In a time when people are more upset over Dr. Seuss books being discontinued than they are about gun control, we need to have a serious talk about cancel culture.
Firstly, what is cancel culture?
Cancel culture according to Wikipedia is:
“Cancel culture (or call-out 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".
The expression "cancel culture" has mostly negative connotations and is commonly used in debates on free speech and censorship.
The notion of cancel culture is a variant on the term call-out culture and constitutes a form of boycotting involving an individual (usually a celebrity) who is deemed to have acted or spoken in a questionable or controversial manner.
For those on the receiving end of cancel culture, the consequences can lead to loss of reputation and income, from which it can be hard to recover.”
I would also add it affects people’s mental health and relationships.
I hope we can all agree cancel culture is toxic. It has a mob mentality and often turns into harassment with real world consequences for people. There is no unified end goal or, “what people want” from the person being cancelled.
Some people go as far as sending death threats! As Christians, is this the kind of behaviour we should partake in? What if I told you churches have been participating in cancel culture for decades?...
The “Satanic panic”
According to Vox article written by Aja Romano there were a number of key factors in the USA that contributed to evangelical Christians fears of the occult. For example, the Manson family mass murders in 1969, Anton LaVey’s book The Satanic Bible came out that same year.
The Vox article goes in depth about what was happening throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s and says how this environment created a “a literal fire-and-brimstone style of Christianity.”
Such “Anti-occult” Christians included fundamental pastors and crusaders like Pat Pulling, who believed the game Dungeons and Dragons had caused her son to tragically commit suicide (because of a spell I believe she claimed). The Vox article also pointed out how the media also fanned the flames of fear-mongering during this time.
This continued into the 1990’s. I remember the controversy around Pokemon and Harry Potter as a Christian kid who also loved Pokemon (still do).
I don’t think it was as bad for me in New Zealand compared to what the churches in the USA were doing. I remember an American friend of mine was told at her Christian school that Pokemon was evil.
Churches have tried to cancel Rap, Rock music, Sponge Bob, queer people, Lord of the Rings and other books, vegetarianism, children card games, other religions and all sorts of things. But the point I am making is about how people jump on the bandwagon so easily and don’t take the time to find things out for themselves.
Luke chapter 6, verse 31 says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you”.
I understand that in an age of technology, not everyone has good integrity and some people like to spread rumours and dog pile people who are being targeted, because it makes them feel powerful. Maybe those individuals are feeling powerless in other areas of their lives. Hurt people hurt people after all.
Maybe it comes from a place of outrage and the call out is a valid one. But what do we want the outcome to be?
Do we want the person to hear the criticism, apologise publicly and try to learn or make amends? Or do we want them to be ridiculed forever, banned from the public sphere? I think we need to decide, not only as Christians but as people, how do we want to be treated?
None of us are perfect. I am not perfect.
We also all have different standards of what we perceive to be right!
I know for a fact my Christian walk will look different compared to someone else.
Holding people accountable from a place of love is the Christ like thing to do. Not slandering or fear-mongering or worse…
As Christians we should do better than cancel culture. We may have had a hand in creating it (a BIG hand), but that doesn’t mean we can’t fix it.
Accountability culture can be a good way forward. If we have the courage to do it.
Chanell Diaz is a member of The Salvation Army in New Zealand. She and her husband Ronald both work as child care workers and Chanell is also a qualified Youth Worker through Praxis. Chanell has a heart for justice and enjoys creating art and writing in her spare time.