X Close

Cancel culture won’t save you In the quiet of Holy Week, I can admit I was a bully

"I saw my first crucifixion at boarding school". NurPhoto / Getty Images

"I saw my first crucifixion at boarding school". NurPhoto / Getty Images


April 2, 2021   4 mins

I was little more than a child when I witnessed my first act of crucifixion. A young boy was hoisted up on a dark wooden bar in the dormitory, arms tied down with dressing gown cords. He was terrified, his body restrained with strips of knotted fabric, legs dangling in space, mouth stuffed with socks so that he would not attract the attention of teachers who were downstairs having a drink.

Some thought it was a bit of a laugh, that all-purpose justification for brutality the world over. And with just enough boys involved to make it a collective effort, individual responsibility was dissolved away in the frenzy of a Dionysian joint enterprise.

Others didn’t know what to do. They watched or slunk away, not wanting to be next. But there would be no escape. Bullying was cyclical. One day you were the bully, the next, you were the bullied. The roles were very swiftly transferable: victim one day, victimiser the next. Pretty much everyone was involved. A kind of omertà pertained, generated by a mixture of fear and shame. The Lord of the Flies wasn’t fiction at my school.

Few people who were at boarding school back in the Seventies can have escaped the effects of this brutal and brutalising culture. Free a group of young boys from parental control and leave them largely unsupervised for hours on end… Only those with the most blindly naĂŻve view of human nature could be surprised at what happens next. And when the school is itself run on the basis of gratuitous violence — beatings being the only language of moral instruction I can recall — one has all the elements of a little lesson in the social dynamics of the crucifixion.

Perhaps the most challenging thing for a congregation to accept during Holy Week is that the people who welcome Jesus into Jerusalem at the beginning of the week are those same people who jeer for him to be crucified a few days later. All the signs were that this man was the Messiah — half religious leader, half king — who would return the Jewish people to the glory days of Kings David and Solomon. The Messiah was the charismatic frontman for the Make Israel Great Again movement. The sort of person who could draw a crowd, get them all excited, hold them in his hand.

Palm Sunday has all the energy of a Trump rally in a football stadium, with crowds pouring down the Mount of Olives to hail their hero’s triumphant entry into the city. I have joined those crowds myself on Palm Sunday and, even though we know what follows, it still feels like religious enthusiasm at its least self-critical. Punch the air. We are on the winning side.

But when squeezed inside the political cauldron of Jerusalem, something changes. Within days, maybe even within hours, the perspective flips. The all-conquering hero suddenly looks like a funny little man from provincial Galilee, someone who won’t stand up for himself, someone who allows himself to be bossed about by the authorities. And all that nonsense about turning the other cheek. What a loser. And messiahs can’t be losers. The cries of “Hosanna!” fade away to be swiftly replaced by “Crucify!”.

The crowd is the great villain of Holy Week. More so than Judas, the betrayer. More so than Pilate, the pragmatic amoral politician, straight out of central casting. More so than Peter, the denier. The crowd has a kind of demonic corporate personality: fickle, gratuitous, devoid of conscience, at turns both sentimental and brutal. In the crowd, you can no more be blamed for your actions than a starling can be held responsible for the direction of a murmuration. Everyone has deniability, no one has blood on their hands because everyone has blood on their hands.

In the Gospels, the crowd functions much like the Ring of Gyges, a mythical band that grants invisibility to those who wear it. Plato talks about it in Book 2 of The Republic, where he asks if any of us, when freed from the possibility of detection, would be so virtuous as to resist the temptation to do whatever our passions might compel. The Gospels suggest not.

The liturgy of Holy Week is designed to call us out, to expose the way we flit from friend to betrayer the moment our own security is threatened. If the liturgy is doing its job properly, Christians should recognise themselves as the very people who are screaming to string him up. And piety does not save us from being among their number. There is something more than a little ironic about that. Holy Week is packed full of religious services. Yet Holy Week is also a thoroughgoing attack on religious piety, whereby the more religious you are, the greater your failure.

