McCarthyism is back…with a vengeance. And this time around, Hollywood is as silent as movies before talkies. In fact, liberal Hollywood is complicit in the very same smears and recriminations that tyrannized the industry in the fear-fueled, Cold-War, anti-communist 1950’s. Today, we call such blacklisting the “cancel culture,” dressed up all nice and respectable.
Guilt by association — a prominent feature of McCarthyism — is all it takes for someone to lose a job or be refused a job. Did you work in the Trump administration? Canceled! Or maybe it’s speaking out against all the LGBT and transgender madness; or daring to challenge the cancel culture itself. Canceled! If found guilty of such grievous sins, in Trumpian terms “You’re fired!” Or unceremoniously silenced, as in denied a platform to tweet, use Facebook, be published, or speak on university campuses. None so illiberal as liberals!
From Senator McCarthy’s witch-hunt purges to today’s woke witch hunts (they are nothing less!), it’s an all-out assault on free speech, freedom of association, even freedom of thought. Alarm bells ought to be going off, whether politically Right, Left, or Center! Like COVID, the “cancel virus” is catching, as witness members of the GOP recently attempting to “cancel” some of its most visible members for taking principled, anti-Trump stands. Uncage this vicious “cancel beast,” and no one is safe.
History itself is blithely being canceled. Anything linked with slavery, of course, risks cancellation, whether it be renaming schools and military bases, or pulling down monuments. How better to control the future than controlling the past? Let no one be fooled. The cancel culture is not social justice, but generational arrogance at its hypocritical worst. Are we morally superior to our fallible forebears with their moral blind spots? Is a past generation’s slavery the unforgivable sin, while this generation’s glaringly-immoral depravity gets a bye?
Then there’s that other cancel culture — the one calling for canceling all student loans. Oh, great. Not only did I have to pay off my considerable student loans, but now I’ll have to pony up for the collective debts of a snowflake generation!
Am I riled by today’s witless cancel culture? Absolutely! But, there’s an ironic twist in the tale — being God’s own devastating “cancel culture,” notoriously canceling ungodly nations, and eternally canceling the wicked at Judgment.
On the flip side, amazingly, is God’s merciful cancellation of my incalculable spiritual debt, and my shameful history of enslavement to sin. “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14). For those who have accepted Christ in faith, and identified with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection in the act of baptism, McCarthy-like “guilt by association” has been transformed into Christ-like “innocence by association.” In Christ, praise God, guilt is canceled, the debt of sin is forgiven, and the past is forgotten. Completely!
Does this redeem today’s sanctimonious cancel culture? Hardly. In a lead-up to the passage above, Paul cautions: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Based as it is on vacuous worldly notions, today’s cancel culture is hollow and deceptive.
The question is, might a woefully-misguided cancel culture ironically give us a greater appreciation for the divine grace that cancels sins we don’t deserve to have canceled?
F. LaGard Smith is a retired law school professor (Pepperdine, Liberty, and Faulkner law schools), and is the author of some 35 books, touching on law, faith, and social issues. He is the compiler and narrator of The Daily Bible (the NIV and NLT arranged in chronological order), and posts weekly devotionals on Facebook, drawing spiritual applications from current events.