Show Notes: Episode 56
What is Cancel Culture?
Put simply, cancel culture is a new, but not new, phenomenon that has been fueled by things like social media and other information age resources over the past decade or so. It is “what happens when people, most often on social media but increasingly in “real life,” band together and employ shaming tactics to block a person from having a platform. It can mean boycotting the target’s businesses, refusing to consume their books or films or pressuring friends, colleagues and activists to denounce them or formally cut ties.”
Cancel culture is a cultural response to racist, sexist, anti-Semetic, or otherwise offensive or damaging actions, words, behaviors, and choices made by an individual, group, or corporate entity.
It is also described as the effort to erase history, an aspect that has been the subject of much debate, some bordering on violence, particularly over the 45th presidential administration, now happily in the past. For several years, politicians and political commentators like Robert Reich were calling not just for the impeachment and removal of the sitting president, but a nullification of the entire presidency. This would nullify every policy, executive order, and appointment made by that president. It would have turned back the clock in ways that would open up several seats on the Supreme Court as well as a number of legal appointments installed to steer American politics as far right as possible. Now, most are settling for 45 simply not being allowed to hold public office again in the future. In short, they want to cancel any bid for another presidential run by him, using various legal channels to ensure disqualification from nomination.
“Cancelling” And Public Good
Sometimes, things get cancelled as a matter of shifting social views. You will never see the movie “Song of the South” or the original version of “Fantasia” on Disney+ and there are good reasons for this. The blatant and unabashed racist portrayal of some of the characters in these films is simply not acceptable in our current social climate. Let me actually back up and just say that it isn't acceptable. It never was. It was just tolerated when those films were made.
Portrayals of other things like sexism and misogyny have largely disappeared from prime-time TV, too. Just look at a few episodes of shows like All In the Family, One Day at a Time, and Cheers and you'll spot some marked differences in the way things like male chauvinism and homosexuality are handled between then and now. Certain episodes of some old shows will never be found in syndication, nor will many of the commercials that were popular between the 1960s and early 1990s. How many times have we heard about ads being pulled after public outcry... a simple Google search will keep you busy for a while on that one. This is far from new. It's just that it has a name now.
Four types of cancel culture tactics
Calling In – Dealing with people on an individual level and persuading them to stop making certain statements, posting certain kinds of content to social media and other online platforms, and motivating them to quietly delete some of that content and move on.
Example: Your pastor catches wind of some social media posts you've made that counter what he considers to be your personal ideals (or, more realistically, his and your church's). He calls you in to his office, lays out the details, and asks you to remove certain posts or comments. This is usually followed up with admonitions to pray about your attitude and ask God to help you “think better” about the choices you make with what you post.
By the way, if this ever happens to you and your response is anything beyond blocking your pastor, you're doing it wrong.
Calling Out – The same as calling in, but doing it publicly
Example: “In 2017, Pepsi released a commercial featuring model Kendall Jenner breezily bridging the gap between protestors and police by offering up a soda. It was criticized and meme-ed all over social media for trivializing BLM demonstrations. As a result, the ad was pulled, and an apology was made.”
Boycotting – Encouraging people to stop patronizing businesses that engage in activities that go counter to the accuser's or group of accusers personal morals, ethics, and ideals.
This is far from a new concept, but the advent of social media has made the process far more aggressive.
Cancelling – A deliberate attempt to ruin the reputation of an individual even to the point of them losing their livelihood or ability to safely interact in public as a response to actions, words, or behaviors deemed socially harmful. (Roseanne, Kelly Griffin, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, Gina Carano). It can also refer to brands and trademarks, like Aunt Jemima, Uncle Remus, and most recently Pepe LePew.
Boycotts are nothing new. And that word is one of the most weaponized terms out there.
This is where it began...
“The boycott was popularized by Charles Stewart Parnell during the Irish land agitation of 1880 to protest high rents and land evictions. The term boycott was coined after Irish tenants followed Parnell's suggested code of conduct and effectively ostracized a British estate manager, Charles Cunningham Boycott.”
