Cancel Culture

Cancel culture is a modern phenomenon in which those who are deemed to have acted or spoken inappropriately are ostracised by wider society. It may surprise some Christians to learn that a form of ostracization among Christians is also taught in the Bible: “But if any one obey not our word by the letter, mark that man, and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed of himself; and do not esteem him as an enemy, but admonish [him] as a brother” (2 Thess. 3: 14, 15, my emphasis). Of course, Scriptures like this are open to abuse and it is important to put the passage in its context. It clearly relates back to what the apostle had just been dealing with: “Now we enjoin you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the instruction which he received from us. For ye know yourselves how ye ought to imitate us, because we have not walked disorderly among you; nor have we eaten bread from any one without cost; but in toil and hardship working night and day not to be chargeable to any one of you: not that we have not the right, but that we might give ourselves as an example to you, in order to your imitating us. For also when we were with you we enjoined you this, that if any man does not like to work, neither let him eat. For we hear that [there are] some walking among you disorderly, not working at all, but busybodies. Now such we enjoin and exhort in [the] Lord Jesus Christ, that working quietly they eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, do not faint in well-doing” (vs. 6-13). Clearly the disorderly behaviour that merited ostracization was an unwillingness to work, and the apostle makes a clear contrast between those who were active in well-doing, and those who were busybodies.

   The ostracization of believers who do not conform to our views and opinions is not contemplated by this Scripture, and, indeed, is quite a repulsive idea.  When the apostle says “if any one obey not our word by the letter” (2 Thess. 3: 14), then he is clearly talking about the disobedience of apostolic teaching (see 1 Thess. 4: 11) and not some opinion that Christians might differ over. It is utterly wrong to shun brethren in Christ simply because they do not see things as I do. That kind of sectarian spirit is reprehensible and ought to have no place among Christians.