Christian Courage in the Age of Cancel Culture
'First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.'-German Pastor Martin Niemöller, lamenting the lack of courage of Germans during the rise of Nazism (and his own lack of courage).
One must always be careful when referencing Hitler or Nazis when writing about current cultural issues because the words are used so cavalierly today, mostly to describe anyone with whom a person might disagree with on a social or political issue.
The reason I opened with this quote is to ask you to think about the matter of courage. Christian courage to be precise.
We live in a challenging and turbulent time. Having said that, there are people around the world who are experiencing far worse than we are, Christians who face very real threats of imprisonment and or death and very real persecution simply for being a Christian. However, if you are paying attention, there is a growing hostility toward Christianity in the United States.
We see darkness advancing in our culture and anger increasing and cultural fragmentation accelerating.
And for many professing Christians, the response is one of fear.
This should not be. God does not give us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
At the heart of this cultural anger is an ideological cocktail of neo-Marxism, political correctness, social justice movements, 'woke' culture, intersectionallity and critical race theory and full blown secularism. It is a potent ideological brew.
One of the chief weapons of this movement is 'The Cancel Culture.'
You may not know what that term means (though I would assume many of you do), but I would hazard to guess you have seen it and know exactly what it is, even if you are not familiar with the term 'cancel culture.'
For many of us, our first exposure to the cancel culture was a few years ago when we saw videos and news reports of college and university students loudly and angrily and noisily and even violently, attacking or opposing professors or other students, simply for holding differing views or opinions on matters related to the social justice movement. The initial protests were meant to simply silence dissent.
The movement grew. Soon, professors or guest speakers or student groups who did not conform to the emerging Brave New World were threatened. It was not enough to silence, now it was necessary to demand conformity.
For many Christians, the images were (as they should be) disturbing, but, if we are honest, many if not most professing Christians didn't think much else of these displays because they were not the ones experiencing the attacks.
'I'm not Professor Jordan Peterson. I'm not Professor Bret Weinstein. I'm not Professor Gordon Klein. I'm certainly not Ben Shapiro or Michael Knowles or Steven Crowder. That's their world. It's weird and sad, but it's not my business.'
When they came for the professors and the social commentators, I didn't speak out, because I'm not a professor or social commentator.
The Cancel Culture did not stop with university campuses. Soon, celebrities and politicians and news outlets were targets. From there, targets continued to expand to everyday people who voiced their personal opinion (usually online) only to encounter an 'army' of online agitators seeking to shame or silence the person or have them removed from the social media platform.
The Cancel Culture expanded. I believe it was a year ago that incoming conservative freshmen who planned on attending the University of Texas, received threatening emails to not join conservative groups on campus unless they wanted to be 'doxed.' Students were being warned, before ever setting foot on campus, to 'toe the line or face dire consequences.'
'Doxing' is a powerful weapon of the Cancel Culture. To dox someone means to publish private, sensitve information about an individual online, for malicious purposes, attempting to shame or vilify the person.
Lives have been ruined by Cancel Culture.
As the Cancel Culture continued to grow and expand, more and more people began to ask 'what in the world is going on?' Some Christians expressed concern and fear. 'What happens if they come for Christians?'
Well, they have and are and will, but just a moment, please.
Cancel Culture has attacked everything from historians to monuments and statues and institutions and yes, churches. Take time to look up the recent spate of attacks on churches by the 'woke mob.'
And, if you are paying attention, law enforcement is also on the Cancel Culture radar. While one could make the case for certain reforms in law enforcement, the social justice warriors want to burn the whole thing down.
But I didn't say anything because I don't build monuments or statues and I'm not a university student or a police officer.
And, now the Cancel Culture has come for old movies and current television shows that offend the sensibilities of the social justice movement. And again, many stand in disbelief, but say nothing.
I didn't say anything because I don't watch movies or television that much.
The Cancel Culture has also come for businesses. Goya Foods was the latest target, joining others before them: Hobby Lobby, Chik-Fil-A, Home Depot, to name a few.
I didn't say anything because I'm not a business owner. I'm just an average person trying to quietly go about my business. I don't want any trouble.
You may well be wondering what my point is right now. Some of you might be wondering 'why is he writing about political issues? Talk about Jesus!'
I'm not talking politics. I am talking Jesus.
