I recently became aware of the term “cancel culture.” The term is new to me but the idea behind it is not. I have experienced this, and unfortunately, I have experienced this in the church.
Cancel culture happens when someone says something that is unpopular and a group responds by acting as if the “offender” does not exist. Or, in its more punitive (and more juvenile) form, the group seeks to prevent the “offender” from ever speaking again.
Now on to the church.
There are popular methodologies for growing large churches. They usually are centered around being as close to the culture as is possible without stepping over any boundaries. What those boundaries actually are is anyone’s guess because anyone who questions the boundaries . . . well, more on that later.
It is almost axiomatic in these churches that bigger is better and anything that might be construed to be uncomfortable for outsiders should be eliminated because people might be turned off and not come back. Also, there is more emphasis on connecting with popular culture and less emphasis on preaching and teaching the Bible.
The purveyors of this strategy are so sure that it will work and that the results will be good, that they feel the need to squelch, downplay, or cancel any dissenting voice.
Now, who is not for getting more people out to church? No-one would be against having more people respond to the Gospel. But sadly, the one thing that is often missing from these large churches is the Gospel. We have replaced it with social justice or some other form of behavioral modification
Labeling is a key component in the cancel culture mechanism. Anyone who questions the methodology or the goals is either identified as “religious,” “legalistic,” or some other pejorative label. Being thus labeled the one in disagreement can be effectively barred from the conversation. Yes, cancel culture is alive and well in the church.
The problem with this is that to take out all of the uncomfortable stuff leaves us with something that is not Christianity. Jesus himself said things like “deny yourself” and “take up your cross.” Jesus indicated that those who are true followers will have to face difficulties and perhaps even death.
Jesus doesn’t seem to have followed that methodology of never making his listeners uncomfortable. He often offended his hearers by an unequivocal portrayal of what it means to be a follower of God.
Christ’s preaching was hard-edged and demanded a response. The preaching in the wannabe megachurches is often soft as a tub of Play Doh and demands nothing more than 20 minutes of your time and perhaps a “like” or two on Facebook.
The writer of Proverbs tells us that “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17), but Play Doh doesn’t sharpen anything.
There is a part of me (and not the healthiest part) that wants a feel-good pep talk every Sunday. There is a part of me (still not the healthiest part) that wants to feel like I’m on the “right side of history” when it comes to social issues. But there is also a part of me (this is the healthy part) that knows that appealing to my pride is not going to get me on the right spiritual track. To feel good about being “woke” or on the “right side of history” does not draw me closer to God. In fact, by stimulating my pride it can actually draw me away from a deeper relationship with God.
As a result, I will ask the lead pastor of any church I am considering attending if he purposely seeks out those who are mature believers but might have a different view of things from his own. I am tired of churches were anyone who has a different option than the lead pastor is shunned or vilified.