I find it interesting that people who are often shouting about freedom of speech are so upset when the owners of a work decide to stop publishing it, as if somehow their right to buy a new copy of a Dr. Seuss book outweighs the owner’s right to choose what to do with their property. There is a general hue and cry about “Cancel Culture,” thinking that somehow we are losing out if we demand that people with public platforms be sensitive to others who may not be like them.
Let me provide a Christian response to Cancel Culture.
First, all have sinned an fallen short of the glory of God. We are all guilty of enjoying or profiting off someone else’s pain, degradation, or disrespect. Perhaps at times we were ignorant of the morality of our actions or the harm they caused. While ignorance can sometimes indeed be excused, particularly in children, there is no excuse to continue to value those ideas once someone has pointed out that they hurt.
Second, what should the Christian response be? Good. Should have happened sooner. Let’s all learn from it.
I can hear the outcry now. “But rights!” “But tradition!” “But it was part of my childhood…”
Never bring “rights” into a discussion of moral obligation. Your rights are meaningless in that context. You may have the right to say and do all sorts of things, but that does not mean that they are Christ-like or morally acceptable.
Your hurt reaction is based on a foundation of what you were taught was acceptable, what was normal.
Pepe Le Pew normalized sexual assault. Speedy Gonzales constantly promoted the view that most Hispanics were lazy. The Native Americans were bloodthirsty savages in the Westerns, except for the one called “Fool” (Tonto in Spanish) who had learned to be submissive. Tarzan showed the supremacy of the heroic white male over the black Africans.
Those are just the easy ones.
Canceling history? Just because people criticize founding fathers and American icons? Instead, perhaps it is more about actually recognizing history and not celebrating brutality.
The problem is that for so long we were taught, as middle-class whites and especially as males, that all of this was normal. It was normal to think of people as stereotypes and to treat them and their culture like jokes. It was normal to see women as objects to be won. It was normal to see things through the eyes of the conquerors and not the conquered.
It shouldn’t be. It should not be normal. It should not be acceptable. Not for Christians. I could make an argument based on rational morality that it is unacceptable for anyone, but that is not my point here. The Bible constantly sides with the lowly, the oppressed, the outsider, the poor, and the needy. Maybe that is something you should think about before getting all upset about “Cancel Culture.”
One last thing regarding Dr. Seuss. We all remember the Oompa-Loompas and their morality songs from the movie, with their orange skin and green wigs. That was not, however, the original depiction of the Oompa-Loompa. Originally, they were African Pygmies working, essentially, as slave labor in the chocolate factory. When people complained, Roald Dahl changed them to mystical creatures from Oompaland. Honestly, it’s not a lot better, but at least it shows that things can change and the overall work not be harmed. Maybe one day the Seuss estate will have the racist depictions in those works redrawn. Maybe not. Either way, it is not really any of your business.
You need to worry about what sins you make “normal.”