What cancel culture gets wrong about justice.

Before I start this one, let me make something exceptionally clear. There are a full range of reasons celebrities have been cancelled over the past few years, each with varying public reaction. This post is about the vast majority of cases, not the extreme outliers.

To put it bluntly—I am not addressing the Epstein’s and the Nassar’s of the world in this space. Much the opposite. I despise their evil deeds and the fact that our system allowed men like them to flourish. It must be stopped at all costs. That’s a conversation for a different day.

Even if you haven’t heard the phrase, you definitely know the Cancel Culture cycle.

  1. Somebody’s problems are exposed to the world. 
  2. The tweet storm begins.
  3. Their career crashes and burns. 
  4. The apology comes out. 
  5. We never hear from them again. 

I get what cancel culture is trying to do. 

In its purest form, the cancel movement is truly fighting the deep injustices in our society, turning the tide on a culture that has divorced morals from talent for too long. 

And that’s great.

We should care about the systemic injustices that have plagued our society for generations. We should fight against racism and sexism and unchecked manipulation that persists behind the curtain. We should question our idolization of public figures who leave a wake of destruction behind them with real victims and hurt. 

But the Cancel Mob—thirsty for blood—finds its fatal flaw in ruthlessly attacking public figures until they’ve degraded them well beyond the realm of humanity. Condemning the crime and supporting victims is one thing, stabbing the criminal in the face with a long grated knife is another.  

Yet that’s exactly what happens. 

And everybody holds close Cancel Culture’s #1 Golden Rule—no amount of apology or retributive justice is enough. The fallen man is a dog and must suffer as one. We must destroy their reputation, their chance at success, and any dignity they have left.

It’s exhausting. 

We’ve got to reclaim the belief that you can be against somebody’s evil actions without also hating them as a person. Hatred breeds more hatred every time. It’s a poison to our souls and the culture at large. In the same way that we cannot stand for injustice, we also cannot stand for pure hatred of unjust people.

Especially for those of us following Jesus, there is no place for this. There is no celebration in Heaven when it comes to sin. Yet God’s people go as wild as anybody when given a chance to attack a fallen hero—like we’re crazed villagers in an old town hanging the witch. 

Instead, God commands us to care for the widows and orphans while also commanding us to love our enemies. 

Don’t miss that.

You can do both at the same time. 

Jesus wants you to fight for the oppressed.

He 100% despises evil.

But he also commands you to love and pray for the oppressors. 

To act with justice and compassion towards everybody, victims and villains alike.

It’s the story of David—the man who slept with his friend Uriah’s wife and then had the guy killed to cover it up. God dealt harshly with David, as he should have, but he never abandoned him. God could have opened a trap door below David’s throne and dropped him straight to Hell if he felt like it. He didn’t because he still loved his child deeply, and no amount of sin could stop it.

It’s the story of the adulterous woman—who had surely destroyed multiple marriages with her evil ways and was brought before Jesus by a crowd of religious elites ready to kill her for it. Jesus sees the gross perversion of justice happening and chastises everybody involved. 

To the crowd, the challenge to look at their own sins before condemning others. 

To the woman, “go and sin no more.” 

In both situations, God’s definition of justice has nothing to do with hatred. It has everything to do with restoration of the fallen world to the perfect one he created. 

The triumph of good over evil. 

Like the crowd ready to murder the adulterous woman, I think it’s time for us all to take a timeout. We must stop for a second and examine our own lives. When we do, we’ll find the same capacity for evil in our souls.

And I think that’s the real reason we enjoy tearing others down so much. 

We really mock others for their sins because it distracts us from thinking about our own. 

“Did you see that stupid speck in his eye?” The proud accuser asks. 

If we would stop, examine our lives, and cultivate compassion for others, we’ll find that we can fight the causes of justice and embrace compassion for villains in the same movement. But it’ll take a pause. A redirection. 

It’s time to recapture the lost disciplines of reflection and confession, digging deep into our own issues and sincerely apologizing for them. When we feel that deep weight of our hopelessness and experience the joy of forgiveness from God, we’ll see things in a different light.  

We’ll become a gentler people. Slower to speak. Slower to get angry. 

We’ll learn that real justice doesn’t exist without compassion, and compassion is the exact thing missing in cancel culture.

May we be bold enough to stand for a compassionate justice.

The kind of justice Jesus died for.

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