I distinctly remember a birthday party in elementary school that I didn’t get invited to. I’m sure there were many I wasn’t invited to, this just happened to be one I knew about. It was one of the cool ones that involved a limo, in elementary school! And, we lived in the country. So, the limo was extra impressive. It was one of those moments in life where the event was special so the guest list was particularly slim. It was a small school, and I’m pretty sure my personality made me believe I was friends with everyone. At the time, some of my closest friends got to ride in the limo. My imagination and I went to, just not in reality.
That is a painful memory, and likely shaped some of my social habits. I didn’t like the way it felt to be excluded and so I have been sensitive to that feeling. Exclusion is a common feeling, most everyone has been excluded at some point, because the truth is that there are only so many seats at the table.
Cancel culture takes exclusion to the next level. It’s not new though. For thousands of years the mob mentality has been a working force in culture.
Jesus himself was subjected to disapproval via the “mob” time and time again. In the end, the mob would do the will of the Father, by taking the life of Jesus, through an act of cancel culture. Despite that, Jesus successfully navigated the pressures of the mob in ministry in a way that creates a framework for Christians, especially parents, to love well in the midst of a society that is quick to punish through exclusion.
The trouble with cancel culture is that it is not so much about space but more about actual rejection. It is not the idea that, if more seats existed, you’d be invited, it’s the idea that your offense is so great or you yourself are actually deplorable enough that you simply aren’t welcome.
Kids need community. A sense of belonging is essential to thrive. As parents, we are in a unique position to model acceptance and inclusion for our kids. It begins at home with our own behavior.
Practical Steps to Combat Cancel Culture
Recognize judgement and teach self-reflection.
We must be in tune with our own judgements and the language we use to communicate our prejudice. Typically, when someone does something “wrong” whether it’s someone we know or a public figure, it creates space for criticism. Discernment and constructive criticism are critical in teaching our kids right from wrong, and very different from judgement that decides someone’s eternal fate. What must be included in the conversation is how capable we all are of making mistakes and the place that humility, sin, and sanctification has in our lives. In the end, we want to teach our kids to be mindful of and responsible for their own behaviors and attitudes.
“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5).”
Everyone Deserves a space at the table
This concept is tough. Again, it is more appropriate for parents. Kids are not in a position to be “missionaries” to their friends in the ways that adults can. Peer pressure is complicated. Parenting is so much about teaching kids about survival. Much of what we are hoping to accomplish is basic personal safety.
However, everyone deserves a seat at the table. That doesn’t mean everyone deserves to be trusted. That doesn’t mean everyone gets to be our kids’ best friend. It just means that we teach our kids what it looks like to hold a meaningful, loving conversation with someone that we don’t agree with. It looks like pulling up a chair for anyone at the table and not talking badly about them when they leave.
“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners.” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:16-17).”
Spend time with Different types of people
Red, yellow, black, white, atheist, convicted, athletic, outcast, successful, unemployed, the world is full of colorful people. You’ve heard it said, “variety is the spice of life!” Kids need to see respect and value demonstrated through the actions of adults. When possible, our home should be a place of inclusion. We are able to set our tables and bring the guests in. The ministry of hospitality is the perfect opportunity to teach our kids how to include others in our lives.
Often, the church will organize unique mission opportunities for young people. These mission trips are other valuable places where young people are exposed to at risk populations. Gearing up and going out with your children on these excursions is the perfect way to spend quality time with our kids and demonstrate our commitment to inclusion.
“When you have a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed…( John 14:6).”
Cultivate Hearts on Mission
The key to combating cancel culture is to nurture our children in a way that teaches them to value people the way that the Lord himself does. Regardless of our offenses, God is ready to receive us at any time. God declares that Jesus came for us all, in our sin. The situation is complex, in the final judgement God will reject people in sin, but as the scripture teaches us, that position of eternal judgement is unique to the Father (James 4:12). Our role, particularly as parents, is different than the role of the Father and even the role of the church. One of our unique roles is to disciple our children to long to be leaders in their social communities who are sensitive to the value, impact and ministry of acceptance and inclusion. One inviting seat at the table with our kid could lead someone to his seat at the heavenly banquet table for eternity!
“I say to you, that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 8:11).”