For those of you who are new to the conversation, "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" (via dictionary.com). Initially, this movement came from a good place - the idea is that the people can voice their opinion and inspire change through either a group support or (more popularly) mass withdrawal from a person or company. It's a way we can hold others accountable - a way to stand up for things that are not right, and create an opportunity for positive change to occur.
Unfortunately, this concept to inspire change for the good has taken a dark turn, and is now being used to bully, shame, ostracize, and shut out people we don't agree with. It has become what is collectively referred to as Cancel Culture. Personally, I believe that, even before its spiral into negativity, cancel culture is wrong, and that as Christians, we need to use our voices to change the narrative.
One of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, is famously quoted as saying the following in his work the Weight of Glory:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
Do you realize that when you speak to another person, you aren't talking to a purely physical being? That person isn't just skin, bones, and a fantastic network of synapses. In fact, when you look into someone's eyes, you are connecting with an everlasting spiritual being who happens to be in a physical shell. David says that we are created as spiritual beings who exist closely to the angels, and are crowned with glory and honor (Ps. 8:4-5). Read that again. Let the weight of that sink in. No person is merely mortal.
Let me take it even further: In light of the reality that every person is an everlasting spirit, created to be crowned with glory, it is inappropriate, unhealthy, and wrong for us to hold them captive to what they said or did in their darkest moments. People make choices to do truly horrific, inexcusable, evil things, but to use someone's evil as an excuse to ignore their personhood is evil too.
It is wrong to use evil as an excuse to perpetuate evil. As Christians especially, we are called to more. As I think through the story woven throughout the Bible, it isn't one of dismissal, deletion, or canceling. No - not even for those who are at their darkest. Instead, it's one of redemption, love and hope. We must not hold people captive to their darkest moments. Jesus doesn't that to us.
So then, what is our response? Because we still can, and should, take action and stand up when we see injustice in our world. In fact, as Christians we are specifically called to act. Repeatedly in the Old and New Testament, we are told that we will be known as the people of God through our love for the widow, the alien, and the oppressed. But how do we advocate for the victim without canceling the oppressor? I think we see the answer in how God answered the problem of sin and injustice: He didn't cancel us. He claimed us.
Cancel vs Claim
When God sees the sin, injustice, and hurt in the world, He doesn't sweep it away. He doesn't push the perpetrators to the fringes until they can't be seen. He doesn't look at them and only say "I see what you've done". He doesn't cancel you with your crimes. Instead, He acknowledges and embraces all of it. He says " I see what you've done, and I see you." God clearly sees the person - a person who is everlasting - a person who deserves to be redeemed - and lays claim to both the person and their crimes. He wants to take those dark moments off their shoulders, having atoned for them with the precious blood of Christ, and restore the person to the fullness of the glory for which they were created. This is the vision God, and it's what we are called to be part of.
It's not about being political - it's not even about being moral - it's about being representations of Jesus Christ in a world that so desperately needs the worth and freedom He offers. And if we lose sight of that, we lose sight of the only thing that matters.
There are no ordinary people. You have never spoken to a mere mortal. And every day, by our actions and with our voices, we either further the message that they are worthy, that they are important, that they matter or we push them from the light and into the darkness with our claims of their inadequacy and insufficiency, disallowing them the chance to become more. My friends, not only is this not our place, it is patently wrong and sinful. We are not called to judge - that is reserved for God the Father. We are not called to convict - that role belongs to the Holy Spirit. We are called to love - that is the role Jesus invites us to share with Him.
So what will your role be? What will your voice be used for? Will you be a voice who condemns an everlasting being to darkness and despair, or will you be a messenger of hope, worth, redemption and freedom?