So, for example, Peter’s denial of Christ — “Nope, I don’t know him” — wasn’t just a one-off. Three times he pretended he wasn’t one of them. And yet, it is from this unpromising material that the church itself is created. Peter was the first Pope.

This Christian attitude is the absolute polar opposite of that debased and moralistic approach to human values that is known as cancel culture. In cancel culture there is no way of coming back from the taint of guilt. In cancel culture everyone is encouraged to see themselves as a victim but no one has the courage to admit they have been the victimiser — except, of course, in the most general of terms. And the two are connected. Cancel culture offers no redemption, so encourages only the denial of one’s complicity. By contrast, Holy Week offers nowhere to hide from our own cowardice and failure. In this story, we are the betrayers. And yet this is also the one where we emerge transformed.

And that, in the end is the weakness of cancel culture moralism: it leaves everything where it is. People are not changed. In the quiet of Holy Week, I can admit the painful truth that I was a bully too. Both a victim and a victimiser. I looked away when I should have stepped in. I too pretended it wasn’t going on. Because if you can’t admit it, you can’t heal it.


Giles Fraser is a journalist, broadcaster and Vicar of St Anne’s, Kew.

giles_fraser

Join the discussion


Rejoignez des lecteurs partageant les mĂȘmes idĂ©es qui soutiennent notre journalisme en devenant abonnĂ©s payants.

Subscribe

To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

118 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jamie Farrell
Jamie Farrell
3 years ago

Tremendous article Giles. I find the power of your message lies in how you communicate the psychological significance of the bible rather than focusing on the (in my opinion) irrelevance of whether these stories actually happened or not. This is what Jordan Peterson so powerfully conveys in his biblical lectures and millions of young people listen to those and are utterly enthralled. If the church genuinely wanted to revive its popularity then the clues are all there as to how it should set out its story……full on focus on the psychological meaning.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jamie Farrell
Wulvis Perveravsson
Wulvis Perveravsson
3 years ago

Before trying to pick the speck of dust from your neighbour’s eye, remove the log from your own.
A lesson that many of the woke fraternity could learn from.

David B
David B
3 years ago

Especially given the seemingly high incidence of skeletons in closets in that community.

Wulvis Perveravsson
Wulvis Perveravsson
3 years ago
Reply to  David B

We all have them to some extent, and I think it’s always best to remember that!

Kevin Moquin
Kevin Moquin
3 years ago

But isn’t that the exact kind of thinking this piece argues against? Shouldn’t we look to ourselves first rather than those we consider to be great sinners? We all have that tendency to want to join the mob. That seems to be a message conveyed by Holy Week.

Wulvis Perveravsson
Wulvis Perveravsson
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Moquin

Yes, we are all guilty of it, and the best we can do is actively try to always take stock of our own faults to remind ourselves how unfair it is to criticise others without rock solid justification. For example; I think you would be fairly justified in calling out a serial killer for their actions, but it’s probably not right to criticise a speeding motorist when most of us have done it ourselves at some point (and probably enjoyed it too). This applies very well to those flinging about unsubstantiated accusations of racism, sexism etc, as is the current trend. If they examined themselves more closely, they would probably notice many of the prejudicial tendencies that they claim to be so opposed to.

Last edited 3 years ago by Wulvis Perveravsson
Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago

but it’s probably not right to criticise a speeding motorist when most of us have done it ourselves at some point”

Thanks, I just got a fixed penalty notice for doing 68 on a single carriageway road. It smarts – because the last ticket I got was in 1971 and I have driven over half a million miles since the last one.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago

One of the ironies of H & M trying to bring down the institution of monarchy by claiming it is unwoke is they only got to voice their opinions due to being royals. Cancel culture often cancels itself.Firstly if the accuser has any blemishes themselves-unfortunate tweets or pictures showing they were guilty as accused and also if the institution fights back.Royalty for example has been around for centuries and appears in countless fairytales and dramas-its not going away. People need to dream-Cinderella and Snow White work as stories because the maiden is rescued by a prince rather than say a butcher. In the grim marxist world of cancel culture H & M are just two dimwits smashing the very institution which gave them fame, fortune and glamour.Countless lecturers are using cancel culture to gain higher prestige than their low ability warrents , but in doing so they are ultimately talking themselves out of a job.

