The cancel culture rules out the need for a loving savior who calls on believers to build the Kingdom of Heaven with patience, love, and grace and not through force or pressure.
By Ryan Bilodeau
28 October 2020
That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it.C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
As the United States enters into a period of hyper-accountability for sins of the past and present, it is becoming nearly impossible to watch the nightly news without encountering a story about either a virtual mob threatening the jobs of the living with whom they morally disagree or a literal mob toppling the statues of the dead from whom they ideologically depart.
The rationale for this so-called “cancel culture,” which has spread throughout our country at a rate higher than even the coronavirus, is an appeal to justice. Defined as “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 has incited confusion among everyday onlookers who are having difficulty distinguishing between the practice of holding the unjust accountable on the one hand and exerting on ideological adversaries injurious political pressure on the other.
A Challenge to the Political and Moral Order
Ironically, the cancel culture is thriving at a time in history during which the nation has subscribed to a system of ethics which emphasizes one’s rights and not his duties or purpose like was the case, for example, in the age of Western philosophers like Aristotle. Shockingly, it is against this incongruous backdrop that the most sacred right to free speech is being readily trampled upon. When a citizenry’s right to express itself freely and without fear of retribution is at risk, it can be thought of as a chilling development indeed. Such social conditions always bring a society one step closer to accepting the premises of tyranny.
Even more problematic than the challenge to the political order, though, is the challenge to the moral one. The cancel culture seems to rule out the need for a loving savior who calls on believers to build the Kingdom of Heaven with patience, love, and grace and not through force of pressure. The Christian faith, if you recall, resulted from the edge of a spear thrust not by Jesus into His enemies but by them and into His side as a payment for sin not a retribution for it.
Christianity is Antithetical to Cancel Culture
Scenes from the Bible make clear how antithetical Christianity is to the cancel culture. Consider, for example, the Gospels and their depiction of the interactions Jesus had with the Roman soldiers in the hours leading up to His crucifixion. As He was spit on and beat down, Jesus did not implore the gathered crowd to attack the soldiers, tear down statues of Caesar, or ask God the Father for revenge against those performing acts of violence against Him. To the contrary, Jesus pled for God’s forgiveness and even comforted those whose sins were the cause of His death.
The cancel culture leaves no room for forgiveness or rehabilitation, conversely, when it wages a campaign of annihilation on people via the internet or in popular media. Redemption for the good thief on the cross is not even a possibility for members of the tribe of cancel culture.
In attempting to build a perfect society forged by personal and political pressure, the cancel culture’s efforts create the opposite effect. American Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr predicted this paradox when he observed that “Modern liberal perfectionism actually distills moral perversity out of moral absolutes. It is unable to make significant distinctions between tyranny and freedom because it can find no democracy pure enough to deserve its devotion.” We are now seeing widespread violence and destruction across the country enacted by groups like Antifa who claim to be fighting for a more peaceful country.
A few months ago, a group of 150 left-leaning intellects and authors like Noam Chomsky and J.K. Rowling wrote a missive criticizing cancel culture for its tendency to stifle free thought. In a not so ironic fashion, several of its authors dismissed the letter and removed their names from its list of signatories after its publishing and in response to – you guessed it – pressure by an online mob.
Who is the Real Savior?
In their focus on building in this life a myopic utopia where people are pressured into not sinning against their agreed upon moral code, the cancel culture seems to exhibit a savior complex reserved for our actual savior, Jesus. Obsessed with seeking justice for, while simultaneously stamping out, the mistakes made by others, that cancel culture builds a kingdom in their own image on earth as if there is no Heaven awaiting us. They must not believe that Jesus is slated to come again and make just all things under the heavens.
Many of us are like the good thief who once clung to the cross by Jesus’ side. Like him, we only repent of and come to grips with our sins when forced to face God towards the end of our lives. God, unlike the cancel culture, is waiting until our last breath with open arms and a forgiving heart. Even though the cancel culture is standing at my gate and yours waiting for us to violate a code of its ethics, I remain comforted by my Catholic faith through which I’m afforded sacramental forgiveness for my sins and the hope of Heaven where social evils no longer exist.
Ryan Bilodeau is a high school theology teacher, author and homeless advocate in New Hampshire who just launched a Catholic app called Catholic Cases. He spent his collegiate years working on local and national political campaigns and non-profits before going on to grad school and earning an M.T.S. in Theology. Ryan is a big fan of New England sports, and can be followed on Twitter or his website.