Editorial by Bro. Richard Davis
Hello faithful reader. I’m writing this in October of 2020, and the election in the U.S. hasn’t happened yet. If you are reading this, I assume the world hasn’t ended. Politics seems to have dominated the landscape, four years running. Good things have happened, but it in many cases, I have seen the worst in people. A polarizing presidency has led to widespread anger and frustration. At times it looks like the only thing a given group of people want is to destroy the other.
Have you ever heard of “cancel culture”? It’s a relatively new term, but not a new idea. In fact, the older term “boycott” largely covers the meaning, with the exception that a boycott is usually individual choice, as opposed to a group dynamic. Dictionary.com says, ”cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.” A boycott is more simply, “to refuse to have dealings with (a person, organization, etc.) or refuse to buy a product in protest.” Cancel culture can be very impactful. Careers can be ended, businesses destroyed, and lives ruined. As it turns out, cancel culture has existed for a very long time.
In the following scriptures, Jesus had just healed a blind man and the Jews were not happy. They called the blind man’s parents in for questioning. John 9:20-22, “His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.” We see cancel culture at work here. If you said something the Jews didn’t agree with, you would be cancelled. It was, and still is, an effective tool to subjugate the voice of the masses. Think what you want, but just don’t say it. Don’t sway popular opinion, because in this case, the opinion of the Jews is the only correct opinion. This ideology represses the populace, and destroys free speech and thought. The blind man’s parents were afraid to even say the name of Jesus.
In modern times many wouldn’t consider being banned from church a big deal. Of course, I would humbly disagree. We should realize however, that going to the synagogue was very important in biblical times. Only the temple in Jerusalem held a higher station than the synagogues. The synagogues were a social center where the Jewish people gathered to meet on a weekly basis. They served as religious schools and community centers for civic functions. It was the substitute for actual temple worship, which many could not attend due to the temple’s distant location or other factors like poverty. Attendance at the synagogue was vital to remaining an active member of the community, and was culturally accepted and expected. Being “put out” of the synagogue was a serious issue. Even Jesus attended and actively participated in services at the synagogue, and it appears that His apostles and disciples did as well.
Many of the teachings of Jesus were considered dangerous by the Jewish leaders. Today, they would have probably used the term misinformation, or even hate speech. It would seem, that once a thought or idea is labelled dangerous by someone, it then becomes OK for them to silence it. This flies in the face of free speech. Throughout history, brave men and women have stood against tyranny and oppression. Their words would have been considered very dangerous indeed to those in power. The founding fathers of the United States spoke out very loudly against their oppressors. The Declaration of Independence is one of the finest examples of free speech ever written, and at the same time, the most dangerous to those who would crush their freedom. Imagine if the founding fathers had been cancelled.
In order to cancel someone, we must surely think lofty thoughts of ourselves. If we catch ourselves thinking so negatively of someone else, perhaps we can look at ourselves instead. Is our personal history so clean that we can judge another so harshly? Have we ever deserved to be cancelled? In the eyes of God, we have all fallen short of His glory (Romans 2:32). Our sin made us worthy of being cancelled. If not for His mercy, we would not only be cancelled, but condemned as well. Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” If Christ is our example, then we have a duty to be merciful to others, even at their worst. Instead of cancelling them, try praying for them.
It’s important to resist the idea of cancel culture. We can always speak with our money, choosing what not to buy, but we should be careful that we aren’t making decisions from a position of malice. It should not be our intent to destroy someone’s life because they have a different opinion than ours. If we allow the cancel culture ideology to grow, there may be a time when we can’t even say the name of Jesus.