Some Famous Boycotts (with quotes)
The concept of calling out is also not at all new either. Politicians have used this tactic throughout history to besmirch the reputations of their opponents. We see examples of this every time there is some bombshell scandal that emerges weeks or days before an election. We've even seen it here in local politics.
The MeToo movement is another example and that has spurred new awareness of the levels of sexual harassment and abuse that go on in Hollywood. I won't say I stand behind every claim 100% but I will say that I believe any claim that carries proof or results in a confession... and there have been an alarming number of those.
But one of the great grandparents of cancel culture was a little thing called the McCarthy Hearings. This was little more than a political witch hunt designed to target high-profile celebrities who were either believed or reported to be communists or operating under communist influence and wreck their careers. Many people, including Arthur Miller, saw distinct parallels between the McCarthy Hearings and another historical calling out hysteria: The Salem Witch Trials. Calling out was an American thing before America was officially a thing and Arthur Miller saw the parallels between the Salem Witch Trials and Joe McCarthy's tireless quest to unearth communist activity in American society, particularly among celebrities.
But as destructive as the McCarthy Hearings could have been (and in many ways was), the way cancel culture operates today is even more dangerous. An op-ed by Ken Ohler in the Wall Street Journal put it this way:
“Where the threshold for condemnation in the McCarthy era was alleged affiliation with “communist sympathizers,” sufficient unto today is the mere failure to publicly join in the denunciation of the latest societal construct or historical figure to be branded as racist, fascist, sexist, homophobic, etc.” In onter words, if you're not for us, you're against us and subsequently guilty by association.
And it's true. I have to wonder just how many Christians have been going to church every Sunday since Last March, have opted out of wearing a mask, particularly at Church but also in other places, or have been called in or called out for guarding their personal safety during the pandemic and shamed for their lack of faith. I wonder how many pastors have been guilty of this, particularly those intimidating, “close the door behind you” kinds of meetings you never want to find yourself in with anyone.
“But what does this have to do with cancel culture?” It has everything to do with cancel culture and here's how.
In one of the most dangerous spins I've ever seen on this, we now have pastors and church leaders literally putting people's lives at risk, using the fear of being called out or called in as a weapon to perpetuate their very wrong assertions that COVID 19 isn't a real threat and that acknowledging it as such demonstrates an unacceptable lack of faith.
And it doesn't end with shaming. Oh no...
“I'm sorry, Dan, but we have decided to go with another contractor to finish the baptismal.”
“Greta, I'm afraid our school can't have someone on staff who instills fear in children by wearing masks all day when she ought to be teaching them to place their trust in God.”
How about when a Pastor texts his entire board and tells them that the church wishes to boycott a congregant's business over differences of opinion regarding COVID (or ANYTHING else)
Things that Evangelicals have been trying to cancel for years (and longer)
Any Flavor of Christianity that isn't their favorite
Popular Music (The Satanic Panic, but long before... Elvis, the Beatles, The Doors, etc...)
Popular Movies (The Last Temptation of Christ, etc) – I even tried to start a boycott over this one in my legalistic little prick days! It went nowhere because even other evangelicals thought the notion of never going to the movies again because this one was playing was a bit extreme.
Books (Naziism, anyone? - Anyone else read Fahrenheit 451?)
Free Thought – The Catholic church used to literally tell people not to read the Bible because only a trained priest could even begin to interpret it. They managed to make people feel too stupid to read words from the manual of their own faith! “We'll tell you what you need to know on Sunday.” Let's not forget the concept of “every thought in captivity (2 Cor. 10:5)” either.
Democracy - These people tried HARD to cancel our last election, in case anyone has managed to forget about THAT. They Want theocratic rule or, at very least, a leader who will give them what they want along any conceivable line and remove ANYTHING from society that makes them uncomfortable or goes counter to what they believe.
And in the case of those last three, alternative lifestyles, abortion, and civil rights, the cancel train has gained enough steam to manifest a plethora of hate groups whose actions have been morally reprehensible, but which they believe are righteous.
