what’s wrong with cancel culture?

One of the cultural ideologies that’s received ample contemporary airtime is this idea of “cancel culture.” As quoted here in early June, “Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.”

To be “cancelled” means to no longer pay attention to — and — via the group shaming response — to also declare that the person in question no longer deserves anyone else’s attention either.


In other words, something a person has said or done — maybe only one thing a person has said or done — means they no longer deserve to be heard from again. They no longer are allowed nor believed capable of a positive contribution to society.

Cancel culture, therefore, is not about what’s good and true and right.

Cancel culture is about control.

Note that both the current and most recent President actually agree on the ideology’s lack of virtue. Said Pres. Trump, “We want free and open debate, not speech codes and cancel culture. We embrace tolerance, not prejudice.” 

Said Pres. Obama, “That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”

And even though the instances of desired application have seemingly gotten louder and the public and public officials’ acceptance seems lesser, it got me wondering what’s actually wrong with the whole idea… why it bothers me…

What’s wrong with cancel culture? …What’s wrong with ridding the world of the influence of someone who fails to conform to what I believe is right?

One, it misses the profound beauty of redemption.

No doubt we’ve each seen a lot of beautiful things in our lives… the birth of a child… the majesty of the mountains… the hawk that soars so high in the sky.

But for me there may be nothing more beautiful than the one who is redeemed — for whatever the reason. Maybe it’s a series of habitual errors or a life of dysfunction or some awful, despicable act, but at some point the person is broken enough to see the error of their ways, acknowledge their wrongdoing, and to make amends. They adopt a posture of humility and become generous in their forgiveness — in both the asking and extending. They become great givers of grace, sincerely and profoundly recognizing they may be the one who needs it most.

Because cancel culture is marked by a one-and-done mentality, it misses the profound beauty of redemption — not to mention its accompanying humility, forgiveness, and grace. 

And two, it assumes “I” am as smart as “I” ever need to be.

Follow me on this one…

I heard someone say recently, “I reserve the right to get smarter,” and I thought, “What a wise thing to say.” In other words, I hope I know more tomorrow than I know today… and I hope I will always be willing and wanting to say that.

When we judge another by their belief or behavior for failing to conform to what we believe is right — and let’s be clear, cancelling is an act of judgment — do we not realize that at some point we might be the one who errs? Do we not realize that what we believe to be right today, may not be right with someone else tomorrow?

I think of phrases that were at one time socially acceptable but today are not. Those persons did not know then what we know now. Hopefully, they’ve gotten smarter and changed their behavior. But what if they haven’t? And what if someday — God forbid — that person is “me”?

Because cancel culture believes in ridding the world of the influence of someone who fails to conform to “me,” it assumes there are people who are as smart as they ever need to be.

I will always be more attracted to the redeemed than to the one who thinks they know all they need to know. The un-cancelled, humble one — the one once broken and now generous in virtue — now that person, they have a story to share.