What is cancel culture and why is it so prevalent today? How should Christians respond to the phenomenon of canceling people? In this bonus episode, Sean interviews Joe Dallas about his latest book Christians In A Cancel Culture. This episode was recorded on Sean's YouTube channel, which is in partnership with the Biola Apologetics program.
Joe Dallas is an author, speaker, and pastoral counselor who conducts seminars nationwide. He is the founder of Genesis Biblical Solutions in Tustin, California, and has written six books on human sexuality from a Christian perspective. His articles have been featured in Christianity Today magazine and the Journal of Psychology and Christianity, and he is a regular contributor to the Christian Research Journal.
Sean McDowell: Welcome to Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture, a podcast from Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. I'm your host, Sean McDowell, professor of Christian apologetics. Today we have a bonus episode for you on the topic of cancel culture. I was able to catch up on my YouTube channel with Joe Dallas, author of a recent book called Christians in a Cancel Culture. And we walk through some big questions like, why is this so prevalent today? How should Christians think about this? How should we respond in our cancel culture moment?
Sean McDowell: Since I recorded this on my YouTube channel, it's a little bit longer and has a little different setup than usual, but those of you who listen to Think Biblically Podcast will find this is right in line with the content you come to enjoy. We hope you love this episode and will consider sharing it with a friend.
Sean McDowell: How should we respond to cancel culture? What are some helpful ways and what are some unhelpful ways? Well, I'm here with my friend and author, Joe Dallas who's done a lot of thinking about this because on August 3rd, he really releases a new book called Christians in a Cancel Culture. Joe, thanks for taking the time to come on.
Joe Dallas: Hey, great to see you again, Sean. Thank you.
Sean McDowell: Yeah, my pleasure. Well, I want to get into some of your thoughts in this book. What is cancel culture? What are helpful ways to responses? What are unhelpful ways to respond? But first, you have a unique and power full story of coming to the Christian faith that I think really informs the way you even approach cancel culture.
Joe Dallas: Oh yeah.
Sean McDowell: Would you start by sharing that with us?
Joe Dallas: Sure. In fact, it is my approach to the faith that informed my approach to cancel culture into writing this book. Now, I was born again in 1971 at the age of 16 during what's commonly referred to as the Jesus movement, when God was redeeming seemingly thousands upon thousands of hippies and crowding them into Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. I got a terrific grounding in there, in those early years, Sean. I spent years studying under Pastor Chuck Smith. I believe one of the greatest Bible teachers we've ever had.
Joe Dallas: Getting that foundation was critical. It was also a time of immediacy. We believed the Lord was coming back Tuesday, probably before lunch. So, we did things quick in those days. Ministries were raised up very quickly. People married very early. People tended to just zoom ahead with the idea that we have such a limited amount of time left. We got to go full guns for Christ, which was in many ways, laudable. I wish we had more of that kind of zeal today. It was not well tempered in many cases, including my own, with wisdom.
Joe Dallas: I jumped into ministry way too early, because when I jumped into ministry, I had still not really dealt with a critical and a very secret part of my life, which was homosexuality. I had had a number of relationships with men when I was a teenage boy. In fact, I had even begun identifying myself as gay, which in 1971, man, that could get you killed.
Sean McDowell: Sure.
Joe Dallas: Nonetheless, I embraced that identity because I had, for so many years, resisted being open about my attractions to men, that it felt very freeing to start telling people, "You know what? I'm gay." And then I was with to, by a young woman who took me to Calvary. I heard the gospel, came under conviction, came to Christ, and for years was living a Christ-centered life. But I was one of many people who came into the church, hiding his homosexual temptations, hoping that they would just vanish. And when they didn't, I finally gave up.
Joe Dallas: By the time I was 23, I said, "Forget it. I'm coming out of the closet. I'm going to identify as gay." And I tried that for about a year and then realized I missed Christian fellowship, and that's when I heard about a gay church. This was a critical point for me, Sean, because that's when I tried to blend homosexuality and Christianity in hopes that I could be openly gay, openly Christian, and within God's will in doing so.
Joe Dallas: I spent about six years actively promoting a pro-gay interpretation of the Bible. I did wind up on staff with that church, and on a regular basis, taught Bible studies, preached sermons, and went to college campuses debating Christians over whether or not the Bible condemned homosexuality. I was very committed to what I now call pro-gay theology. Until early 1984, when God relentlessly reminded me that I had believed what I wanted to believe, but not what I really believed.
Sean McDowell: Wow.
Joe Dallas: So, I was brought to repentance, went through my own restoration. After a few years, I was wanting to become a counselor to deal with drug and alcohol addiction, but I found that more and more people were, within the church, struggling with homosexuality, and that was when I began my ministry in 1987, giving biblical counseling to people who wanted to overcome that particular sin in their lives. Now, what does that have to do with cancel culture? Initially, nothing. I mean, I was just peaceably minding my own business as a Christian counselor, but more and more, I started finding the culture was starting to try to interfere with me.
Joe Dallas: Our conferences would be invaded sometimes by gay activists, different restrictions within the American Psychiatric Association were making it harder for counselors to counsel people from a traditional position. Then I found that actual laws were being passed against the kind of counseling that I was doing. Then I realized this was not just a gender identity or sexual issue. This was part of a broader, what I call a crusade, a growing crusade to basically convert the infidels. The infidels, being people in this case, who held a traditional view of gender, sexuality, social justice, racism, pre-born life, and even progressive Christianity.
Joe Dallas: That's when I realized a lot of people are feeling the heat. This is where it gets interesting, Sean, the culture shifted, and then the culture turned to the church and said, "Now it's your turn. You shift too." And much of the church is saying, "We don't want to fight. We're not trying to make trouble, but we can't go where you want us to go." That's when we start feeling the weight of cancel culture coming against us. That's when we decide to say, as Peter and John did, well, you decide for yourselves, guys, whether or not we should obey God or man. But for ourselves, what can we do, but speak the things we've seen and heard.
Joe Dallas: With that in mind, especially after all the madness of 2020, I realized it's time to start talking about the broader problem of cancel culture and how believers should respond to it.
