Cancel culture begins in a misunderstanding of the human person; it forgets our fallenness and our complex moral struggle against our own passions or flesh. Cancel culture ends in a dangerous disregard of our personal need for grace.
The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.—Alexander Solzhenitsyn
People are broken and people are beautiful. A vision of the moral complexity of the human person is among the earliest and most consistently held truths of philosophy and religion. We have understood for thousands of years that we are both spirit and flesh, reason and passion. We have understood that we are mired in sin. We have known guilt and we have sought grace. In the book of Romans, Paul wrote: “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand” (7:21) and I believe in moments of honesty we all hear those words reverberate in our hearts.
Cancel culture is predicated upon a forgetfulness of these primary facts of human existence. In mere indignation and groundless moral superiority it forgets wisdom; like those ready to stone the woman caught in adultery (John 8). Cancel culture could only exist in a reductionist age, an age that sees in black and white and has forgotten that the colour of all human life is moral struggle.
Cancel culture is symptomatic of an age desiring justice, wrestling with the brokenness of the world, without the resources of wisdom which would mark out a more prudent, more honest, more grateful, and more gracious way forward.
If we are to combat the illiberality of cancel culture we ought to start by restoring to public consciousness three ancient words of wisdom — two religious and one philosophical. A consciousness of the fall, the flesh, and the passions would offer our culture a healing balm and a juster path.