I'm certainly not talking about fighting fire with fire, because we, as Christians, have different 'weapons.' Ours are spiritual weapons. We speak Truth. We speak the Truth in Love. We proclaim Jesus. We Pray. We love our neighbor and we love and pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. We are always ready (and willing) to give reason for the hope that is within us, but to do so with all gentleness and respect.
We do not engage the increasingly violent social justice movement with its' Cancel Culture with hatred.
But we do engage. We must. And this is where you and I come in. We have a role. We always have had a role. Most of us, however, abandoned our post long ago and the nation suffers for it.
Back to the Cancel Culture and Christianity. If you are a Christian, I humbly ask you to think through a few important questions:
1) 'Whom do you seek to please more in this life: God or man?' How you answer this question determines everything.
2) 'Are you prepared to stand alone, or to experience difficult times for the sake of Christ, if God so ordains you do?'
3) 'Have you set apart Christ as Lord in your heart and established your 'lines,' those things you will not do or say or bow to or approve of or practice because they are contrary to Christ and the gospel?' If you haven't, you must. If you wait until the pressure is directly on you, it will be too late.
You might wonder why you should think through such things. I write to encourage you to fix your eyes on Christ and to stand firm, to run well, because unless there is a Great Awakening, a Great Revival and Reformation, you will (as will your children and grandchildren) be faced with significant decisions that call for faith and courage.
As the Cancel Culture expands to every sphere of public life, you and I, as Christians, will be faced with times in which we must choose whether we will live for the approval of Christ, or the approval of man.
It may be in your workplace, the boardroom, the classroom, or in your community but if you are a follower of Christ in today's cultural climate, you should expect to come under fire, not because you are being obnoxious, but because Christians should expect opposition because lost humanity hates Christ, and, Jesus said we should expect the same (John 15:20).
American evangelicals have not developed a theology of persecution and suffering for the sake of Christ because we have had a tendency to think 'those kind of things are reserved for people in other places. That would never happen here.'
And, perhaps, 'God would never let that happen here.'
Of great concern is for most all of us American evangelicals, the worst form of 'persecution' or 'opposition' we've experienced in our lifetime has been to be 'rejected' by others or to be 'mocked.'
Well, things may get much more intense than that if current cultural trends continue and as the Cancel Culture sets its eyes on the church.
I do trust you have been reading about churches and religious icons coming under fire. Literally.
But again, as Christians, if we are faithful to our Lord, we should expect to not always be liked. The cross of Christ is foolishness to this sons and daughters of this world system ( 1 Corinthians 1:18) and our message is a stumbling block to those who do not belong to Christ (1 Cor 1:23) Christ Himself is a stumbling block, an offense, to those who do not belong to Him (1 Peter 2:8) and Jesus referred to Himself as a stone that would cause men to stumble (Matthew 21:44).
Paul went so far as to say that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Paul was not saying this as a 'threat,' rather as an accepted reality. For early Christians, it was understood that to follow Jesus meant opposition of some kind. That has been the historic experience and understanding in Church History. It is the experience of many believers around the world today.
And, the heat is increasing here in ways we've not seen before.
So, in such times, what will you do? Make no mistake, the Cancel Culture does not play fair, and is not 'nice.' And guess what: those who are in the Cancel Culture, those who are angrily attacking people need to know the Lord Jesus Christ as well. We must engage those who hate our King and us with the gospel. We too were once prisoners of darkness. We have been commissioned to tell everyone (including those who hate us) the good news so they too might be set free.
The Lord said to Jonah: 'Go to Ninevah.'
Remember these truths?
You are the salt of the earth. Salt must come into contact with that it seeks to preserve and flavor.
You are the light of the world. Light shines in the darkness. It doesn't hide under a bushel.
You are agents of reconciliation. For that to be true, you (and i) must engage the lost.
You are Christ's ambassadors. You do not represent your own interest, rather His.
You are disciple makers. As you go about daily life, you and I are to make disciples.
That means conversations. That means no matter how kind we may phrase things, in this age of Cancel Culture, we are likely to come under serious fire at some point.
So, what will you do? Will you lay low, try to blend in? Or, will you deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus?
Our nation's only Hope is Christ and the gospel. We are here for such a time as this. We do not choose the times we live in, God does. But we do choose how we will live.
I find it interesting that we just completed a study of Esther and are about to begin a study of Daniel. Both books have much to say about godly faith and courage in uncertain and dangerous times.
That faith and courage are desperately needed in our day.
May we exhort and encourage one another to run the race well, and may we be found faithful to our King, living for His approval, not that of man's.
Grace to You,