Sean McDowell: Friends just joining us, we're here with Joe Dallas, who has a pretty radical conversion story, going back to the Jesus movement. He's written a book called Christians in a Cancel Culture, how we can thoughtfully gracious respond. Joe, your story obviously intersects with a larger LGBTQ conversation because of your past. How much of cancel culture, as a whole, is tied to the LGBTQ issue versus, say abortion, versus politics? Is it primarily this, partly others? Is it essentially this? How much of cancel culture you think is driven by a certainty view of sexuality?
Joe Dallas: I think much of it is, but Sean, I think it's more an issue of cancel culture being about identity politics and about redefinitions. I think cancel culture is equally zealous over LGBTQ issues as it is over abortion, over racism, over a number of other issues. I think it's basically a movement to redefine certain standard beliefs, and then to either convert or silence those who are opposing that redefinition. That, I think, is the heart and soul of cancel culture.
Sean McDowell: That's really helpful. Let me ask a question this way. If I decide to send out a tweet at some point today, and I said, reasonable people can vote for Trump. I would get hated on and canceled by Twitter.
Joe Dallas: It was nice knowing you, Sean.
Sean McDowell: Yeah. That's probably what would happen. On the flip side, if I sent out a tweet that said reasonable people can vote for Biden, I would probably get equal hatred, but from a different constituency. So, is this ... Your book is called Christians in a Cancel Culture, but you're not saying this is uniquely just against Christians.
Joe Dallas: No.
Sean McDowell: Who exactly is being targeted here? Is it the left or the right? Is it everyone? Is it more the right, more the left? How do you see this cancel culture playing out?
Joe Dallas: I think you have a specific part of the sickness and then a more general part of the sickness. The specific part of the sickness is this. Sean, I would have to say that cancel culture is essentially directed towards anyone who holds traditional viewpoints on key issues like abortion, transgenderism, homosexuality, race, or progressive Christianity. Essentially, where you see the efforts of cancel culture, the voices on the social, theological, or political right are the ones being canceled. However, the broader sickness is this.
Joe Dallas: What we are seeing demonstrated is a growing tolerance for intolerance, and that is affecting both sides of the aisle. Because just as you said, if you were to dare to tweet that reasonable people could vote for and support President Biden, you absolutely would get a wave of intolerance and a contempt, and real acidic remarks from conservative people. I think that's because we've entered into a time when somehow we gave ourselves national permission to bully each other and to no longer just say, "This is my position and this is why I disagree with you. Let's reason it out."
Joe Dallas: Now we've basically gone from, come now let us reason together, to nah, just you're disgusting. Oh, well, you're disgusting. Oh, well, that's a brilliant conversation. I think we are abdicating both moral and integrity, and I'd have to say intellectual integrity as well. It's a broad sickness.
Sean McDowell: Friends who are joining us, we're here with Joe Dallas, has a book called Christians in a Cancel Culture. Coming out within the next week or two. We are probing, what is cancel culture? How do we respond to it? Let me ask you a question I imagine is in the back of certain people's minds. And it might be this, it might be well, Christians just had it coming or maybe more broadly conservatives. Specifically just thinking about Christians, I mean, I grew up during the time of the moral majority, and there was like, let's boycott Disney. Let's boycott. Let's use our power to side against certain voices.
Sean McDowell: In some ways, I look at this, and I go, "Well, I'm not a fan of cancel culture. I have huge issues with it." But rather than pointing the finger first at other people, I try to point it back and say, "Okay, as Christians, where have we fallen short in an effective message, an inconsistent message, and a message that doesn't line up with what Jesus taught?" Humor me for a second, but I'm curious what you think when I say, "Well, we, Christians just got what's coming to us because we've abused power and canceled other people."
Joe Dallas: I've got mixed feelings about that, Sean. On the one hand, could we have done better over the years? Oh, you betcha. You betcha. I think sometimes we've been too pompous. I think sometimes we've resorted to generalities about people we disagree with or disapprove of. So, I think we could always do better. But in all fairness, there is a difference between boycotting someone and trying to silence them. Generally, I've always felt that boycotting, which I think has its place, was a way of saying invest with integrity.
Joe Dallas: Do you want your money and your business going to causes that you believe are foundationally ungodly? If not, then you should boycott sources that you believe are promoting ungodliness. That's fair enough. I don't recall, just for example, ever saying, "Let's try to shut Disneyland down. Let's try to silence Disney. Let's try to keep them from ever expressing themselves." No. The question just became, do we want our money going to Disney? Truthfully, Disney was never much of an issue to me.
Joe Dallas: I don't expect a whole lot out of Mickey Mouse. Let's be fair. I mean, Disneyland was never a church. But all I'm saying is in essence, when we boycott, we are saying, "I do not want my money going towards your particular voice." When we exercise the cancel culture mandate, we're basically saying, "I don't want you to have a voice." To me, that's the difference.
Sean McDowell: That's a great distinction. We have some friends here coming from all over. In fact, Samuel from Namibia, unbelievable to have you live joining us, Samuel. As we get towards the end, I'm going to open up for questions from our audience. And we have a signed copy of Evidence That Demands a Verdict from my father and myself we will send to you. We probably can't send it to Namibia, I got to be honest, and I apologize. But in the states, and maybe Canada, we will send it to you if our guest today, Joe Dallas, thinks you have the best question.
Sean McDowell: Now, Joe, you're a counselor. So, you bring a unique perspective to this. I've studied and written a ton on gen Z, and I have two gen Zers in my home. One of the things I've noticed recently is quite obvious to everybody that there's issues of mental health, loneliness, anxiety, depression that has increased with this generation. But I've gotten questions recently from students, something like, how do I pick a profession in which in five or 10 years, it's not shut down and I can't live like a Christian?
Sean McDowell: How do I act on social media where I don't say something in which it becomes the narrative about me when someone Googles my name for the rest of my life? I've noticed a kind of paralysis and a fear that adds anxiety to many in this generation. Do you notice that? What are your thoughts as a counselor when you studied cancel culture and how it can potentially affect somebody's mindset?
