“Cancel culture” is one of the buzzwords of the last few years. In my experience, it has generally been used by people concerned about people being removed as speakers or patrons of organisations (or not invited in the first place) because their views (often on sexuality and gender) go against the perceived attitudes of the prevailing culture.
This week I experienced cancel culture first hand for the first time. An organisation I am involved with had a booking cancelled by a venue for the explicit reason that our organisation does not agree with same sex marriage. The managers of the venue were correct in their understanding, but the reason they knew about it was not because the event we were planning had anything to do with that issue. They had to search our website and read our basis of faith to find that clause. I presume they heard it was a Christian organisation and, perhaps feeling strongly about the issue, they wanted to find out if we were 'that kind of Christian'. They did not seem to be aware that the UK Government’s comment on its legislation that introduced same sex marriage specifically points out that religious people are protected from discrimination on the grounds of holding the view that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. That applies not only to Christians, but to Muslims and Orthodox Jews (among others).
Even if we had no legal protection, it would still be shocking to think that a venue might exclude a group simply because it holds the view of marriage that is not criminal and has been held throughout almost all of human history and is still held by the vast majority of people (and the majority of the governments) in the world. The organisation involved was not campaigning on the issue and does not have any stated aim to advance the biblical perspective on marriage. We were cancelled simply because of our belief.
I wish I could say I was shocked by our experience of cancel culture. In reality, I was not even particularly surprised. I have been expecting to experience this kind of opposition for some time. We must pray for those in authority in these days. Our desire should not be to dominate society and dictate to people. It does not even need to be to reverse the current legal positon, though we may make a case for why that would be good. Rather, it should be for the biblical reasons the apostle Paul laid out in 1 Timothy 2:1-4:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
It is right that we pray for freedom for two things:
To share the gospel because God wants all people to be saved.
To live godly lives in dignity and peace.
Both are important. Our evangelism or proclamation of truth should not be undignified or unpeaceable. And our words about Christ must be matched with actions like Christ.
The problem with cancel culture is not merely that Christian speakers and authors may be prevented from speaking and writing God's truth. The greater problem is that it is a symptom of a cultural shift towards intolerance not merely of what people say but of what they believe. Freedom of speech is precious. So is freedom of conscience. Christians should pray and, where possible in peaceable ways, work for both.