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Cancel Culture and the Bible

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. — Romans 12:2


A recent article by Mary Yeo-Carpenter in the Feb/Mar 2022 issue of Impact Magazine has this interesting introduction: “When I was seven, a schoolmate came up to me and said, “I don’t want to friend you anymore.” If she had been in my circle of good friends and the others had come out in support of her, it would have been a rather impactful experience. In today’s parlance, I would have been ‘cancelled’. In a seven-year-old way, but cancelled nevertheless – isolated and alone. Made to feel like I must have done something wrong. That it was something about me.”

She added, “That incident stuck with me because even as a seven-year- old I found it odd. It was not as if we played together during the school recess. Or we ate together. So, I simply replied, ‘Okay,’ and went with my rather mundane life. A few days later, she came to me again and said in Singlish, “I friend you again.” And once more, I said, ‘Okay’.”

What is Cancel Culture?

Simply put, cancel culture is the boycotting, silencing or shaming of someone or something with the threat of financial, reputational or popularity loss. Another writer elaborates: “Cancel culture is the practice of engaging in mass withdrawal of support for someone as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure. It is linked to ‘call-out culture’, which involves public criticism or shaming of someone for something they said or did.”

Cancel culture became prominent after the emergence of social media in the mid-2000s, which gave those without a public voice the ability to share their thoughts and ideas with anyone across the world. In the last few years, social media has increasingly been manipulated by some netizens to shame those who have fallen short of social-ethical behaviours, adopt an extreme position (either too conservative or liberal), or who simply go against public opinion. In short, this culture has evolved into a form of cyberbullying.

This social phenomenon was seen in the Feb 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing where the US-born figure skater Zhu Yi came under severe criticism from Chinese fans on social media after a fall in her debut for Team China. The 19-year-old Californian skater fell flat on the ice during her routine on Sunday (6 Feb), finishing last in the Beijing 2022 women’s short programme team event and dragging Team China down from third to fifth in the team standing. The hashtag “Zhu Yi has fallen” quickly became a top trending topic on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform, gaining 200 million views in just a few hours, before it was later seemingly censored. “Shame on Zhu Yi,” one netizen wrote on Weibo after her routine on that fateful Sunday. “Zhu Yi, how ridiculous your performance is!” another netizen commented. “How dare you skate for China? You cannot even hold a candle to an amateur!”

It was interesting to note that Zhu’s selection for the Games had already been a controversial topic before her debut, after she was picked at the expense of a China-born athlete.

Biblical Perspective

In Romans 12:2, God’s Word instructs us not to be conformed to worldly values and thinking, but to be transformed by the renewal of our mind, that by testing, we may discern God’s will for our lives. This is in line with the upside-down approach of Christ’s teaching in the Gospel of Luke, where the majority view of the world runs counter to God’s kingdom perspective. While most of us may not be victims of cancel culture, we are reminded by God’s Word against using foul or abusive language.

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them — Eph 4:29

We are called to defend the gospel's truth when it is attacked by the world. To this end, we are thankful for Christian leaders from mainstream denominations who have responded in grace and truth and countered these worldly views. As God’s redeemed people, may the fragrance of Christ’s love and grace be seen in our daily witness to those around us. Amen.

— Eld Elgin Chan

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