Joe Dallas: Well, I think both as a counselor and just someone with a little common sense, I can recognize that if you keep people in fear, there's going to be psychological damage. We're not meant to have to wonder if everything we say is going to be weighed against us 20 years from now in a job interview. Or if we're going to say something that somebody is going to take such issue with that we could have our reputation ruined, or lose our friendships or relationships. By the way, Sean, as we speak, there are people losing profoundly important relationships to them because somebody has decided that they are racist or sexist, or transphobic, or a misogynist.
Joe Dallas: As a result, people are not only saying, "I believe you're wrong." They're saying, "You are no longer fit for my companionship because of the position you hold." This has serious ramifications. I guess the short answer is, of course damage is done when people feel that they are kept in fear. When you intimidate people, you damage them. This is one of the biggest mistakes perhaps that cancel culture advocates are making. They think that if you have people cowed, you therefore have them converted. But a forced conversion is no conversion at all.
Joe Dallas: You just stir resentment, and fear, and hostility. And that's the makings of not only all kinds of neurosis, but eventually, some kind of a backlash which may be just as unhealthy as the cancel culture itself.
Sean McDowell: I tend to have a lot of compassion for people on all sides who get piled on, because I think if everything was recorded that I thought or said with good intentions at 20, 22, 24, I look back, I'm like, I can't believe I believed that. If that was just made public, whatever it is, I'm not even thinking of any specifics, there'd be people wanting to cancel me. It's like, there's no room for growth and process that's just lacking culture. That paralysis for young people, it's devastating. Now, what are some unhelpful ways you think Christians respond to cancer culture?
Joe Dallas: Well, I think, first of all, we're too quick to use the phrase. If somebody disagrees with me, they're not like a council culture advocate. If you talk in any capacity, whether privately or publicly, people have the right to disagree with you, they have the right to assess what you're saying, they have the right to criticize you, and they have the right to correct you if you're wrong. In fact, they even have the right to make fun of you a little. I mean, for heaven's sake, I was written up in an interview a few years back where the journalist said that I resembled an aging member of the village people.
Sean McDowell: Wow.
Joe Dallas: Now, how low can you get? The village people. Come on.
Joe Dallas: But I can't turn around and say that's persecution. I would only say, "Okay, if you speak, you have to accept people's right to assess and critique what you're saying." I think that number one, we're too quick to cry cancel culture, just like sometimes people would be too quick to say, "Oh, you're just being politically correct." Just because someone said, "Could you be a little more sensitive?" I think that's one mistake that we're often making.
Joe Dallas: I think another mistake we're often making is to assume that cancel culture has the power to determine what we should or should not say. It does not. When there is opposition to what you say, that doesn't mean you have to be silenced, it means you should be judicious, you should walk in wisdom. And ultimately, even if there are consequences, you can still speak. All that is saying that these days there may be more consequences for speaking than there were before, as you said, and it's very true, but it doesn't have the totalitarian power that we're often giving it. While it's a terrible trend, I believe it's one of the worst modern trends I know of, it still is not all powerful.
Sean McDowell: You used the word persecution a minute ago. Sometimes I think Christians make two mistakes, or people do. They say there's no critique of Christianity, there's no cost to your faith. And I think, well, the temperature's being turned up here and they can cost people jobs and reputations in certain platforms. On the flip side, seems we can overstate this and miss that. To me, there's no other nation in the world I would rather live in than America because of freedoms that we have. So, would you say we're being persecuted? Would you strongly push against that word? How would you frame what's happening to Christians, or more broadly, say people of a traditional viewpoint like you described it today?
Joe Dallas: I think we are often too quick to cry persecution when what we're getting is opposition. Those are two different things. Again, people saying, "We think you're wrong." That is not persecution. If one of our listeners sends in a comment saying Joe Dallas is ignorant and ridiculous. That's not persecution. That's a criticism. Come on. However, on the other hand, I think we're also too slow to use the word when it should be used. You see, persecution doesn't have to involve being put to death. It doesn't have to involve being put to prison.
Joe Dallas: When your capacity to function is being limited by a more powerful party, that is persecution. Whether it's the persecution of someone saying, "If you don't change your views, you're going to lose your job. If you don't change your views, we're going to sue you, or we're going to press hate crime charges against you." In some nations, for example, in Norway, it is illegal to make what is deemed a hateful remark about somebody because of their transgender identity. In Calgary, Canada, you can be arrested as a pastor if you counsel a homosexual. That, that is a sin, and he can change if he wishes to by the grace of God.
Joe Dallas: We are reaching a place where persecution is a legitimate term to use and we should be willing to use it. Just because a term is overused does not mean it should never be used.
Sean McDowell: That's fair. Now, you've been doing this for a while. I won't mention how long, but you said it's okay to give someone a hard time, so I'm just going to say. You've been doing this a little longer than I have, which actually-
Joe Dallas: That's a [crosstalk 00:20:29]. Okay. You got me there.
Sean McDowell: Which is a compliment, because you're bringing some wisdom and perspective to this a lot of people don't have over the decades. That's something I really value in conversations with my dad, how he has seen culture shift. Now, you also described earlier, you said, earlier in your Christian life, sometimes were maybe a little bit too aggressive and lacked wisdom, how you responded sharing your faith or having your views critiqued. Can you give me just a personal example, if you don't mind, of a way you responded to somebody being hostile, somebody critiquing your faith, which broadly relates to cancel culture, and maybe you responded in a regretful way, and how you would have responded if you could rewind the tape and go back?
Joe Dallas: Oh, when I think of some of the stupid things I have said and done in the name of evangelism, Sean, I think somebody should have just shot me and gotten it over with. I mean, truly, I ... What can I do, but just plead stupidity. But I can tell you a number of times when, especially as a teenager and a young man in my early 20s, when I was all full of Holy Ghost zeal, I really felt it was my primary job to impose truth on people rather than to try to reason with people. With my friends, I was just a Johnny One-Note.
Joe Dallas: You need to get saved. You need to trust in Jesus. I've come to Jesus. You need to come to Jesus. You're going to hell if you don't, etc. Now, that showed no interest in relating. It showed no interest in connecting. And yet, when I read about one of the best evangelistic messages ever given, John chapter three, it was in the context of a reasonable relationship. There was give and take in that exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus. There was, I believe, a tone of mutual respect and consideration.
