An acquaintance recently texted me, “#CancelChristianity is trending on Twitter.” Wait, what? I thought. Who would start a trend to cancel a whole religion? Online cancel culture aims to “cancel” or discontinue support for people or things regarded as offensive and/or problematic. When activists are upset by the way a community or organization operates, they seek to remove attention from it and shut it down. #CancelChristianity stems from exasperated Twitter users angered at the ways they perceive Christianity as having led the world astray. They want the religion to end.
But as I read the many comments of those who thought it was time to stand up and cancel Christianity, I discerned a pattern among those who embraced the hashtag: misplaced hope. Growing up in church, I always heard that I should have hope, but no one really elaborated on what hope was or how to move in it. I know that Jesus is my hope, but how do I demonstrate it daily, especially within cancel culture?
Focus on the End
Facing a global pandemic and heightened racial climate, many people are in despair. Most countries are unstable due to economic decline. People are out of work, divorce is spiking, Covid-19-related deaths are spiraling out of control . . . the list goes on and on. Individuals are realizing that relationships, careers, and politicians are failing them along with the misguided witness of so many public Christians today. But the world’s abandonment of Christianity is misdirected because it hasn’t fully grasped the faith is comprised of imperfect believers who believe in a perfect God. It is a misallocation that places its hope in fallen human beings here on earth. Therefore, it’s critical for Christians to prioritize their hope in Christ due to the misplaced hope of #CancelChristianity.
I, too, share in the anger aimed at believers on occasion. As a Christian African American woman living in the United States of America, I am well-versed in pain experienced through broken relationships in the church, a lack of attention from white evangelicals to the injustices Black and brown believers endure, and shattered promises from various Christians. Nonetheless, I have learned that my contentment and hope doesn’t come from any of the aforementioned; it comes from placing my strength in Christ.
Social media isn’t cancelling Christianity; it’s cancelling a misunderstanding of who Christians really are—real human beings with shortcomings who, in most cases, are striving to follow Christ. We are broken and sinful just like unbelievers, but we have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
Cancel culture is blinded by its misplaced hope because true hope is eschatological. The New Testament tells us to focus our hope on the second coming of Christ. Similarly, the apostle Paul writes in Romans 8 that believers are saved in hope and we, in turn, should live in an eager hope of the glory that is to be revealed to us. This earnest expectation in 8:19 literally means, “to watch with an outstretched neck.” Our salvific hope is to be an outstretched neck in anticipation of our Lord Jesus Christ who will deliver us from the sin, bondage, and corruption of this world.
Until then, Christians should get all God has for us here on earth and count it a privilege to believe and suffer for his sake. We ought to aim daily for living in expectancy of the Lord’s ongoing transformation in and through us, all the while maintaining our primary hope in Christ’s return. Doing so will keep us from reacting to trials and disappointments like the world—lashing out, cancelling, hoarding, and so on. As God informs us of our glorious future, it will transform our minds toward our present circumstances.
Hope in Action
Hope is a constant expectation of an unseen reality. For Christians, that reality is the return of Christ in all of his glory. Believers need to value this eschatological hope because we live in a world that proclaims all kinds of false hopes. Whether it comes in the form of romantic relationships, personal fame, or political promises, Christ followers are called to counter these false sources of hope with the gospel. So, how do we live out this salvific hope practically as believers?
We can start by examining ourselves and asking the Lord to show us where we are putting our hope in something other than him—and then repenting of those idols when he does. Evangelistically, we must declare to those around us that hope in Christ is both concrete and eternal. We have to model an enduring faith for the world to see. Christians who consistently pledge themselves to false sources of hope disobey God and fail to display a positive witness of authentic faith.
The world is watching and waiting for Christians to fail, but the Lord will never fail. When #CancelChristianity discovers another Christian making mistakes, we have an opportunity to educate in both word and deed what it looks like to provide grace and mercy, to humbly accept how God may be dealing with fellow believers.
#CancelChristianity will one day fade, but opposition to the faith is not going anywhere. It will take on a new form or hashtag just as Jesus promised in John 15:18–25. Those who embrace #CancelChristianity come in many forms, but they will never cancel the promises of the Lord. And it is both our duty and our privilege to share that great hope.