Cynthia L. Eppley
My most recent blog addressed the current “Cancel Culture.” I think we’d all agree that our culture is being warped and twisted by the current events around us.
But if we look more closely, we will find that “there really is nothing new under the sun.” There have been World Wars, Spanish flu, Depressions, and so much more.
Is our current culture—and the reactions we see—that much different?
Cancel the Person
A recent article from Abdu Murray, The Gospel Coalition addresses this well:
“It was once the case that differing opinions—including ones that challenge culturally approved mores—were debated with facts and sound argumentation. Now when a person does or says something that runs afoul of current cultural preferences, we cancel that person. We shut her down with names, epithets, and ad hominem attacks. If she’s a musician, we call for boycotts of her music. If she’s an athlete, we delight in burning her jersey and posting the bonfire on social media. We now hoist the socially guilty onto a pike for all to see as they writhe, justly deserving what they get for having offended the collective. Be warned: we won’t engage your ideas; we will engage you and shame you out of existence. You will be canceled.” https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/canceled-understanding-eastern-honor-shame/
If I can label you, I can dehumanize you. I put you into a small box with my understanding of what that particular label stands for—and usually I’m wrong.
But in our feeble attempt to understand others, we marginalize them. We reduce them and isolate them. We trivialize them and their ideas and cut off discussion. Alienation ensues and is followed by discrimination. This is the work of judgement.
And this is a slippery slope.
One of my favorite teaching tools is Youtube. And a Similac commercial in particular shows many Moms (AND, ahem, Dads) taking care of their young children at the park. They look down their nose at the other groups, assuming, KNOWING that their way is best. From how the baby is fed, to how they sleep, and how they are diapered? There is a group for that. And the groups feel content and secure as they judge the others….until disaster strikes.
Our own Devices
Left to our own devices, this slippery slope and labeling would be a sad world indeed. The only true hope lies in Jesus Christ.
Borrowing from Murray’s article: “In cancel culture, a single mistake is perpetually unforgivable because it’s not simply a guilty act. Rather, the mistake defines the individual’s identity, turning them into a shameful person—someone who can be “canceled.” How Eastern! Juliet November summed up what used to be the differences between Western and Eastern cultures: In a Western framework, I would feel guilty because I have “done something bad”; in an Eastern honor-shame framework, I would be guilty because “I am bad” in society’s eyes. Becoming someone bad means that redemption doesn’t come by fixing the mistake. An apology isn’t enough.”
The Root of the Problem
Our problem goes far deeper than judging others. Do we realize in our judgements and in our labels, we also condemn ourselves?
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,
13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
Mercy Triumphs over Judgement
And there we have it. Because we have been redeemed and bought by the blood of the Lamb, we ourselves have been shown mercy.
And mercy triumphs over judgement.
What does this look like?
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
We have choices every day. What would it be like to choose life for ourselves, and for others? To bless rather than to curse?
Again, from Murray: “Where others would respond to our shame with indignation, Jesus responds with love, forgiveness, and grace. Many are searching for a recovered or even redeemed identity. The culture will not give it to them. But Jesus can.”
Are we looking for a Kumbayah moment here, where we hold hands and sway around a fire pit? No. The Cross was far too costly.
Grace & Dialogue
But what if we dialogued with others, honoring them above ourselves? What if we searched them out to ask their opinions and why they felt that way?
Grace has been described as giving others what they don’t deserve.
What if we came from our separate corners in the ring, together, and took off our gloves? Would families and workplaces be transformed?
Abraham Lincoln gave his 1st Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861. The nation was torn at that time, but he appealed to us:
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Can we appeal to the better angels of our nature in times now? Can we show grace and mercy to those around us, and to those who think differently than ourselves?
May God let it be so.