Joe Dallas: I think, in the context of that, it's much easier for people to hear the truth when they feel respected. My biggest drawback, I believe, and my own life history in dealing with people has been showing a lack of respect, a lack of a willingness to listen to them, a lack of a willingness to hear what their concerns were about Christianity, and to validate their experience without necessarily agreeing with them, but hearing their pain, hearing their curiosity, hearing their questions, and responding, as I believe God would have us respond, with wisdom. I have a very long list of stupid things Joe Dallas has done, but that's the general category most of them would fall under.
Sean McDowell: That's fair. I appreciate that. And you bring up a few in the book. You give some specific examples, which I think is helpful to not just say, look, I'm pointing the finger to other people. I've been here, I've done this, I've messed up. Here's what I wish I had done differently. I love that posture that you bring. Now, you used the term impose how, when you were younger, maybe you used an imposing kind of aggressive tone with people. Obviously that was years ago, but it makes me wonder, what's the most important Christian voice today? Is it a voice that has a prophetic voice that pushes back on some of the nonsense and absurdity of cancel culture?
Sean McDowell: Or is it more of a soft kind, gentle voice that demonstrates forgiveness and isn't quick to take a offense at people, or is there just a time and place for both and it requires gifting and wisdom to know which one is most powerful in that season?
Joe Dallas: I'll go with curtain number three.
Sean McDowell: Okay.
Joe Dallas: I really believe that, Sean, I hope that we will all learn not to feel we have to choose between grace and truth. Because to me, that's like choosing between food or water. How on earth can you make that choice? You have to live with both. I think that there is the time. I think that the distinction is what the situation calls for. You can see the boldness of Jesus prophetically, sternly rebuking the self-righteous in the gospels. You can see the grace and tenderness when He stoops down to a woman taking to adultery, and says, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." You see, I don't see him making a choice between grace and truth, other than to recognize what the situation calls for. I believe, in that sense, we shouldn't try to choose between the two.
Joe Dallas: I think that we have traditionally gone to one extreme, assuming that it must be either or. For example, you talked about the days of the moral majority. I'm not going to sit here and slam the moral majority. There's so much they did that I believe in, and that I celebrate. But I think, at that time, many believers, whether they were moral majority associates or not, we tended to approach these issues from a position of moral superiority, those terrible women who had abortions, those terrible gays who do those awful things, etc.
Joe Dallas: People do not appreciate a holier than thou attitude. They don't like sanctimony. It does not reach people. I think that part of the backwash we may be getting has to do, not with the fact that we took public positions in the past, but at times, Sean, I would have to say, now, I'm 66 years old. I've been doing my work for 34 years now. When I began my work, I really do believe the church's approach towards people dealing with transgenderism or homosexuality was largely a very pharisaical one. As a result, I think that the message we were sending to homosexuals was, yes, we've all fallen short, but you felt shorter than the rest of us. And they remember that message, I can tell you. I remember it when I was part of the gay community. I'm sure they do too.
Sean McDowell: You said something that I want to highlight because I think it's lost today in our cancel culture. As you pointed back to the moral majority, and for those of who you're watching, it tends to be kind of the '80s and '90s political movements pushing back against divorce, against LGBTQ ideas, against secular ideas, and could be critiqued for making an us versus them kind of posture. What you did is you said, "While I disagree with some of that, I also want to have some grace for people given the time that they lived in and some of the good things that accomplished."
Sean McDowell: I just have to highlight, I think that's a fair way to do this, because what cancel culture does is it makes things black and white. Either you demonize somebody or you praise them entirely. And there's no nuance. One thing I've learned in life is if you take a moral issue, I mean, certainly there's some moral issues like Nazism. Okay, clearly, but most moral issues, there's nuance, there's motivation, and taking the time to understand where somebody's coming from, see the good and the bad is harder, but it's a way of being charitable towards somebody else that you and I hope, in five, 10, 20, 50 years, the future will have towards us.
Sean McDowell: I just want to highlight for viewers, I think that's a generous way to respond to other people that I want to model better and hope others will. Now, there's a question that came up. We're going to come more to questions at the end, but you mentioned how you felt like the church largely was pharisaical on LGBTQ issues. Let me just jump into one kind of practical, get your take on this from Tiffany. She says, how do you respond to others requesting, demanding that you use their gender pronoun, when not doing so, might get you canceled? I'm thinking specifically about professional contexts.
Joe Dallas: Tiffany, this is going to become more and more of a defining issue as we move ahead. Because as you probably know, corporations are instituting policies that will take punitive measures against employees who do not refer to people according to their preferred pronoun. I think that you want to start by speaking with management and getting clarity. Am I allowed to hold the position I hold, which is that we are born with a sex and that is the sex we will be for life? Without imposing that position on my transgender colleagues, I have no interest in preaching to or diminishing the experience of any fellow employee, I am only asking I not be coerced into saying something I don't believe in. Can we meet each other halfway on this?
Joe Dallas: I think, in many cases, you can. In some cases, I do realize people are going to have to decide whether or not they're in a position to lose their jobs if their backs are against the wall. Since I'm in full-time ministry, it's easier for me to get simplistic about this and say, "Well, I certainly will not call someone by a name I don't believe in." But then again, my ability to support my wife and children is not dependent on that.
Joe Dallas: I have to go along with what Paul told the Romans, "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." I would suggest you strive to work within the corporate structure to determine under what circumstances you can abstain from being coerced into saying things you don't believe in, because that is a matter of your rights, as well as a matter of the rights of your fellow employees, and I think that a responsible corporation should and probably will meet you halfway by at least allowing you not to have to say names or pronouns you don't believe in, but also not impose names or pronouns that a fellow employee may not believe in.
Joe Dallas: I think that's what you're going to try to find is a balance. And if you're not able to, then I guess you have a hard decision to make. You may the need to stay within the company for the sake of continuing to provide for your family. You may feel as though you have the liberty to leave the country, and this is, the country, excuse me, the company. Yeah, well, maybe that was prophetic too, I don't know. But seriously, I think that you alone are the one who's going to be given the grace and the wisdom to make that decision. That's really the best answer I can give.