We could go on with this all night, but the simple truth of the matter is that Christians, evangelicals in particular, have gone, and continue to go, on countless cancellation crusades over any person or thing that makes them feel even remotely uncomfortable. When it comes to being offended, no other people group does it with the vigor, zeal, and flamboyancy of evangelicals.
KISS – Knights in Satan's Service
Procter and Gamble
The McMartin Preschool
Monster Beverages - “Bottoms up, and Satan laughs!” Um... What about your Keurig?
I endured more instances of the term, “I'm offended...” just in college to get me through my entire life. It constantly amazed me the kinds of things people got up in arms over, including some of the entertainment at the student center. We had movies at the student center cancelled after a few people complained about us showing Star Wars movies because “it romanticizes new age ideology” and because Marty McFly says, “Jesus Christ” in a blaspheming way in Back to the Future. One of the deans literally walked into the student center, collected the VCR and told us that only Christian entertainment and APPROVED secular TV shows would be allowed going forward. EVERYTHING had to be approved by the administration before it hit the screen in our student center. They even removed a couple video games over “violent and demonic imagery.”
And there was so much more. I got called in numerous times by RAs and administrators over things I said and did, particularly defending showing movies at the student center. And don't forget how I was called in over my shoes because an RA didn't like that I got to wear black sneakers when he couldn't. They wanted to CANCEL my privilege to wear orthopedically necessary footwear to gain my compliance with their rules. It was physiology, not rebellion. Bottom line: they failed and they didn't like it. And that RA followed me around for weeks looking for more reasons to persecute me. I gave him nothing, of course, but think about it: that was one student at one Christian college. A few whiny protests over Marty McFly and Yoda and now we can't watch movies in the student center. All an evangelical has to do is say, “I'm offended,” and dozens more crawl out of the woodwork to defend them. We even had a group of really nice students who were made to stop PLAYING CARDS in the Student Center because of its ties to gambling and “black magic.”
Back to the Religionnews.com article...
“Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, church youth groups coordinated book burnings and music bonfires to purge their world of evil art. On any given night of the week, televangelists and Christian activists could be found on cable news attacking their enemies by name and blaming them for the “moral decay” of America.”
Evangelicals try their level best to smear and shame any person or organization who doesn't behave or believe in ways that make them feel comfortable. The goal, of course, is to not just change minds, but create an entire society that functions in every way – socially, legally, and politically – according to their Christian values. They do have a big voice in politics, but not as much in other areas... and it frustrates the shit out of them. But let's look at just some of the things they'll pulled in the past few decades...
The 1970s saw the earliest iterations of the Religious Right and religious leaders like Jerry Falwell Sr. were key players in the infiltration of American politics and the intended steering of America in the direction of Christian values.
“Beginning in the 1970s, a group of Southern Baptists, led by now disgraced preacher and seminary president Paige Patterson and other conservative leaders, sought to purge their denomination of any hint of “liberal theology.” Seminary professors, church employees and pastors lost their jobs or were shamed out of the convention during this denominational civil war.
Known as the “Conservative Resurgence” or “the fundamentalist takeover,” depending on your point of view, the coup Patterson led was a massive exercise of cancel culture. Only true believers allowed. Anyone who crossed the masses was expelled quickly and forcefully.
Beyond the SBC, one of the best-known examples of evangelical cancel culture involved the public shaming of author Rob Bell, a former megachurch pastor who dared to question whether non-Christians went to hell after they died.
Strictly, Bell was not “canceled,” but “farewelled” — the patent online move was simply to bid “Farewell, Rob Bell,” next to a link to his apostasy. Suddenly, anyone who was friends with Bell, owned books by Bell or even dared to quote Bell’s earlier work was at risk of being canceled as well.”
We already discussed the Satanic Panic and the war on secular movies and TV. That was much of the 80s and I bought into A LOT of it. Moralism and legalism were well established by the time I set foot on Word of Life Island in 1985 and even I had heard names like Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority even though I had to clue who or what they were until I was a little older. Evangelicals LOVE to boycott things. It's their cancel culture behavior of choice when they have the balls to go public on anything. Here are just a few examples:
1985 – Multiple scandals among televangelists led to the cancellation of affiliation with the Assemblies of God and other pentecostal organizations making their churches and affiliations hostile territory to the likes of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. Both found themselves without an adequate support base or affiliation with any religious organization and had to rebrand independently to keep doing what they were doing.
