What’s Actually Wrong With Cancel Culture?

We are a people groping to find our way and not very clearly being successful. There is a mechanism called “cancel culture” that is relatively new in some ways yet not so new in others. Certainly, there is a relevant sense in which Jesus Christ was canceled by his own people, and unjustly so. He was prefigured by Socrates who went about educating the youth (but not in the way that those in power wanted or permitted).

Cancel culture in its present form is somewhat new in the present world we live in. Perhaps what’s “new” is that there is something especially sinister about the recent incarnation. We can note a distinct change when considering its recent historical and cultural permutations. It has become the political tool or mechanism for shutting down any opinion that doesn’t fit with the mainstream position you are coerced into believing. It is especially pronounced in the woke ideology, LGBT movement against traditional social views on gender and sexuality, and the #Metoo movement.

It is the unexpected, the invisibility of it all that makes cancel culture so sinister. In one sense, we realize that getting killed or exiled to an island is obviously worse. Certainly, that is what happened to both Socrates and Jesus. They were both, arguably, unjustly killed. Still, there’s something sinister in the way a “cancellation” creeps up behind you, in not knowing what is going to happen. But this particularly bad part of it is really three-fold. First, the mechanism of cancel culture is particularly bad because oftentimes the rules haven’t yet been written. In some cases, the wrong is still wrong while in others, the wrong is not entirely clear (but if it goes against the mainstream position set by the ‘authorities’ then you better watch out). This isn’t to say that those who did wrong don’t deserve any justice, but to say that in many cases it’s not about what is ethical, but it’s about political power. And, in some cases the ethical boundaries are notoriously unclear. Take for example the uptick in sexual freedom. Once comfortably situated in the confines of marriage, the boundaries of sex were clear and set for those within those sacred bonds. By placing sexuality outside of that context, the boundaries for sexual practice become exceedingly less clear. Rather than freedom, we have cases in which it actually becomes dangerous to have sex.

There is a second problem with cancel culture. There is no redemption for the one canceled. And, some, may feel this is justified in many cases.

There is, however, a third problem with it. Cancel culture is catchy. In other words, it easily manipulates many by holding them hostage to the moods and swings of the present age. Many of them don’t know there is anything wrong with this, while others will become increasingly aware of the fact that something has gone awry. But, in many ways, like Germans of today there is an increased fear and self-deprecating attitude that actually serves to keep many silent about its corrosive effects on society. The result is a large group of people who care but lack the courage to speak out because they fear losing their jobs, not gaining some success in their work, or, being canceled themselves. Caylan Ford relays this reality in her own situation with personal friends who were fearful of speaking out. “Several journalists and editors told me that they knew the narrative about me was false, but they were afraid to report my side of the story because they didn’t want to be targeted next.”

For those who lack hope, it’s just another liberalized utopian means to bring heaven to earth by our own efforts quite apart from the means of redemption we have been given in Christ.

But, for those who do not have their eyes blinded by the new cultural moods of this age, and, yet are weary from it, there is hope. As Caylan Ford carefully points out for those who are fearful or weary of Cancel Culture, there is another side to cancel culture, namely, the fact that the worst that can be done to you is that you could be killed. But, they cannot kill your soul. The old wise words of the gospel come to mind: “Fear not them that can kill the body, but he that can kill the soul.” This, then, is an opportunity for conservatives and Christians, to develop courage in view of those who are ready to kill. But, even, more an opportunity to develop a healthy fear of the Creator who has made you and, like your mother, can take you out if he so chooses.



Joshua R. Farris

Joshua Ryan Farris, Rev, Ph.D, He is Humboldt Experienced Researcher Fellow at the University of Bochum, Germany, 2022-2023; Mundelein Seminary Chester and Margaret Paluch Professor, 2020-2021, March 2020 Center of Theological Inquiry; Director of Trinity School of Theology; International Advisor, Perichoresis, The Theological Journal of Emanuel University; Associate Editor, Philosophical and Theological Studies for the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies; Associate Editor, European Journal of Philosophy of Religion.

'What’s Actually Wrong With Cancel Culture?' have 3 comments

  1. August 18, 2023 @ 11:23 am Wes Matherly

    How very much like the challenges faced by the early Christians. This cancér should be denounced for the evil that it is by the Christian church. Those who don’t know God should be told that the foundation of God’s church is love and acceptance for all. The scriptures tell us that Jesus would always seek out the very worst sinners to deliver His message of love and salvation. Society needs to know that this is what God’s church stands for and that we will repudiate the message of hate that cancel culture obviously is.


  2. September 14, 2023 @ 9:52 am Rhonda C. Merrick

    Thank you so much for mentioning the #MeToo movement. It and its variants have produced some of the greatest blindness of the last several decades. The rush to obtain needed justice has dragged along the impulse to jettison all reasonable checks and balances, with those who blazon such reactions myopically ignoring the unintended consequences, whether merely burdensome or catastrophic.


    • February 9, 2024 @ 6:05 pm P. King

      The #MeToo mvmt. helped survivors find community and resulted in holding hundreds of powerful men accountable. It’s clear that sexual harassment isn’t only an individual issue; it’s also a systemic issue. It requires protections in the form of laws to help prevent it from happening in the first place, or to put better structures in place to create accountability. Sexual harassment IS very REAL. Ask yourself WWJD?The Truth will set you free.


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