Growth Culture

written on 22 March 2021 by Indy Hollway & Erin Iwata

Art by Hadeel McCall

Indy: What is cancel culture? Like, how would you define it?

Erin: Cancel culture is when we completely stop supporting someone who has said or done something that is offensive or wrong, usually on social media.

Indy: Right, and what does that look like?

Erin: Well, boycotting brands or refusing to interact with a person’s art, unfollowing people, blocking them even. Maybe speaking out about why the person should be cancelled. It started as a way of holding people accountable during the #metoo movement, but it has moved to a way of silencing people that we disagree with.

Indy: It seems like something that has the potential to be great, which ended up being abused. Like, on a personal level I think it’s good practice to remove toxic people from your life, especially as we were originally talking about serious offences here. On top of that, I think boycotting brands and artists who say and do terrible things is also a good thing.

Erin: Agreed. The problem is when canceling becomes a way of vilifying people we disagree with or claiming that people are unredeemable. I mean, I can’t claim to have a squeaky clean conscience; I’ve definitely said and done things I regret and would now call out in others, that’s growth.

Indy: Oh definitely. Even now I have to continuously check my biases and privileges.

Erin: Right, and what would it do to you if you were cancelled whilst on a journey of growth?

Indy: It would stifle me.

Erin: Exactly.

Indy: Okay. So we have to create a culture that allows people to make mistakes and learn from these mistakes, whilst also protecting people from these mistakes?

Erin: Yup, easy as that!

Indy: Hahaha that doesn’t sound easy to me…!

Erin: Well ok, think of it this way. Everyone has biases and beliefs that they’ve held their whole lives for whatever reason. These biases and beliefs cause us to behave in certain ways, that is the human condition.

Indy: Sure.

Erin: When we become aware that some of our biases or beliefs are wrong or harmful, because of something that happens in the media, or a gentle nudge from a friend, or regrettably an interview with a journalist that is then broadcast around the world, we can then make a decision to stay stuck in these biases, or to learn, change, and grow.

Indy: That makes sense. This is something we’ve seen here at Our Church Too: people reading our articles and identifying biases they’d been holding onto.

Erin: Exactly! Instead of saying ‘no you are unredeemable, it’s too late for you’, we are saying ‘welcome, it’s time to learn’.

Indy: So instead of cancel culture, we have growth culture.

Erin: I like that.

Indy: But isn’t that really painful for the people who have been subjected to the negative effects of these biases and behaviours?

Erin: Yes. I think it is hard work for everyone involved to engage with growth culture. I don’t think that means the victim, or survivor, should be responsible for the offender’s growth, but there needs to be some space for them to grow if they are willing to. Otherwise, how do we get better? This is a much wider issue than cancel culture.

Indy: What do you mean?

Erin: Well we can go into this in-depth another time perhaps, but Jesus invites all of us to follow God, and enjoy the New Life that brings. That includes people who have made terrible mistakes, which can, and often does, feel unjust to survivors and their families.

Indy: Right, and we are called to trust that God’s justice will play out because this is one of God’s promises to us.

Erin: This is one of the great pains of humanity: redemption is a freely given gift, and God will just as likely save our enemies as save our friends. We have to trust that God’s justice is greater than our understanding, and do our best to become more and more like Jesus, who had no biases and loved all people equally.

Indy: I can see this goes far beyond the debate about cancelling people like Dr. Seuss. The heart isn't to cancel the man himself per se, but to cancel the thing he perpetuated, namely racist imagery. His organization deciding to no longer publish books with harmful racial images demonstrates growth culture, not cancel culture.

Erin: Exactly. They looked back and recognized something they did that was harmful and decided to change. That is growth culture. And us learning how to forgive someone who has harmed us is also part of our personal growth. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, it means being willing to grow past the point of anger. Growing doesn’t mean subjecting yourself to that person’s abuse again or cancelling them forever. It’s way more nuanced than that.

Indy: Maybe it is holding hope for growth, even for those who have harmed us or others, while holding boundaries that keep us and others safe from harm.

Erin: What a delicate balance! We cannot do this alone, we need each other, to advocate for one another, and we need God’s wisdom in our lives to even imagine walking this way.