Canceling Cancel Culture

Here’s my hot take: As Christians, we should unreservedly have nothing to do with cancel culture. It is an incredibly negative and damaging part of our culture. Frankly, I am not sure what else I need to say about the matter. However, as I am confident you didn’t click on this article to only read those 41 words, I will expand upon it just a little bit more.

Before we get into the meat of the article, it is probably important to define what I mean by cancel culture for those who have somehow never heard about it. Cancel culture is the movement within our society to “cancel” anyone who steps out of line with the accepted way of thinking. In this context, cancelling someone means to publicly shame them, ostracize them from polite society, and to do everything within our power to ruin their lives. It truly is heartwarming stuff.

As followers of Christ, how do we respond? What should our attitude be towards this destructive and unforgiving way of living? I want to approach this from two sides. First, we will examine if Christians should ever be a part of “canceling” anyone or anything. Second, we will look at some of examples in Scripture of how others dealt with the cancel cultures of their day.

The Gospel runs in opposition to cancel culture.

Here’s my slightly less hot take on cancel culture: I do not believe Christians should ever be associated with cancel culture. There are simply too many commands and exhortations in Scripture that defy the very fabric of cancel culture and it would be very unwise for us to ignore them. Plainly put the Gospel runs in opposition to any societal tendencies to self-righteously judge and attack.

Jesus spoke clearly about how to treat those who have wronged us. (I think it is fair to include those who are espousing the wrong views as well.) Jesus commanded us, repeatedly and with no wiggle room, to forgive. In fact, this idea of forgiveness so permeates the teachings of Jesus, it is clear He knew His followers would frequently be mistreated, misjudged, and wronged. Matthew 6:15 puts it this way, “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Talk around that all you want but you are going to have a hard time avoiding the truth: If you do not forgive, God will not forgive you.

This will play out differently depending on the context, whether interpersonal or society as a whole, but the foundational importance of forgiveness transcends the context. Christians are to be people who forgive. That must be one of our defining traits. It goes hand-in-hand with how we love. Another defining trait for believers.

When some part of our culture turns its back on God and righteousness, we our first and foremost called to forgive, but it gets even more involved than that. Luke 6:37 puts it this way: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;” Again, Jesus makes it clear that it is not our role to be judge. We are not qualified to condemn anyone else. The only qualification we have is forgiveness, which was given to us by our Savior when he first forgave us.

Now, before you point out examples in Scripture when godly men and woman spoke out against sin, allow me to offer a few thoughts. Living out the Gospel does not mean we overlook sin. It also does not mean we do not stand up for what is right and true. Speaking out against sin and firmly standing for our convictions is Biblical. Yet, even then, we are to do it in love and grace, always offering the hand of forgiveness and restoration to any who seek it.

There is no room in there for judgmental attacks or vindictive shaming. Cancel culture has never been about correction, reproof, or standing for one’s convictions. It is about control and self-righteousness, two traits believers should always avoid.

Cancel culture is decidedly un-Christian in spirit.

Most cases of cancel culture seem to be characterized by a few common traits: anger, noise, and insult. Interestingly enough, Scripture has something to say specifically about that. In a passage that seems ready made for our current times, Paul writes in Ephesians 4:31-32: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” When we are wronged, or when we see wrong playing out in the world, our response should be filled with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness.

I do not know about you, but I am having a very difficult time figuring out how to justify Christians being involved in cancel culture with these verses in mind. And to be honest, these few verses are only scratching the surface of all Scripture has to say on the matter.

Biblical examples of cancel culture.

Now, let us move our attention to some relevant examples of what I believe are close parallels to the cancel culture of our day. Look at the well-known stories of Daniel and his friends.

This is a recurring theme in the book of Daniel. We see it in the food they choose to eat, their unwillingness to bow to an idol, and Daniel’s defiance of the law when it came to whom he could pray to. In each situation, they are commanded to do something that violates their convictions. They are asked to comply with the pagan expectations and beliefs of their captors. And in each situation, they choose to take a stand. In each situation, they hold strong to Biblical truth.

Please do not miss that part – Biblical truth. They did not feel their freedoms were being taken away. They did not defy the edict of the king simply because it did not fit with how they wanted to live. No, they refused to obey commands that specifically contradicted what Scripture taught. If we are to stand against cancel culture when it fixes its eyes upon us, we need to be sure we are standing for the right reasons and with the right foundation.

In these examples, as well as others in Scripture (Esther for instance), lives hang in the balance. As bad as cancel culture has become, we have not yet reached that point in our country. Standing for truth is unlikely to put our life in jeopardy. Paradoxically, I believe that makes these examples even more significant. If standing for Biblical truth in times of great risk is important, how much more imperative is it in times of relative ease and comfort?

Final thoughts on cancel culture.

If and when cancel culture comes for you, ask yourself if what you are standing for is firmly rooted in the truth of God, and if it is, continue to stand even in the face of overwhelming pressure and opposition. Much of cancel culture’s power comes from people bending the knee to its demands. If you are on the side of Scripture, do not bend the knee.

I hope this helps. It is a very big topic and probably better suited for a series of articles, each examining some aspect of this insidious and destructive trend. Still, I hope that something written here will help you when you consider the issues. Brother and sister in Christ, let your life be epitomized by love, forgiveness, and strong convictions. If it is, cancel culture will have no power over you.

An earlier version of this article was originally published in The Brink magazine.

Phill Lytle
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Phill Lytle

Phill Lytle loves Jesus, his wife, his kids, his family, his friends, his church, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, 80s rock, the Tennessee Titans, Brandon Sanderson books, Whiteheart, Band of Brothers, Thai food, the Nashville Predators, music, books, movies, TV, writing, pizza, vacation...

2 thoughts on “Canceling Cancel Culture

  • February 20, 2024 at 6:47 pm

    A much needed and very illuminating article for our day. Christians are frequently called to be counter cultural and to be Christ-like in every action and reaction, in word, thought, and deed. The verses from Ephesians are so appropriate here. Thank you.

  • February 21, 2024 at 7:43 am

    THIS is a most excellent article.


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