Sean McDowell: That's a very wise Daniel one type response. Try to work within the system, use wisdom, be patient, learn your rights. But then, when it gets down to it, if your conscious says, you cannot use these terms, there may come a point where it does cost you something, but let's not start there.
Joe Dallas: Exactly.
Sean McDowell: I think that's a really wise, helpful way to look at this. Again, since you're a counselor, I'm curious, why do you find, not for all, and I'm always leery to make generalizations and motivations, but you have a section in your book where you talk about a lot of reasons why people are drawn to cancel culture, tied to experiences they have in particular against Christians. Would you be willing to share that?
Joe Dallas: Sure. In that section, I talk about A Tale of Two Cities, my favorite novel ever, and about one kid character in it named Madam Defarge, who, and mind you, this is a Dickens' story of families involved with or affected by the French revolution. Madam Defarge is one of the citizens who joined the revolution and very aggressively persecuted the aristocrats. And she's a completely unreasonable woman, a very embittered woman, very obsessed with tracking down the aristocrats. And in one scene of the novel where her husband is confronting her blood lust, she recounts the story of how, as a child, she witnessed her sister being raped and killed and her brother also being killed by aristocrats when the brother tried to defend his sister's honor.
Joe Dallas: And she said, "I escaped their tyranny, but the summons to answer for these charges falls to me." And her husband says, "Yes, but you have to stop somewhere." And she says, and then I'm quoting specifically now, "Tell the wind and the fire where to stop, but don't tell me." Now that's oftentimes the backstory of someone who appears and in fact is so unreasonable. I think that, without excusing unreasonable behavior, we can at least recognize and even validate the pain. I have known people who were cast out of their churches, just for admitting they had homosexual temptation.
Joe Dallas: Sean, that's not an exaggeration. I've seen it firsthand. I have heard of people who were advised by their pastors that, as a woman who was being abused by her husband, she should submit and trust God to protect her from the abuse or to get her through it. Now, that has happened. I've known of people who had aids, and in wanting to go to the church for ministry, they were told that they were too dangerous. And in the early part of the AIDS epidemic, there were many pastors who treated AIDS patients like they were lepers.
Joe Dallas: For all of these people, one common theme they have is tell the wind and the fire to stop. Don't tell me. You people have hurt me. I am not going to tolerate your abuse, and somebody is going to pay for what you did to me. Is that fair? No. Is it right? No. It is in fact, blatantly unbiblical and counterproductive, but goodnight, you got to admit, it's understandable. I think it is.
Sean McDowell: I think it's very understandable. That's a reminder that yes, we need a prophetic voice, but one thing I often pray for is what's the question behind the question. What's the real issue somebody's hurting with, and how do I address that issue Biblically speaking? So, asking questions, being patient, leading with kindness assuming the best is a great Christian posture to take. Let's talk a little bit about social media. How do you, and I see some great questions here. I'm going to start coming to these a little bit early in a minute. There are some excellent questions coming through, how do you balance on social media?
Sean McDowell: Not caving to cancel culture where you don't speak on controversial issues, but also using wisdom where you don't shut down certain avenues to ultimately speak truth. How do you balance it to those just in your life in ministry?
Joe Dallas: I think you got to ask yourself, whoever you are as a Christian on social media, what's your focus and what's your mandate? What's your focus area? Are you trying to minister in a certain area, speak to a certain area, reach a particular group? And then what mandate do you have when you are trying to pursue your focus area of ministry? Because sometimes the object or the focus of your ministry will have a lot to do with what you do or do not say. Now, if you just, for example, are trying to reach Muslim people, why in the world do you want to get distracted by making a lot of posts about LGBTQ issues when you realize that could get you canceled and it's not the area you feel God is calling you to address anyway?
Joe Dallas: Now, mind you, if you are a Christian and you are saying the position that Peter and John were in, when they had preached Christ at the temple and a man was healed and they were preaching as a result of his healing saying, "This is what Jesus has done. The Messiah has come, you need to receive him." And the council said to them, "No longer speak or teach in this man's name." Now there, your back's against the wall. The only thing you can do is say, "No, I'm not going to give in. I'm not going to cave."
Sean McDowell: Sure.
Joe Dallas: But there are plenty of other cases where it may not be necessary to needlessly walk into a landmine. Now, is discretion cowardliness? No, I really don't believe it is. I'm reminded of even Jesus saying, when they persecute you in one city, flee to another. I think there's a good principle in that. What is the focus of the area God has called you to? If God has called you to be a teacher, do you want to needlessly say things that are going to jeopardize your job just so you can get things off your chest? I don't think so.
Joe Dallas: I think what you have to ask yourself is, what is the focus area of my life? What is the mandate I've been given? How can I best fulfill that? And not do something to needlessly, the keyword there is needlessly, compromise my ability to do that.
Sean McDowell: That's really smart. Such good wisdom. I've also found that, for example, I'm all over social media. What I can post on TikTok is very different than what I can post on Instagram.
Joe Dallas: Oh, you got that right.
Sean McDowell: Versus YouTube. I try to just figure out, okay, how do I wisely use this medium for the purposes that I want to use it without getting canceled, but also, on my conscience, make sure I'm not pandering. You're right, discretion is such a smart way to approach this. I think that's great. Here's a practical question for you. Let's do this. It says, okay, boom, boom, boom. As a counselor, I'm curious where you would go with this one. What are some of the psychological impacts cancel culture tends to have on both the canceling party and the canceled party?
Sean McDowell: Now, we talked about the canceled party. Obviously the fear, the depression, we talked about that, but I haven't given a lot of thought to the canceling party. What thoughts would you say to those who are so quick to cancel culture, and buy into believing and doing this, that it actually has on them?