Popular media even tried calling out multiple megachurch pastors over their opulent lifestyles. It's an ongoing effort that seems to have little effect among those who are bound and determined to follow the chicanery of preachers like Robert Tilton, Billy Sunday, Gene Scott and any and all word-faith preachers alive or dead. That's right – some of these people have been dead for years and their “foundations” still get insane numbers of contributions from their faithful with literally nothing to show for the money they invest.
1997 – The Southern Baptist Convention (an organization of 16 million people) calls for the boycott of Disney properties and products owing to their welcoming attitude toward gays, lesbians, and other people of alternative lifestyles
1999 – Jerry Falwell leads an effort to boycott the Teletubbies, asserting that Tinky Winky was gay
2012 – “One Million Moms” (of which there was nowhere near) led a boycott of JC Penny for hiring Ellen DeGenres as their spokesperson. Ellen's crime? She's a lesbian.
And in recent years, “Christian writers, including Jen Hatmaker and Rachel Held Evans, [have] found their books no longer welcome in Christian bookstores due to their support for same-sex marriage.”
So first they go after society, then they go after each other. Now, society is coming for them. Don't give evangelicals too much power inside your head. They taught society how to think in terms of cancel culture, and now it is starting to turn on them.
One of the more popular doctrines within Christianity is the notion of reaping what you sow. Some describe it as, “what goes around comes around.” Some invoke the term “karma” for this. The point is that it isn't a specifically Christian concept and it does prove true more often than not. Like I've said before, there's no such thing as sin, only actions and consequences. Evangelicals have been trying to sear the cancel culture mindset into its adherents for more than a century, and the roots of those efforts run even deeper, and reach further back into history. Ok, you want your entire country thinking like this, you've got it. Now prepare to reap the whirlwind.
No matter how it looked, the election of our 45th president was a catalyst for an upsurge of righteous anger toward the types of things that evangelicals have been trying for decades to cancel and now it is working against them. We already mentioned a few Christian authors whose books disappeared from christian bookstores, but even more are disappearing from platforms like Amazon. When Harry Became Sally by Ryan Anderson is an example.
But something clearly shifted within the past five years. “The rapidly proliferating groups evangelicals had been marginalizing and attacking — women, people of color, feminists, immigrants, LGBTQ people — recognized that they had their own pulpits on social media, [and] hey began to sermonize back.”
You taught us your game, now play it.
“Chis Hodges, senior pastor of Church of the Highlands, an evangelical congregation with 60,000 members spread across 24 locations, came under fire after screenshots were shared online showing the pastor liking several posts by Charlie Kirk, a controversial pro-Trump activist.
The posts in question were considered racially insensitive and, among other things, questioned whether white privilege actually exists.
These actions sparked outcry from Birmingham residents, including the pastor of at least one black church who was already displeased that Hodges’ church has been planting white congregations in black neighborhoods to which they had no connection.
Hodges attempted to quell the furor by deleting his social media accounts and tearfully apologizing to his congregation, but Birmingham’s Board of Education, which leased two public high schools to the church, was unconvinced.”
And this is a standard response either from within or outside evangelicalism: the scripted, well-acted, meticulously-worded mea culpa and actions that corroborate the words. That's supposed to fix everything. Only problem is, it doesn't. And most people don't buy it when it's offered.
Right now, evangelicals are backpedaling and trying desperately to distance themselves from anything associated with cancel culture, even to the point of trying to squeeze biblical examples into the narrative and telling other Christians that cancel culture goes against scripture, forgiving the fact that it calls in numerous places for the cancellation of things like family values, women's rights, and alternative lifestyles outright. It pre-cancels things like free thought, scientific thought, mental healthcare, and much more with its bronze-age attitudes toward these things.