Ceelly Hay
Ceelly Hay
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Moquin

It has not often commented that Christianity encourages you to consider you are ‘not’ necessarily always correct, question your assumptions, think for yourself rather than go along with the mob. While with the Cancel culture, there is always one correct version – the woke version determined by ‘experts’. To check how the woke version matches up to reality is not only unnecessary, but evil. The cancel culture seems to be more concerned with the narrative rather than the people’s realities.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ceelly Hay
James Hamilton
James Hamilton
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Moquin

I think that “looking to yourself” is precisely the point Jesus made when he uttered that quote.
I think the problem you correctly identify is that people now use that quote as an accusation, quite ironically, I must say.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago

Well, you’re a critic too, aren’t you? Speaking of judging not lest you be judged and the Bible and all that.

Wulvis Perveravsson
Wulvis Perveravsson
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Yes indeed, and that’s the paradox. But, in my defence, I don’t go around looking to get people cancelled on the strength of something they may have said or done.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

That’s an oft-mistook phrase from the Bible. Many people take it to mean vacuous tolerance of everything.

David Zersen
David Zersen
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

You weren’t paying attention. He’s criticizing himself.

Jayne Lago
Jayne Lago
3 years ago

They wouldn’t understand it…..

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago

Thank you Mr Fraser for this wonderful piece. Being a little less harshly judgemental of others and honestly more self-reflective of our own flaws will make all us better people.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Well, there’s contrition for you, after that entire thread of yours was zapped. Punishment from sources on high, to whom no appeal is possible, it seems works well. A lesson for all of us this Easter (and especially the CCP who have embraced this completely).

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

She Who Must Be Obeyed works here, I have had an e-mail from her, and was terminated. I do not know what it is about all moderation now days, but I have never heard of any, ever, being rehabilitated once banned. If President Trump is ‘One Strike and You Are Out For Ever’ then what chance do us have? We exist at the sufferance of our moral betters, on social media.

We just must accept they do it to protect the greater POE (Purity Of Essence), and we should thank them for it.

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Thank you. You can only be Herd if you say what they want to hear.
I never thought this site would turn out to so shameless and morally bankrupt.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

They’re not. Shameless or morally bankrupt I mean. All kinds of opinions, left and right are fine. But it’s pointless sinking to ad homonyms. Satire and humour make the point better than invective if you want to attack attitudes or groups or even individuals – plus you won’t get blocked. The reason to come here as opposed to other current affairs fora is because there is a better quality of debate. It would be a shame to lose that.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

“left and right are fine”

I think you are mistaken. Marxism has caused the death of millions. Feminism, which developed out of Marxism is divisive and nihilistic.
If “right” and “left” wing writing is now acceptable on UnHerd, does that mean we are going to get to read some Neo-Fascism ? I don’t think so.
What began as a reasonable socially conservative digital magazine is being shifted to the Left. It’s a pity.

Last edited 3 years ago by Claire D
Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

How is my disagreeing with you self defeating?
You are mixing up the personal and public spheres, not appropriate. My personal life is not the issue.
Not only that but you have failed to answer the points I made, and I will make another one : if UnHerd are intent on publishing from “right and left traditions” where were the so-called “right” wing articles on the topics of either the police handling of the protests on Clapham Common, or the schoolboy scandal that is currently raging?
Only leftwing/feminist articles have so far appeared.

I absolutely uphold free speech, UnHerd can change tack as much as they like, but in the same way that I have not read the Guardian for years, if it is going to become increasingly left wing I am not interested.

Last edited 3 years ago by Claire D
Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

I’m sorry to hear that your thread was removed, it has happened to me a few times, as far as I can remember all your comments have been admirable, if not brilliant. But UnHerd’s centre of gravity seems to have shifted recently towards a more post-modernist, amoral position, with many more left wing views being included as a consequence.