Joe Dallas: I think it enhances or even creates a high sense of entitlement. Just as I think it enhances or creates passivity on people who are being canceled. A lot of people are needlessly passive because they're afraid of confrontation or afraid of being disliked. They're not just worried about job security. They are emotionally fragile enough that they're saying, "Oh my goodness, I need to be liked above everything else. It enhances passivity." But on the part of the person doing the canceling, it's like teaching a child that yes, you are in charge, and if you don't like somebody, you can punish them. You're entitled to do that.
Joe Dallas: Now, you do a serious injustice to people when you teach them entitlement because life will not reward that kind of attitude or behavior. Life will teach you the hard way. That no, you are not able to simply silence anybody you disagree with. You are not able to decide for yourself who gets to speak and who doesn't get to speak. If you carry that mindset into your relationships, you are in for a very lonely, frustrating life. I think that's one of the worst psychological damages done on the part of the canceling person.
Joe Dallas: It basically teaches you, you have the right to express your intolerance through prohibition, and thereby, you never do develop the tolerance for diversity. As a result, what's going to happen? It's almost like you'll have no immune system. You're not going to last in any relationship because relationships are about compromise and give and take in many key areas. So, if you can't tolerate having someone differ with you on certain issues, it's going to be very hard for you to sustain any kind of healthy energy in life. I call that psychological damage.
Sean McDowell: I think that's very fair. I think the piece of continuing to lack forgiveness, being callous towards other people, and creating a greater gulf between the two is going to increase when ...
Joe Dallas: Oh, Sean, yeah.
Sean McDowell: ... you're just pouring on canceling other people as well.
Joe Dallas: And if I can point just one thing out here, I really feel enough is never enough once you get into that kind of mindset. When you get that mindset, whereby you say, "From my holier than thou position, I'm going to punish everyone who has ever said or done anything offensive. And I'm going to basically wipe out all of these evils from the world." You'll never reach a point of satisfaction. You get drunk on your rage and drunk on that dissatisfaction and drunk on the high of being in that morally superior position.
Joe Dallas: But as a result, you'll never be satisfied. I think that in that sense, you may become your own worst enemy if you get hooked on this stuff.
Sean McDowell: Now, somebody ultimately not going to get satisfied because the only thing that will truly satisfy is love and forgiveness. Is that the reason it won't ultimately satisfy?
Joe Dallas: Exactly. I think, for two reasons, it won't satisfy. That's the primary reason. I mean, when Jesus tells us that we're commanded to forgive, that is for our own sake. When we hold on to unforgiveness, we are allowing someone to continue to have power over us. When we release them, we release ourselves. That's critical. And of course, God's nature is to forgive. Mercy rejoices against judgment. That's what he wants, is reconciliation. But it's also true that you get hooked on the high of moral superiority.
Joe Dallas: I think it's a false high. It's like getting hooked on Methedrine. It may feel great for a season, but it's not doing your body any good. The high of being morally superior, of being able to shut other people down and tell them how wrong they are, and assume the moral superior position, that's going to become a drug you get hooked on. What I think you're going to find, as with all drugs ultimately, you're never satisfied. You'll always want more.
Sean McDowell: Very, very fair. Now, here's an interesting question. I'd be curious what you think about this one from Caleb? He says, "Where do you project the trends of cancel culture will take us 10 or so years from now? Will it get better or worse?" It seems to me, we've got three options. Either things get worse, either things get better, or because of social media, we've just entered a culture where this will always be with us since everybody has a voice to cancel. Now, 10 years is going to be impossible because of how things are changing. But what about like three to five years from now? Do you have any thoughts or trends you noticed where culture seems to be going, or do we not even know because this is such a new ground?
Joe Dallas: The short answer is of course we don't know because we can't accurately predict, but I think we can look at trajectories. I think the trajectory is taking us into an era of expanded government power, not to get political, just to get factual, and into expanded intolerance for genuine diversity if that trend goes unchecked. Let me point out, I don't think the majority of Americans really want that, but that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter who the majority is. What matters is who is the most committed. If one third of the population is committed to silencing one third of the population and the other third of the popular just sits there and watches, that one third is going to win.
Joe Dallas: I think the trends are not looking good. I think we will reach a point, very specifically where churches have their tax exempt status removed, where the state moves in and says, in essence, we will determine what constitutes misinformation. I think that we're already setting a precedent, largely through social media, by which the cultural elites and even the government are beginning to say, we need to decide what constitutes truth, what constitutes lies, and then we need to control the flow of communication so it's in alignment with our definition of truth and lies.
Joe Dallas: That's a very dangerous precedent by which then the government can say, we don't want people damaged. Therefore, we will not allow even the church to damage people. We will tell you what is or is not acceptable doctrine. They're not going to tell us not to be Christian, Sean. That's not going to happen. What they're going to basically say is there are just certain teachings that we will not allow anyone to promote, and thereby, you will either lose your religious wealth, you'll lose your tax exempt status, or perhaps even be subject to lawsuits or criminal action.
Joe Dallas: Now, does that sound extreme and do I sound paranoid? Yeah, but then again, if I had predicted 10 years ago, what we saw just last year, when American cities were overrun and when people were running amuck, and when anarchy seemed to be approved of by so many people in leadership, I would've thought that sounded insane too. I think there is a real warning in this. We should have a healthy fear of any forces on the left, right, center, who are trying to basically limit, or inhibit, or control freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, or freedom of religion. That's when I say be afraid, be very afraid.
Sean McDowell: Wow. Good concern. Here's a question from Daniel B. He says, "What verse or passage has most impacted you in regards to the topic of cancel culture?" So, what teaching, what verse, what passage most shapes the way you think about and approach cancel culture?
Joe Dallas: The great commission, believe it or not. Because the great commission is our mandate, and we have a mandate to preach and to make disciples. Go ye into all the world, preach the gospel, make disciples of all nations. We can't fulfill our mandate if we allow ourselves to be silenced. Look, Sean, there are plenty of things I'm willing to say, "Well, I don't like that, but I'm not going to fight it." I don't like paying taxes, to tell you the truth. I mean, I didn't like wearing a mask wherever I went at one time. I can tell you lots of things I don't like, but I'm going to do.
