By Dillon Schupp
“Cancel culture” isn’t really a new phenomenon. It’s existed for decades- just under slightly different forms.
It might surprise you to know that cancel culture used to be quite popular in the church. Take, for instance, how a teenage girl may have been treated after getting pregnant.
Shunned is the word that comes to mind. Or, in the popular vernacular, cancelled.
That was often church culture in my generation growing up (and, sadly, one that still exists in some churches): as long as you toe the line and act perfect, you’re in. The moment you cross the line, you are out and never accepted back.
Ironically, this judgmental and graceless attitude drove scores of people away from the church with the refrain “I’ll never be like that.”
And yet here is that very group of people – driven from the church and swearing to not be like the church culture they came from- doing precisely what the church of their youth did, just without the religious overtones.
It’s the same message; it just comes in a secular package rather than a religious package. And it’s no less judgmental and graceless.
Please don’t misunderstand me: I am not saying that we should not identify wrong behaviors as being what they are: wrong. We should do that. I’m not even saying that certain things should not be, for lack of a better term, cancelled if they are genuinely painful and harmful to others.
However, I think we should press pause and ask ourselves if the perpetual, dare I say, obsession with the behavior of other people is doing us as individuals any good on a personal level.
I don’t think it is. In fact, I think the obsession with the negative behavior of others actually tends to make us worse as individuals, and here’s why:
It fuels self-righteous arrogance.
When I focus on the negative behavior of others and what they need to fix, I am no longer looking at what I may need to fix about myself. In fact, what I’ve learned is that anytime I’m focused on the poor behavior of someone else and what they need to change, my opinion of myself starts to skyrocket upward- and not in a healthy, growing self-esteem way. Rather, it goes up in a nauseating, full-of-myself, holier-than-thou manner.
I immediately begin to believe that I – not merely my behavior or actions, but I as an individual- am better than the person doing (fill in the blank with the action of your choice). I pat myself on the back in the manner of the Pharisee in Luke 18:11: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people” (emphasis mine).
There’s nothing attractive about that attitude.
It’s wrong to look down on other people for any reason, even if what they are doing or have done is unquestionably wrong. And while it’s not wrong to say that someone else is doing something wrong, it is wrong to believe that you are better than someone else because you don’t do what they do.
Is that not, ultimately, the same underlying attitude that fuels racism, sexism, and all other forms of bigotry?
The tragic thing about cancel culture is that it often, in its attempts to eliminate bigotry, actually ends up creating bigotry of a different kind; one not based on skin color or sex, but on ideas and actions.
Being intolerant of intolerance is still intolerant. Being judgmental about judgmentalism is still judgmental. Looking down on others for looking down on others is still looking down on others.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to become what I’m trying to avoid in the name of trying to avoid it. I’d rather become someone whose character is more appealing and attractive to others.
To that end, I’d suggest two things.
#1- Focus on yourself first. Jesus put it like this: get the plank out of your eye before you get the speck out of someone else’s eye (see Matthew 7:1-5).
The uncomfortable truth is this: I’ve got enough junk to deal with that’s inside of me! And every moment I’m focusing on the behavior of others is a moment I’m missing to deal with the trash that’s already in me.
The key to becoming the type of person that is someone others want to be around- and, furthermore, someone people will want to listen to- is to focus not on changing others, but changing what needs to change in you.
That’s a full-time job.
And I’ve noticed that the more I’m focusing on what needs to change in me, the less I care about what someone else may have said or done.
#2- Create instead of cancelling. Think of it like this: It takes zero talent for me to watch ten minutes of a TV show, decide it’s garbage, cut off the TV, and then go rant for an hour to my wife and post on social media about how awful the show was.
And that adds zero value to our world.
It takes talent, time, and effort, on the other hand, to work to create an alternative that is not just a different point of view, but that is distinctly better than what came before.
Perhaps, instead of cancelling all the things we find obnoxious, we should work to create something better. Something so much better than the alternative that people are drawn to it.
That’s how the battle of ideas is actually won. And that would make our world a better place.
P.S. A judgmental attitude is one of the reasons so many people- perhaps you- walked away from church. We’ll actually be looking at this, and other reasons why people walked away in a series called “Why I Stopped Drinking the Kool Aid”, starting on Easter Sunday at LifeSpring Church in Smithfield. I’d love for you to drop by and check it out at 9:30am or 11:00am.
P.P.S. On my podcast this month, I talked a little about some other reasons to not simply cancel people you don’t agree with. You can find that episode right HERE.
P.P.P.S. I’ve discovered that knowing what Jesus said – and then acting on it- is precisely what makes you into the type of person people want to be around. That’s why I wrote 180: Becoming the New You. If you are ready to focus on becoming someone different- someone better- you can purchase your copy right HERE.