Jesus and Cancel Culture
By Pastor Tom Anderson
Emmanuel Cafferty worked for a power company in California. He drove a company pickup truck to and from work sites. One hot day he had his windows down and was hanging his arm out at a stop sign. His fingers were formed into an upside down “ok” gesture. Unbeknownst to him (and to me as well!) such a gesture is considered to be a signal of “white supremacy.” A passerby snapped a photo of Cafferty and immediately posted it on social media. There was his hand in the shape of a sign of white supremacy right next to the company logo. Within minutes a public uproar ensued. By the end of the day, Mr. Cafferty was fired. His mother complained that he was Latino and had no idea he’d made a white supremacy gesture. Even the man who posted the photo publicly stated his regret at doing so. No matter, the mobs of “cancel culture“ are resolute and unforgiving in their judgments.
From time immemorial, human beings have been making snap judgements about each other--judging first and thinking later. This is not new. What is new is the power and influence that each of us now possesses through social media. We now have the ability to make our judgments of others known to thousands--if not millions of people--instantaneously. We live in fear that one day something we said or did will instantly make us the object of a public shaming. It could be any moment that we could find ourselves unfriended, fired or shunned. Fear of judgment is everywhere. There is a bull market in self-righteousness these days. Author Adam Grant laments, “We all have blind spots in our knowledge and opinions. The bad news is that they can leave us blind to our blindness, which gives us false confidence in our judgment and prevents us from re-thinking.”
There is something fundamentally incoherent about fallen, sinful creatures pronouncing judgment upon each other. Who among us is without sin? Who among us doesn’t need to be forgiven? Yet there is no room for forgiveness in the unstinting judgment of “cancel culture.” Damnation is instant and once given is irreversible.
What would Jesus do? If anyone had the right to cancel anybody it was Jesus. He was a sinless man who lived a flawless life. He had perfect knowledge of human nature. He could see to the bottom of every soul. He could enumerate every sin and failure hidden in any given heart. So who was Jesus most interested in cancelling? Who did Jesus want to boycott, unfriend, shun and destroy? Consider this from Colossians 2:13-14
“And you, who were dead in your tresspasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.”
Jesus cancelled sins, not sinners. He gave us the brutal truth about judgment and at the same time gave us the amazing grace of his sacrifice to cancel our judgment.
The Cross is our only exit ramp from the vicious cycle of “cancel culture.” The cross calls us to acknowledge the hypocrisy and sin of our self-righteousness. The cross invites us to humbly accept that we all need grace. People who have had their sin cancelled are never afraid to speak the truth, but they always fill it with grace. When truth is told with grace and grace is filled with truth, relationships are redeemed instead of being cancelled.