Joe Dallas: But when I am told that I may not speak the truths that enable me to fulfill my mandate, see, this is another matter. We're not just talking about our personal rights. We're not just talking even about our personal preferences. We're talking about our mandate. So, what has informed my position on this more than anything else? The great commission. Because whenever I see anything threatening my ability to fulfill the great commission, that's when I have to say, "Okay, now's the time to speak plainly, respectfully, but clearly."
Sean McDowell: That's a great answer. It's a great answer. Very thoughtful. And I should have expected that knowing you and your heart just to reach people.
Joe Dallas: Aw.
Sean McDowell: No, for real, that's an excellent answer. I think of the great commission, also the great commandment, of course, to love our neighbor, which ultimately go together. Here's a fascinating question. By the way, those of you who are just tuning in, we're taking questions last few minutes here with Joe Dallas. Has a lookout called Christians in a Cancel Culture. We got a free book for the best question, signed copy of Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Very quickly, make sure you hit subscribe because we've got Kara Powell coming on, a youth ministry legend. I don't think is overstating it. She's been doing youth ministry a long time, and has a book coming out, a landmark study in this generation, and that's tomorrow.
Sean McDowell: Make sure you hit subscribe and join us. Here's an excellent question I've wondered about. I want to hear you land this one, Joe. It says, would you consider church discipline or excommunication a form of cancellation? If not, what differentiates them? How does the church not perpetuate the practice of cancellation through church discipline?
Joe Dallas: Well, church discipline does not tell you what you may or may not say, what you may or may not do, what you may or may not believe. It simply says that in this fellowship, we do not allow that. You will not lose, unless you're the pastor of course, you're on staff full-time, you're not going to lose your job. You're not going to lose your basic ability to make a living. You're not even necessarily going to lose all your friendships because you were disciplined by the church.
Joe Dallas: I see quite a difference there in that it is not canceling your voice. It is only saying, in this local congregation, we are having to, unless, and until you're willing to repent, we are having to say, we're sorry. And with tears, we're going to have to have you leave, unless, and until you're willing to renounce whatever it is that led to this discipline. That's where I see the difference. Also, by the way, when someone is disciplined by the church, if they repent, as for example, we see the man who was disciplined at 1 Corinthians did repent. Do you see Paul ever saying, "Don't ever let him forget what he did, 20 years from now, pull that out and put it on social media?" Of course not.
Joe Dallas: In fact, Paul said, "Receive him, forgive him. That's under the blood. Move on." You see, that's quite a difference compared to the way cancel culture operates.
Sean McDowell: Those two huge differences really stand out to me. One is internal and self-regulating for a group of people who choose to be a part of a community and believe certain teachings and writings. So, if they reject that, it's natural for the group to have a form of excommunication, assuming it's carried out graciously and faithfully and balanced. Also, welcoming them back in is not a part of cancel culture.
Joe Dallas: Right.
Sean McDowell: Great, great answer. Here's one from a student. Get a number of students who will watch the show and engage. And I love all my viewers, but especially when the next generation jumps in here, that's part of my heartbeat.
Joe Dallas: Yeah. That's great.
Sean McDowell: [Aquapoint Bejoi 00:49:34] says, "If a teacher starts to punish," or I'm sorry, "If a teacher starts to push this agenda on me and other students, how can I speak up against it effectively without causing controversy, and perhaps receiving punishment from the teacher?"
Joe Dallas: Well, how can you do it without causing controversy? You cannot. Anytime you resist anything tyrannical, or anytime you confront an idea, you are going to cause controversy. Punishment is another matter. I think a lot will, of course, depend on the structure of the institution of learning where you are. Sean, you would know more about this type of thing than I would, but I would think there are channels you can go through to determine whether or not you are being unfairly punished for challenging a teacher abusing their authority to push an ideology on you that should not be pushed.
Joe Dallas: I think that you would need to carefully consider what avenues you have open to you. I also think you need to carefully consider again, going back to the concept of focus and mandate. What constitutes a teacher pushing this on me? If the teacher is just saying in front of the whole class, if you believe this, you are stupid. Well, I don't like that. That's very bad form for a teacher. I think it's wrong, even abusive, but does that necessarily mean the teacher is coercing? No. I think the teacher is, in a very clumsy, childish way, expressing an opinion in all the wrong ways.
Joe Dallas: I think that you have to determine, to what extent am I being coerced to accept something I don't believe in. And then, if I am in fact being coerced, if I am not allowed to have my opinion on this, without there being some kind of retaliation from the teacher, what recourse do I have? I would check that out first before you make a decision. Then, I must say, you have to make a wise decision prayerfully as to whether or not you want to pursue confronting the teacher on this issue and possibly risk your ability to graduate. That's extreme, but it could happen.
Joe Dallas: Or if you want to pursue this in the interest of academic freedom, again, a very noble thing to do. And of course, be ready for whatever you have to face as a result. I don't think there's a cut and dry mandate that says, sue the school or shut up and cave. I think the truth probably is going to lie somewhere in between.
Sean McDowell: I think the idea you said of making sure you're actually being coerced, we don't always do that. We hear a comment, we hear something. We make certain assumptions. Whereas, when I was growing up, my team teachers, my parents were like, "Your teacher gets the benefit of the doubt because they're older and wiser until they prove otherwise." So, I would encourage any student, sit in the front, just be a great teacher, be a great student, and show love and kindness to your teacher. Write things down carefully just so you can document things. Not making a list to cancel your teacher, but to be wise and careful and not rush to judgment in cases like this. I think there's some wisdom in that.
Joe Dallas: In fairness to the student, you know and I know, Sean, you know probably better, there are definitely teachers who abuse their authority. There are teachers who are coercing and needlessly humiliating students who don't share their viewpoint. And I believe there is a place for speaking up against that. But again, I think you want to make sure, first of all, that, that is the kind of thing that is really happening, and then know your options before you react.
Sean McDowell: Good word. Excellent. Here's a word. Here's a question from Randall Chase, love this one because I did my dissertation on the apostles. He says, "How did the disciples respond when they were canceled? Aren't we supposed to shake the dust off our feet and move on? How do you think they would respond to today's actions or today's cancel culture?"
