Mark my words, this is the stupidest thing I have ever heard, possibly in my entire life: “I tell you, if they start canceling these American presidents, they are gonna come after Bible characters next.”
This gem was uttered by Fox News host Bill Hemmer on air recently. The clip of the broadcast is one you should really take a look at. This was what he decided to say in response to the Chicago review of 41 of the city’s landmarks, including five statues of President Abraham Lincoln, which the city is considering removing.
Since the summer, when protests spilled onto city and small town streets alike during the Black Lives Matter Movement, people across America have taken a pause to look in the mirror, ask themselves what they believe, and decide who they want to be — a racist or an ally. They are reexamining long-held beliefs and realizing that the monuments of people they were taught to revere are not always deserving of the praise; that truth be told, American history has been whitewashed, and it’s time to change that for the good of all citizens. This isn’t cancel culture — it’s a case of knowing better and doing better.
And because normal, reasonable people understand this, Twitter had a heyday with Hemmer’s comments.
I would guess Hemmer isn’t even all that familiar with, or reverent about, the Bible, since he called the people in it “characters.”
If he were, he would understand the irony that the Bible itself contains all kinds of cancel culture. “Nobody loves canceling Bible characters more than God does,” writes Sarah Jones in New York Magazine. “Ask Lot’s wife. Or the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah, or the firstborn children of Egypt. The Bible is one long account of cancel culture run amok, Bill.”
While I do believe in the Bible and its teachings, and know there are learnings to be had, we must also use some common sense whenever we bring it up. There are plenty of sinners in the Bible, who, during the time they lived, were held accountable for their actions in ways that made sense for the times. No one is a saint, and everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions — by karma, if all else fails. This is where I place modern cancel culture: in the realm of karma. Karma came for people like R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein. (Read Ronan Farrow’s book, Catch and Kill, if you haven’t.)
The bobble heads who accompanied Hemmer during this ridiculous Fox News show didn’t disagree with his sentiments. One guest reporter, Carley Shimkus, said, “[A]re we in a transition period in our country right now where our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren might not think of these people the way we do? They might not be taught in the same way we know them now. I say more statues, not less, not fewer. More opinions, more ideas, not less.”
Say what now? Listen, the fact is that people do wrong in our society every single day and they need to be held accountable, and when they are not, what happens then? What happens when officers aren’t arrested after shooting an unarmed person? What happens when a person is assaulted and the perpetrator is not held accountable? The victim, the person struggling to have their voice heard when they need it the most, deserves some sort of justice — and for some, resorting to the idea of cancel culture is all they have.
We know that canceling out someone’s image, a facade built on lies, does not really hurt them; not in the same way they’ve hurt others. In a recent article in Vox, the author states, “The rise of ‘cancel culture’ and the idea of canceling someone coincides with a familiar pattern: A celebrity or other public figure does or says something offensive. A public backlash, often fueled by politically progressive social media, ensues. Then come the calls to cancel the person — that is, to effectively end their career or revoke their cultural cachet, whether through boycotts of their work or disciplinary action from an employer.” Social media has given voice to the voiceless when traditional methods have failed them.
When someone fails to hold themselves accountable or right their wrongs and move forward on a stronger footing, sometimes people just need to take things into their own hands and then others will pay attention. Cancel culture isn’t some sweeping condemnation of anybody who’s ever made a misstep; it’s a recognition that certain behaviors need to be answered for, and public platforms need to be taken away from people who don’t deserve them. And nobody, Bill Hemmer, understood this like God – at least, according to the Bible.