And let's not forget that it was cancel culture mentality that led to the denial of the outcome of our last presidential election and the subsequent attack on our nation's capitol. It culminated with far-right led insurrectionists attempting to halt the verification of electoral college votes and keep their maniacal leader in the Oval Office. Since then, there hasn't been silence, but the volume has been turned down on this subject considerably. Most dialog about it has retreated back behind the walls of evangelical churches, with a few notable and dangerous exceptions including anti-vaxxing.
Our country is finally coming out from under the thumb of a deadly virus, another subject of numerous cancellation attempts ranging from masking to vaccines to asserting the right to hold super-spreader events. You can attempt to cancel coronavirus all you want, but the only way is to listen to the public health and governmental bodies and do what must be done to stop the spread. Even now, the effort to cancel sound health and safety guidelines is in full force, even to the point of some places fully lifting mask mandates. The entire state of Texas is being left unprotected now as the result of the efforts of cancel culture nutters deciding that people's personal comfort is somehow more important than facilitating public safety. From what I hear, not being able to breathe or being on a respirator is pretty fucking uncomfortable.
And let's also try to remember that when certain companies make decisions about the content they market, these decisions are not necessarily based on pressure from outside sources. Sometimes, you just have to look at the world around you and decide if this is the kind of messaging you want to be delivering in the current social climate.
This is why those six Dr. Seuss books have been discontinued. The Dr. Seuss foundation decided that the messaging in these books clashes with a) the social attitudes of the time and b) the messaging in other examples of its content. Nothing got canceled aside from the idea that racist words and imaging are not the types of things we want to be teaching children. No one called for a boycott, no one tried to get Dr. Seuss books banned from Amazon. It was a decision made from within the organization and it was, in my opinion, a good one. It also reflects the sentiments about portrayal of race in popular children's media like Peanuts that did come under public scrutiny recently. I have varying opinions on that whole thing. I'm also a white male who has been taught to think like a white male so I don't think I have much of a say. If it offends someone, they have a right to say so and to make calls to action to steer social attitudes away from detrimental imagery in media, particularly media aimed at children.
But back to the evangelical aspect of this. I want to make this very, very clear. Evangelical thought is losing its foothold. It that weren't true, we wouldn't be seeing the social outcry over things like the word “chinaman” or where the black kid sits at the table for thanksgiving in a peanuts cartoon. These things would continue to be normalized in people's minds and no one would think anything of it.
The fact that people do tells me that for all their effort to cancel everything about society they don't like, evangelicals are going to start seeing just how much of a majority they aren't. Oh, yeah, there's a lot of them. They still have a degree of influence. But this last election proved a point about their real political power. The growing acceptance of alternative lifestyles and the normalization of LGBTQ characters in popular media is further evidence that their attempt to steer thought on these things in a more conservative direction are failing.
What this means is that those of us who recognize their game need to keep playing it and use what they've taught society against them. I'm not saying we should be making calls to cancel anything. I'm not saying strip them of their religious freedom. I'm not saying cancel the Bible (even though I think doing so would benefit society tremendously). I'm saying give them what they think they want: a society that holds them to their own morals and forces them to deal with their own actions.
Make them accept the outcome of ALL elections as a manifestation of “god's will” and not just in instances when their candidates win.
Call them out for being CVID deniers and anti-vaxxers and keep pounding their arguments with facts and truth.
Call out their own media and keep people like David A.R. White in the hot seat when they distribute media that includes content they would decry coming from any secular source.
Call out the words of TV preachers who claim they can heal COVID through a TV screen.
Call them out in public, call them in on their social media, boycott their churches, podcasts, social media, and more. Cancel the validity of their messaging by holding them accountable for each and every word that comes out of their mouths and not letting them get away with just saying it without validation. Encourage people not to think and behave the way they do.
Call them out and make the truth known. Don't let them get away with saying or doing anything. Hold them to the same standards as they want to hold us in terms of what they believe and what they want society to look like. The more light we shine on the error of their ways, the fewer places they'll have to hide, the fewer people they will convince, and the more people will start seeing this religion for what it is and start getting and staying unbound.