Joe Dallas: Well, I think it depends on the situation and I think it depends on the disciple or on the apostle. Now, just for example, Paul, the apostle, not exactly a wilting violet, is he? But also, not needlessly a martyr. I'm thinking of just for example, when he was arrested in Rome and they were taking the shirt off his back to scourge him, and he said, "Wait, I'm a Roman citizen. I have legal rights here. You don't lay a strap on me." Or on another occasion when he was given the choice to go to Jerusalem to be tried or to appeal to Caesar directly, and he knew, as a Roman citizen, he had the right to make a direct appeal to Caesar. And he also knew there was a plot to kill him. He'd probably die if he went to Jerusalem.
Joe Dallas: So, he very wisely said, "I appeal to Caesar. That is my right as a Roman citizen." I think that, at times, they would have worked within the system to do what was proper and to insist on justice. And then, if justice was not available, they would've said, "Let it rip." I'm going to stand for truth. Now, I say that a little too glibly, Sean, because I'll also point out, that just for example, to establish better credibility with Jewish people, Paul did have Timothy circumcised. Now, was that necessary for Timothy's righteousness? No. Paul made it very clear that it wasn't.
Joe Dallas: When we can make concessions to reach people, now notice I said concessions, not conscious issue. Concessions. Well, good grief, let's do it. Let's become all things to all men provided we are not violating our own consciousness before God in the process. That to me is the key factor.
Sean McDowell: That's great. Here's a final question and then we'll wrap up. Here's another one from student. I want to especially help this younger generation. I'll give my quick thoughts, then if you want to weigh in and then tell me your favorite question.
Joe Dallas: Sure.
Sean McDowell: Keenan says, "As a student, how can I make sure that when I say my beliefs, I'm doing it in a way that can help the problem instead of causing unnecessary problems?" One thing I would say, Keenan, is ask questions. Ask questions. Jesus asked a ton of questions and he knew the answer. Try to know that there's a human being here. Oftentimes there's hurt. There's misunderstanding behind this issue. If I ask questions that bring to surface and humanize the person, and by questions, I don't mean gotcha questions, passive aggressive questions. I mean genuine understanding questions, and listen. Tempers often lower.
Sean McDowell: I found the vast majority of people are willing to have thoughtful conversations if I simply treat them the way they want to be treated or the way I would want to be treated. Now, if you mean in a classroom, I'd also say, ask questions, be a great student, and don't feel you need to challenge your professor like in God's Not Dead. Totally fictional. Interesting, but fictional, by the way, never going to happen in real life. Go to your professor during office hours. Not to have a debate, just say, "Hey, I've got questions for you about the class."
Sean McDowell: Talk, learn, and then say, "Hey, here's a comment that was made. I was wonder if you'd just give me some context of what you meant, because I wasn't really sure where you're coming from." And if you show kindness and respect to a professor like that, that's going to help the problem rather than exacerbate it in most circumstances. Do you want to add anything to that, Joe?
Joe Dallas: I fully agree. I would only add, then also try to reason with people. I like to approach people with the assumption that they are reasonable until they absolutely prove otherwise. The fact that somebody is angry doesn't mean they're unreasonable. It means they're angry. So, I try to reason with people by simply asking, is it fair to call me a hater because I disagree with you? Do you not disagree with anyone? Do you thereby hate everyone you disagree with? Of course, you don't. Then is it really fair to say to me that I hate you because I disagree with you?
Joe Dallas: I think oftentimes, if we show people we are interested in establishing rapport with them, we're not just interested in winning the argument. I think that's how we avoid unless necessary conflict, but I like your question because you used the word unnecessary. Can we avoid conflict? No. There are people who are going to absolutely reject you and vilify you no matter how well you used to read the truth.
Sean McDowell: That's fair.
Joe Dallas: We must never assume that because we're getting the wrong responses, it means we used the wrong approach. That's not necessarily true, and of course, the life of the apostles, and Christ himself, shows that's not necessarily true.
Sean McDowell: A number of years ago in a conversation, I had a student say to me, he goes, "You know what? You're really homophobic." I said, "That's a really serious charge. Could you define for me what you mean by this?" And he couldn't even define it. And I just graciously said, "Look, if you're going to call somebody a label that carries a lot of connotations today, don't you think you should know what it means first, that you want someone to treat you that way?"
Joe Dallas: Absolutely.
Sean McDowell: And it really actually built our relationship up rather than tore it down. But you're right, that doesn't always happen in a cancel culture. In a second, I'm going to ask you what you think the best question is, and we're going to send a free book, but I want those viewing to pick up a copy of your book that releases August 3rd, Christians in a Cancel Culture. It's biblical, it's thoughtful, full of stories, practical wisdom. If anybody's watching this, trying to just figure out how to navigate cancel culture, this is one of the best resources I've seen yet on this.
Sean McDowell: All right, Joe, we had seven questions. I'll tell you very quickly. Maybe you know which one was the best, but there was a question about using transgender pronouns. There was a question about trends in culture, the future where you see this going. There was a question about your favorite verse that helps with cancel culture. The church discipline question. The question about how helping and responding to teachers. And then one about how the apostles would respond, and then the last, to lower the temperature rather than raise it from Keenan. Your favorite question.
Joe Dallas: My favorite is the one about trends, only because it covered the broader principles involved. They're all such terrific questions, I hate to choose, but I would say that's the one, because I think that, that gives us a sense of where we're going and what we should be doing in light of it. I appreciated that.
Sean McDowell: Love it. Now, I was afraid this is going to happen, because I wrote down the name for the comment for all these, except that one. I missed it while we were going. So, if you asked the question about trends, that was you, you know who you are. You can go back and watch the video. If you-
Joe Dallas: That was good, Sean.
Sean McDowell: That was on me. If you email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, we will send you a signed copy of Evidence That Demands a Verdict, both by my father and by myself. Joe, so grateful for your voice. I appreciate that you talk about truth and grace so needed today. Thanks for writing this book and for coming on and doing a great job. Let's do this again soon.
Joe Dallas: Always a pleasure, Sean. Thank you for having me.
Sean McDowell: Thanks, brother. We'll talk to you soon.