August 05, 2021

Cancel Culture – Living in an age of moral outrage

Cancel culture seems like it’s a brand new social construct, but actually, we see the same roots of cancel culture in scripture. We all want to be on the right side of history, we all want justice, but the tension between justice and mercy is not easily navigated. So how do you live righteously in an age of moral outrage?

In this episode, Adam and Whit discuss cancel culture and the tension between justice and mercy. Check it out!

Cancel Culture is everywhere.

You don’t have to look too far to find cancel culture. It’s everywhere.  It’s talked about in politics, media, churches, online, and chances are it’s made its way to your dinner table and conversations with friends. Also, chances are you’ve yet to meet someone who really loves it. But regardless of how you feel about cancel culture, you can’t deny that we’re living in an age of moral outrage.

As a society, we’re against anything that isn’t for us. And in some cases, that’s good. We shouldn’t nod in favor of people who have done terrible things. We shouldn’t sweep mistakes under the rug and allow people to walk away without consequences. But who gets to decide the consequences? You? me? Yikes! That doesn’t sound enjoyable at all.

The concept of cancel culture can be simplified by the idea that there’s a dark underbelly of things happening and we need to be enlightened or awakened to the things that are “really going on.” Once you’ve been enlightened/awakened, there’s a response to what you’ve found out: You’re going to remove the dark underbelly and the people who have created it. Some people call the idea an awakening, enlightenment, or just “woke.”

Woke = Righteousness

The biblical equivalency for “woke” is righteousness. A moral right standing. Righteousness means you’re justified. It means you’re one of the good people. We’re all searching for righteousness.

We find all sorts of ways to divide the world between the righteous and the unrighteous. There’s a duality in all of us of both good and evil. In order to deal with our guilt, we desire to categorize people as wholly good or wholly evil. And ultimately, our desire is to be lumped in with the good people, the woke people, or the “Godly” people. Whatever you might call it, your desire is to be on the right side of history.

Cancel culture is the modern scapegoat.

In Jewish culture, there was a day called the day of atonement, it came once a year. On that day, there was a practice that God instituted for His people called the scapegoat. The high priest would put his hands on a goat and he would confess the sins of the people, the whole nation—He would transfer the guilt of the people onto the scapegoat.

The Jewish people would put all the guilt, all of the sin, all of the shame, all of the unrighteousness onto this goat. Then that goat would be driven out of the community.

Similarly, cancel culture puts the shame, the sins, and the guilt of 100s of years of moral failures, racism, and sexual misconduct on the individual. In a way,  canceling people becomes an atonement ritual, a way of killing off people, casting them out for the sins of many. In a sense, we crucify them.

So, how does a follower of Christ respond to cancel culture?

Obviously, the sin needs to be addressed. We cannot nod in favor of moral failures, racism, or sexual misconduct. But we are to call these things out from a position of grace.

What’s important about this is to recognize that as a Christ-follower, atonement has already been made. Jesus died. We don’t have to kill other people with our words, boycotting, outrage, or anger.

It just means that we don’t experience the same moral outrage that our culture does. Instead, we recognize that we are guilty too. Christians stand where they stand through no merit of their own.

Christians should be able to speak the truth, even in ways that call into account our culture and call out hypocrisy, without losing sight of the atonement of Christ. For the Christ-follower, there ought to be humility, patience,  long-suffering, and a listening ear for those who have failed. We never lose sight of the fact that we are only who we are because of grace, which allows us to extend grace to other people.


Here’s the kicker: It’s hard to extend grace to other people when you feel like you’ve earned it yourself. When you feel like you’re on the side of the good people, the right side of history, whether secular, Christian, if you consider yourself “one of the good ones” it’ll be really hard to extend grace to somebody else.

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