“And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
— Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 7:23
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it.
— C S Lewis
Previous Post: The Creed of the New Human Race
We live in a time of cancel culture. Cancel culture is not new. It has been around for many years. People have lost their jobs because of cancel culture. Cancellation has ruined reputations. Cancel culture is not only destructive, it is self contradictory.
More than that, it points us to one of the key elements in a Christian Mind: Justice matters. God will bring final judgment. No one will get away with anything.
What is Cancellation?
Simply put cancel culture is mob judgment (for a little more development look here). This is how it works:
Someone makes a public statement that is out of line with accepted ideology. It can be an email from a faculty member about Halloween costumes, or critiquing a school wide social-justice related event. Or a statement by a group of intellectuals supporting free speech. I have a file with over a hundred cases, dating back more than 10 years.
The mob activates, especially on twitter or social media, though sometimes on campus and in person (pre-COVID).
There is no trial. No due process. No investigation. No right of defense.
Judgment is rendered. The mob writes off, shames, humiliates, intimidates, bullies, and erases the offending individual from the community. In short, they say, “Depart from us into the fires of damnation.”
Secular Evaluation of Cancellation
Just as an aside at this point, there is a growing body of organizations and literature critiquing and seeking to understand the roots of cancel culture. The Coddling of the American Mind is one of the more significant. My wife and I support an organization which for 20 years has defended free speech on campus. As a citizen I think cancel culture and attempts to restrict free speech or claim that “speech is violence” will destroy our nation and other nations where it has taken root.
Our God given desire for justice
Cancel Culture reveals a deep instinct in the human heart. We cannot live in a cosmos where people get away with wrong words or wrong actions. Morals must be brought to bear. Justice must be done. When we judge, we reach the conclusion that some offenses are so grave that the offending party should be cut off from the rest of the community.
Scripture says God has written his moral law into our hearts. What is remarkable is the agreement on what those rules are, even across many cultures.
The hypocrisy of Cancellation
Cancellation is always hypocritical. No one applies their standards to themselves.
“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” (Rom 2:1 ESV)
- It is judgment without objective standards. The law that measures behavior changes with the mood of pop culture. It is ideological, not principled.
- It is incoherent judgment. People who believe “no one has a right to judge anyone else” because “everyone gets to define their own reality” now pass judgment on others. Here is their mantra: No judgment allowed for anyone, except for those who believe in truth and objective reality.
- It is judgment by omniscient instinct, without investigation. To be accused is to be guilty.
- It is judgment without any self-defense allowed.
- It is relational — it banishes the offender from the community.
Cancel culture is little more than bullying. I doubt anyone who defends it would want to live under it if and when another ideological mob takes over.
Cancel Culture and Justice
A Christian Mind is grounded in the existence of the true God. The true God defines morality for his image bearers. He both gives the law and has the right to evaluate humankind for its actions. In judgment, God pays us the ultimate compliment: he treats us as adults. We are not victims. We cannot blame anyone else for our choices. He will, as the quote above says, give us exactly what we want.
God and Final Justice
God says he will bring all human actions into judgment in the day when he ends this chapter of history. That judgment will satisfy all the demands we carry deep in our hearts. It will, if viewed objectively, we judgment exactly as we would want to be judged.
- It will be based on objective and measurable standards. There will be no guilt by association or guilt by race or guilt by psychological evaluation. God’s revealed law will be the measurement.
- It will be consistent with God’s own character. God himself is utterly consistent with his laws.
- It will be judgment based on comprehensive knowledge of motives, circumstances, as well as things said or done in secret. No one will get away with anything. Everyone will get exactly what they deserve.
- It will be judgment with no need for self defense because all will be known and revealed. Can you imagine what that will be like?
- It will be judgment with punishment proportional to the offense. Not all transgressions are equal in their weight.
- It will be relational — it will be God giving us exactly what we want. If we chose throughout our lives to have nothing to do with the true God, then he will deliver us over to our choice. To be cut off from God is to be cut off from the source of all joy, happiness, pleasure, good flavors, beauty, friendship. In judgment, it will not be an option to keep the gifts of God and be rid of God.
“I Object” say the unjust judges
This is deeply offensive to we moderns. We ask, Who is God that he gets to judge us? But, in our next breath, we speak judgment of others.
Have you ever “damned” someone? Have you ever banished someone to hell? We all have. When we do so, we express our wish to be God. But if our judgments were final, there would be only injustice.
“I am giving you what you desire” says the Living God
We demand justice. God actually gives it. He will do so infallibly, without prejudice, without racism, without caste-ism. Isn’t that a good thing? No, because none of us wants to be judged on those terms.
None can stand this scrutiny
When any of us considers what it would be like to have every secret action or word or motive of our hearts brought into the light, we cringe. That would be humiliating. Lots of friends would abandon us! For that reason, we work hard at hiding those realities.
Hectoring, cancelling, moralizing, and virtue signaling will not change anyone.
God made made a way for justice and mercy to shake hands
Let’s go back to the Story of Redemption. The God who judges justly is the God who is full of mercy.
God’s purpose in creation is not judgment, but rescue. Judgment is his “strange work.” (Isa 28:21) Showing off his extravagant mercy is his larger plan. Quite amazingly, he plans the one way to show mercy and execute justice at the same time. This he does by the substitution of himself (in God the Son in human flesh) for us. The offer of the Gospel is an offer from God to hide ourselves from his judgment in the G0d-Substitute.
Final judgment occurs in two places in history: at the cross and on the last day.
Why is it a problem that there is only one way? That there is any way is reason for gratitude.
Living with Injustice until . . .
A Christian Mind rests in the timing and finality of God’s judgment. It gives us reason to see with moral clarity. because God will bring full justice, enduring and waiting for final vindication and justice is not a fool’s hope. Knowing that only God can bring about perfect justice tempers our efforts at justice now. We are not omniscient, we are not consistent, we cannot determine the precise punishment appropriate to the crime. So we approximate. Utopian visions of justice always lead to the worst injustice. Utopian visions are our attempt to be God.