Over the past several weeks, a new phrase has entered the language of our society. The phrase is “cancel culture” – and it is used by those folks who are angry that some elements of what had been defined as our “popular culture” are being removed since their names/faces/images represent values that are no longer appreciated. The phrase is used often to talk about things like the removal of Confederate statues in public places or the removal of names that are considered by many to be culturally insensitive (i.e. the use of “Redskins” as the name of the NFL based in Washington, DC).
I will be the first to admit that the use of the phrase can frustrate me. That’s because the phrase is often used by people who had access to power and privilege that others didn’t: people who resent having to share their power and privilege with others. As much as the phrase can frustrate me, though, I am trying to think about what the phrase can teach me.
So what does the phrase “cancel culture” teach me?
It reminds me that when it comes to living into this thing called “change”, it takes time. For some, it takes years to live into change; for others, only seconds. And therein lies the challenge of living into change as a community.
Perhaps no group of people on the face of the planet understand this more than pastors. That’s because whenever we change virtually any aspect of the life of the church, there is always a period of angst that follows. Some folks immediately love the change because it’s new and different; other people immediately despise the change because – well – it’s new and different.
It doesn’t matter if we change an element of the Sunday service (i.e. moving the special music after the sermon instead of before it); if we move the time of a church event like a committee meeting to a different time (i.e. from 6:45 pm to 7:00 pm); or if we introduce a new worship song into the life of the community (i.e. replace a familiar musical call to prayer with a new call to prayer). There are some people whose first reaction to change will be to fight it.
And while this has been true for all time, the resistance to change is especially strong these days because it seems as if EVERYTHING in the world is changing all at once.
So how can we all negotiate change in our individual and collective lives in a helpful way – particularly for those of us who naturally LOVE change and get annoyed when anyone resists change of ANY type?
I think this is where the notion of relationships comes into play once again. (For those of you who know me well, “building relationship with those who see things differently” is my answer to virtually every question. 😊
When we find ourselves in the process of change, I recommend that we intentionally seek out those who are struggling with change and we make time to listen to them so they can process their frustration and fear that goes along with the changes that they understand as being “forced” upon them.
Of course, I realize not everyone is capable of entering into relationship with those who are resistant to change. Some people have VERY strong personalities and get triggered whenever another person disagrees with them and immediately resort to name-calling or some other form of attack. If you are one of these persons, then please ignore my advice and stop reading immediately. Seeking out those who see things different would NOT be helpful for you.
If you are someone who can put aside your perspective or agenda for a moment and listen with genuine love and concern for the person with whom you are in dialogue, then please – by all means – do so. The moments you take to listen, empathize with “the other” people’s feelings (which should NOT be confused with endorsing their opinions), and build relationship will be moments that are invaluable in us moving forward TOGETHER. If we embrace a culture of relationship-building, empathy, and trust – we can move closer toward living into a world where fewer and fewer people of all experiences and perspectives feel “canceled”.
 Please note that listening with genuine love and concern should NOT necessarily be confused with being phony or enabling another.