder the exposure of it. The covering is motivated by love for the one who has made the mistake and reflects God’s heart of love and compassion towards us. It is the polar opposite of what is taking place in cancel culture today.
Two Biblical Responses to Cancel Culture
Cancel culture is out to elicit one of two opposite responses in us: retaliation or retreat. One is fight, the other is flight. One response succeeds in having us offended, enraged, and vindictive, while the other has us silenced, intimidated, and afraid to stand for what we believe in. Both are wrong.
Even as we watch this hateful and vindictive practice normalized in our society today, we have been given the weapons to fight it in a way that brings glory to God (II Peter 1:3). There are two biblical keys that can be especially effective in overcoming the threat of cancel culture.
If They Cancel You, Don’t Cancel Them Back
Arguably, some of the hardest emotions to navigate are the ones triggered by feeling misunderstood, misrepresented, rejected and pushed aside. These are the exact emotions that cancel culture aims to induce. Thankfully, Jesus felt them all and gave us a way to overcome them.
While our automatic reaction might have been, “If they cancel me, I’ll just cancel them back,” as we follow in the steps of Jesus, we learn a better way. “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (I Peter 2:23). The transformational power of the Gospel is demonstrated when we do the opposite of what our enemies expect. When we remember that God judges us and not cancel culture, we are made free to love and let God sort out the rest.
Walk Fearlessly and Focused on God’s Agenda
In John 11:5-16, we step into an exchange between Jesus and his disciples leading up to the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Jesus’ good friend, Lazarus, had fallen ill. Instead of going to him immediately after hearing the news, Jesus waited two days and then announced, “Let us go to Judea again” (John 11:7). One problem: the Jews had just tried to stone him there. The disciples quickly point out the danger: “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and you are going there again?” (John 11:8, emphasis added).
Jesus was focused on God’s agenda, not man’s. He knew the Father’s will was to demonstrate His great power by raising Lazarus from the dead and confirming to the world that Jesus was, in fact, the Son of God. Therefore, Jesus was fearless in going back to Judea. He was focused on the greater purposes of God beyond what the disciples could see.
In the same way, if God is calling you to go back to the same places where cancel culture is trying to “kill” you, walk fearlessly and focused on obeying the God who is sending you there. When you are walking in the light of desiring God’s glory, you will not stumble (John 11:9).
Even as cancel culture threatens to silence and intimidate us, we have Jesus as our example to follow. He loved unconditionally and was focused on doing the will of the Father. Because of His fearless obedience, the dead came back to life, both physically and spiritually (John 11:44-45). This is the Gospel, and it is something that cancel culture cannot cancel.
Annemarie McLean is a four-girl mom, freelance writer, and co-founder of Brave & Beautiful, a ministry focused on challenging young women to live purpose-driven lives full of courage and character, while developing Christ-centered inner beauty. Annemarie holds a journalism degree from Oral Roberts University, with graduate work in organizational leadership at Palm Beach Atlantic University.