Wholly Living

Dirt Clod Culture

"Before we are quick to jump on the bandwagon of cancel culture, let’s look deep into our soul." by Lt. Colonel Tim Foley

The invention of “cancel culture” has taken flight recently through social media platforms. There has been a dramatic rise in the public shunning and shaming of individuals, institutions and corporations for past faults and sins they have committed.

Outcasts Targeted

No one is immune. Skeletons hidden away in closets are being exposed for all to see. No grace. No kindness. No mercy.

According to dictionary.com, “Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.” In its purest form, it can be seen as an attempt to isolate or shun an individual into the outskirts of a society by destroying their reputation and nullifying their economic gains. 

The scriptures remind us constantly that there is truly nothing new under the sun. Cancel culture has long been with us, albeit under different terminology. It’s called rushing to judgement. The roots lie in the human condition of longing to be both judge and jury when it comes to the questionable actions of others. 

In Jesus’ day, lepers were considered outcasts and required to stay out of cities. People known for breaking laws were banned and cut off from contact. In some instances, lives were immediately ended and destroyed by public stoning.

In the New Testament, the story of the adulterous woman comes to mind when the term “cancel” is bantered about. Jesus had a unique way of dealing with the mob who stood in a strong stand of defiance, dirt clods in hand to chuck at the accused. We find the compelling story in John 8:1-11: 

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

There are several sides to this story to take into consideration of who exactly needs to be “canceled.” The Pharisees were at fault as they brazenly showed disregard to their own laws by arresting the woman without the man present. According to Levitical law, both parties involved in adulterous activity were to be stoned to death. The woman was used as a ploy in a not-so-subtle attempt to trap Jesus. They wanted to force Jesus into a corner by getting Him to admit she should not be stoned to death. They could have then accused Him of ignoring the law of Moses. If He had told the crowd to go ahead and kill her, they would have immediately turned around and reported Him to the Roman authorities, as the Jews were not to act as executioners. 

The woman certainly was at fault and made no attempt to cover up her shortcomings. One could imagine a million things running through her mind when surrounded by a bloodthirsty group ready to bring her life to an end. For sure she would have thought she was taking her last breaths, her heart beating rapidly as tears flowed down her face.

Then the words sounded forth as Jesus stood up and looked around, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Jesus moved back down into a stooped position and continued to doodle in the dust with His fingers.

The deafening silence of that moment was only broken by the sound of rocks being dropped to the ground as, one by one, the self-righteous crowd slowly exited that space. Instead of taking what would have been a prime moment to lecture and demean a woman who was humiliated and demoralized by her actions, Jesus simply stood up again and looked around. He asked, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 

Jesus knew the answer already, but simply confirmed to her His forgiveness and grace with the simple assurance, “Neither do I,” followed by encouraging advice and hope, “Go and sin no more.”

A Current Fixation 

We live an era where no longer is it in the natural individual psyche to immediately err on the side of generosity and grace. Our culture is fixated on bringing down the successful and smearing the fallen to appease our appetite for destruction. Where an opportunity exists to lunge, we leap in full force.

Granted, there are moments when it’s time to “judge a righteous judgement.” We are not to just toss our critical thinking skills out the window. There are people who do shameful things and intentionally aim to hurt others. There are crooked corporate kings who profit off the backs of underage laborers toiling under harsh working conditions. There are politicians who personally suffer from public doublespeak while taking bribes under the table. Certainly, there is a time and place to call those activities into judgment. 

Sometimes our rush is way too quick to cancel someone altogether. Jesus’ words remind us to slow down in our attempts to bash another with our judgements. Consider for a moment what it’s like to walk in the steps of that other person. Again, the words of Jesus can come back to haunt us. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” (Matthew 7:3).

Let’s be intentional about living a self-examined life. Before we are quick to jump on the bandwagon of cancel culture, with dirt clods ready to throw from our own hands, let’s look deep into our soul. Holding up and pausing for a moment might be wise. It also might be a good thing to remind ourselves that God is okay with taking care of the judging portion that needs to be done in the lives of others. He just needs us to be the hands and feet that continue to extend kindness to the world each day.

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