Archbishop of Cantebury, Cancel Culture, Cancel culture threat to the church, Does everything have to be problematized?, Judge jury and executioner, Lynch mobs of the politically correct, Open Season against Christians, Oppression Olympics, Permanent and unredeemable, Petit bourgeois armchair revolutionaries, Pot calling the kettle black, The greatest threat today is us
The Archbishop of Canterbury recently lamented,
Cancel culture is a “huge threat” to the future of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said as he defended the right to freedom of speech
A friend of mine who doesn’t have much love for the modern hypocritical church (as in, who does?) mocked the story:
Now isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?
Not so Fast
While post moderns have little tolerance for hypocrisy (as in, who does? except, of course, for our own, to be ironic), we can be too quick to be judge, jury, and executioner – in other words, we can be the expression of the modern permanent, unredeemable cancelling feature of today’s cancel culture.
In his concern about the recent attack on authors, British novelist Louis de Bernieres commented that “young authors are being forced into self-censorship out of fear of being trolled by the anonymous lynch mobs of the politically correct.”
His analysis is that this phenomenon has “come through the humanities departments of universities that have, since the 1990s, been steadily taken over by petit bourgeois armchair revolutionaries who have never used a shovel in their lives,” where “any and everything has to be ‘problematized’.”
I can’t verify if this phenomenon has in fact come through humanities departments (a common punching bag by historical critics), but his assertion is if people knew the value of hard work (as in having used a shovel), they may not be so quick to problematize everything.
The Oppression Olympics
Bernieres observes sarcastically that you can “get many more gold medals in the Oppression Olympics if you can find ever more recondite niches to occupy. There are an awful lot of boxes to tick these days, and those from the greatest number of oppressed minorities get to be the winners…” but “the trouble with grievance and victimhood studies is that they cannot thrive without creating, exaggerating, and cementing division, like the vulture that cannot thrive without a corpse.”
Enter the church; unseemly as it is that they enter the oppression olympics complaining about being marginalized and “cancelled”.
It would be excessive to say first world Christians are “persecuted” since the politicalized christians of the West tend to bring abuse upon themselves for being pro-birth (without being pro-life after birth), pro-assault/military-gun (and inherently pro-violence), pro-personal economy (at the expense of others’ exploitation), pro-politically partisan (and finding themselves with dwindling political cache), etc.
When one shoots oneself in the foot, one should not blame one’s neighbour.
Having said that, it is evident that Christians are being persecuted in the two thirds world, and what are first world Christians doing about it anyways?
The Irony of it all
The irony is that Jesus comes with the welcoming invitation to all who would follow Him – – without a violent word for those who do not. While it is true that early followers of Christ were persecuted, they did not retaliate and did not form militias or armies. Unfortunately one of the mutations that occurred was when Christianity became the state religion of Rome was to be absorbed into a culture that already had a significant military culture, and simply mis-applied this in its own self interest. You draw your own parallels to modernity.
However, while states and nations have waged wars claiming to do it in Christ’s name, there has always been a smaller reconciling remnant living in uneasy co-existence with a culture of violence. Christ followers are not called to cancel people – we are called to take every thought captive. The weapons we are to use are not the instruments of violence:
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
What does it matter that the predominant culture now turns on its erstwhile Christian past – rewriting history and spewing vitriol on all those for whom there will be no dialogue, forgiveness, or redemption? It was into such a culture of contempt that early followers of Christ found themselves – and it is now where Christ followers are to be ambassadors of reconciliation.
So Cancel Away
What difference will it make to be cancelled – other than to prune away any would be follower of Christ who thought there would be a good reputation by association; those days are over and the rest of the world has awakened to the great divide.
What is your spiritual life all about anyways? What salt and light will you be if you either capitulate to this cultural moment with all its distortions toward the left, or capitulate to a graceless politicalized malformation of faith found on the alt right? Both deformities (and all in between) need a reformation every bit as much as the 16th century needed it.
Are you ready to be cancelled?
When you are ready to be cancelled because you hold to a truth greater than the whims and winds of post-modernity, and follow the One who is truth, then you should invest the rest of your short and possibly shortened life to the One who made you for Himself.
Insightful as usual Rusty. I agree with many of your points, but would only suggest that we should, as Christians, still be fighting for the rights of others to speak freely, regardless of whether or not we experience cancellation. Cancellation for the sake of Christ should be part of our marching orders, but for those who are not followers of Jesus I think we would want to advocate for their freedom of expression.
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R.H. (Rusty) Foerger said:
I agree Anthony that we should be advocating for the rights of others irrespective of how cancelled we are becoming. Could you explain more of what you mean by “cancellation for the sake of Christ should be our marching orders”? If you mean that Christ followers should expect cancellation – I agree (Matt 5:11; Jn.15:18ff). We need always to have perspective on who we are fighting and what we are fighting for. But then again all this language of violence may betray thinking in the wrong paradigm. What is our life, and what is our treasure but Christ Himself. Meanwhile Micah 6:8, and Jn 15:12. Thanks for your comments.
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Yes, that is basically what I was getting at; that we should expect to be “cancelled” whereby “cancellation” can act as a metaphor for various forms and degrees of resistance to the Gospel message. From mockery to marginalization, to worse.
As far as the question of violence, I feel we do not have a good handle on this theologically. Just reading through Charles Taylor’s sections on sacred and ritual violence in “A Secular Age” makes me think about how we are using media almost as a surrogate for what in the past might have been simply fought out in bloody conflict among more warrior cultures. As Christians we feel, I believe, that we must fight evil, but the means by which we fight cannot by physical, it must be spiritual and intellectual. But, I think it is incredibly hard to manage that dynamic perfectly. It must have taken incredible spiritual maturity for Paul, for example, not to lash out, even physically, at his enemies; those that beat him, stoned him, lashed him, and imprisoned him. I think sometimes we read Paul’s letters as if he had no conflicts of this sort, but how do we know he didn’t?
Grace and Peace,
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R.H. (Rusty) Foerger said:
This is a timely discussion and speaks to the larger question of how we relate to culture. You might be familiar with Richard Niebuhr’s 1951 book “Christ and Culture.” I won’t get into detail (though I encourage you to find it if you ever have time). Related to this is Elle Hardy’s article critiquing “Seven Mountain Theology” (https://theoutline.com/post/8856/seven-mountain-mandate-trump-paula-white). I think we need to be better theologians as it relates to culture. As for “fighting evil” we can hardly understand how “turning the other cheek” makes sense if we feel entitled to our cheeks. Well, this is part of a larger discussion, and perhaps you will write to that. Every November, all my posts are devoted to “the place of violence in our times.” It is an ongoing journey. Thanks for engaging in this subject.
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