Cancel Culture is big in the news this morning, as a number of liberal celebrities have signed onto a letter calling for an end to it. Of course, as soon as Harper’s published the letter, others started attacking it, which leaves us with people attempting to cancel a letter urging us to cancel cancel culture.
The examples of this popular form of public shaming are endless, and they don’t just affect public figures. Just this past week, the NY Times wrote:
Boeing Co’s communications chief Niel Golightly abruptly resigned on Thursday, following an employee’s complaint over an article the former U.S. military pilot wrote 33 years ago arguing women should not serve in combat.
He was in his 20s, and that was a subject under discussion at the time. Then there is this excerpt from an article in the NY Post, showing that we’re only allowed to hold an opinion if it is the correct opinion:
James Bennett of the Times was canceled for publishing an opinion on the opinion page, Senator Tom Cotton’s defense of the Insurrection Act, which permits the use of federal troops to quell riots.
And another quote from the Post:
A data analyst and veteran of the Obama reelection campaign was fired by Civis Analytics for tweeting a link to a paper written by a well-regarded (and, worth noting, biracial) Princeton professor of African-American studies finding that riots are bad for black communities.
It seems that no matter how minor the infraction, how long ago it happened, or how politically correct it was at the time, any perceived offense is grounds for cancellation. Any infraction, even in a person who otherwise is worthy of honor, is enough to condemn them, and no amount of breast-beating, groveling, or sincere apology is enough to placate the mob.[i] Causing offense is the unforgivable sin. There is no room for grace in the new social order.
Contrast that with what the Bible says about offense and forgiveness.
In Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery, recorded in John 8: 2-11, He doesn’t dispute the fact that the woman had sinned, or that according to the Law she (and the man, who is notably absent) should be stoned. He doesn’t even point out her accomplishments and contributions to society, arguing that the good outweighs the bad. Jesus doesn’t speak to her at all, at least at first. Instead, Jesus directs his attention to her accusers, reminding them that they, too, have sinned.
Those who are so quick to point out the flaws of others should be mindful of their own flaws. In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus says,
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Whatever happened to humility? We all have planks in our eyes. (See Psalm 143:2, Ecclesiastes 7:20, and Romans 3:9-10 for starters.) Only One has ever lived a perfect life, and it wasn’t me.
We are all guilty and in danger of being canceled, not just by the self-righteous but by God. There is only one person who ever lived who is capable of judging the sin of others, and He came to offer mercy and forgiveness:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:17-18)
Cancel Culture offers shameful censure. Jesus offers freedom and reconciliation. Which should we choose?
[i] See “Claudia Eller Exits Variety” for one example.