“What’s this ‘cancel culture’ thing all about?”
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)
In the past few months, the headlines of various media have told the story of certain ideas, corporations, and people being “cancelled”. This development is called “cancel culture” – a term for being “dissed” or publicly shamed for the express purpose of marginalizing and silencing.
“Within the turbulent past several years, the idea that a person can be ‘cancelled’ — in other words, culturally blocked from having a prominent public platform or career — has become a polarizing topic of debate. The rise of ‘cancel culture’ and the idea of canceling someone coincides with a familiar pattern: A celebrity or other public figure does or says something offensive. A public backlash, often fueled by politically progressive social media, ensues. Then come the calls to cancel the person — that is, to effectively end their career or revoke their cultural cachet, whether through boycotts of their work or disciplinary action from an employer.” (“Why we can’t stop fighting about cancel culture”, www.vox.com)
Often a mere statement or opinion is enough to evoke this negative knee-jerk reaction. There is no consideration for context or character. Recently, on “Read Across America Day”, which has coincided with Dr. Seuss’ birthday in recent years, it was announced that the owner of the Dr. Seuss empire, has decided to no longer publish six titles, regardless of their popularity. “Dr. Seuss books have been an iconic staple in children’s literature, but a national educators organization is determined in ‘cancelling’ the author in the name of change.” (“Six Dr. Seuss Titles ‘Cancelled’ For Racial Undertones”, rare.us)
“Former US President Donald Trump also criticized cancel culture in a speech in July 2020, comparing it to totalitarianism and claiming that it is a political weapon used to punish and shame dissenters by driving them from their jobs and demanding submission.” (Wikipedia.com)
For years, Americans were intellectually robust enough to determine the value of statements and the actions of individuals and companies. Now the mass media greatly influences the populace with this new rhetoric: cancel culture. It is important to note that there is never a debate or opportunity for rebuttal. The effect is immediate and long-lasting, with many suffering the consequences and left wondering what happened. With quick Tweets, various people and companies are “cancelled”, such as Donald Trump, Jimmy Fallon, J. K. Rowling, Ellen DeGeneres, Governor Kristi Noem (of South Dakota), and Mike Lindell (of My Pillow fame)… and then there’s Mr. Potato Head:
“Following the controversy over dropping the ‘Mister’ in Mr. Potato Head and making only a gender-neutral spud, Hasbro Company stated they are keeping Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head but will be adding a ‘Create your own Potato Head Family.’ One report specified that the ‘line will be launched in the fall, and celebrates the many faces of families – allowing kids to imagine and create their own Potato Head family from 2 large potato bodies, 1 small Potato Baby, and 42 accessories.’” (www.christianpost.com/voices/the-truth-behind-cancel-cultures-view-of-truth.html)
Perhaps this is what happened to Jesus back in his day… he was effectively “cancelled” by those in his culture.
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
These are interesting times. It is perilous for teens to navigate the maze of media messages without guidance. Those who have opportunities to interact with teens can make all the difference. Here are some “discussion starters” to help parents, grandparents, youth pastors, teachers, counselors, and other involved adults start conversations about today’s cultural chaos.
• Have you heard of people or ideas being “cancelled” recently? Who or what comes to mind?
• Although the term, “cancel culture”, is new, there have been many figures in history who have been victims of this phenomenon. Who can you think of who suffered from being “cancelled” in their day?
• The Bible is filled with characters who were essentially “cancelled” by the masses. Which one is a good example of this public process?
• What would be a Christian response to hearing that something or someone has been “cancelled”?
• What current idea or political ideology do you think should be “cancelled” and why?
• Do you think this “cancel culture” is a negative and dangerous trend? Why or why not?
• When “cancel culture” conversation happens in your school or among your friends, do you participate? Why or why not?
• Consider this scripture: “If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.” (John 15:18-19, The Message) How do Jesus’ words fit with this new “cancel culture” trend?
Note: Share this blog with your church’s youth pastor as a possible lesson for youth group gatherings.
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Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
#MediaSavvyKids, #ChristianParenting, #ChurchAndCulture, #YouthPastors, #YouthGroupCurriculum, #HelpForChristianParents, #TeensAndCulture, #CancelCulture, #ChristianPerspectiveOnCancelCulture, #CancelDrSeuss?
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