I’ve pretty much had enough.

Thank you Mary Harrington, Aris Roussinos, Niall Gooch, Eleanor Parker, John Lewis-Stempel, Douglas Murray and Giles Fraser for some great reading.

Last edited 3 years ago by Claire D
kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

This just started happening recently -I wonder where our comments go -to the naughty box?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

My family is all off to Church but I am home so your article was my sermon.. I remember you from The Guardian Giles, where I always thought of you as the ‘Mad Parson, Reverend Straik’, as what is The Guardian but the propaganda arm of N.I.C.E. (CS Lewis)

And it was an excellent sermon, and one which always needs telling, that Christianity, unique in all the religions ever, is one of forgiveness and redemption where every sinner may return to the fold by merely asking forgiveness with sincerity.

Layla Kaylif
Layla Kaylif
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

that is not true. there are many religions where forgiveness and redemption are granted.

Last edited 3 years ago by Layla Kaylif
James B
James B
3 years ago
Reply to  Layla Kaylif

Such as?

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  James B

Most of them, I think. Seems to be standard issue for concocting a religion, does it not? Actually, the only religion I know of where the God or gods or mystic forces cannot be appeased is old-time Calvinist Christianity where some are fated to be damned to eternal torment.

Chris Rimmer
Chris Rimmer
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I thought that the C.S. Lewis Cosmic trilogy wasn’t a great story, but revealed some deep truths. Even though he claimed that the characters didn’t represent anyone in real life, I can’t help thinking of Weston as someone like Julian Huxley, and Jules as H.G Wells.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Rimmer

I thought ‘That Hidious Strength’ was the best fiction book ever written. I believe the 4 Horsemen, Gates, Bezos, Dorsy, and Zuckerberg would fit exactly in the NICE orginization.

The cold horror which the book evokes is just what the secular Humanism Tech industry/people are out to create with their a-moral AI. It is hell they are creating.

dhsumana01
dhsumana01
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Dear Sanford thanks for your thoughts and in particular your point about Christian uniqueness and forgiveness and redemption . I’m not a Christian but a practioner as fully as I’m able of universal values in a Buddhist context . Confession of Faults along with the aspiration not to repeat the behaviour and to make amends wherever and in whatever way is possible gets me back on track .
Beyond any particular religious framework and even beyond words and expressions lays what is deeply true .
with best wishes

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
3 years ago

If after 2000 years someone is still really listening to what you had to say, surely that’s a victory.

Last edited 3 years ago by Tim Bartlett
Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
3 years ago

It is odd to have Christianity presented as an antithesis of “cancel culture”. I would suggest that for hundreds of years Christianity was the cancel culture, and has simply been superseded by the new religion of Leftism/Wokeism.
Like Christianity, Leftism begins by asserting a fundamental mission to produce equality, fairness and eventually a utopian heaven on earth. Like Christianity, in practice it developed a rigid set of beliefs that must be defended by the persecution of the blasphemers that deny and defy them. The zealotry, the pious sense of moral superiority, the pleasure of exerting power and control over others; Leftism and its cancel culture is just a new religion, perverted by the same old human failings.

Last edited 3 years ago by Marcus Leach
Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
3 years ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Substitute “certain strands of Christianity”? Calvinism springs to mind…

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

Ah, the exculpate the Catholics argument. ‘Excommunication’ in its day was ‘cancel culture’ It could deprive a non-communicant of his social position, liveihood, and force him into exile, where there was only one socially powerful ‘Church’. Protestantism was actually less prone to this, because of its tendency to fracture into different ‘sects’.
And I repeat: the classic defence of freedom of opinion and speech was written not by any Catholic, but by a Protestant Puritan, John MIlton.

Last edited 3 years ago by Arnold Grutt
Steve Craddock
Steve Craddock
3 years ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

This is a excellent example of the importance of open debate for all especially, for i suspect, the many people like myself who just getting on with stuff as compared to the paid for big brains you see spouting off all the time on TV.
Your comment flipped me from “yay go christians!” from the article above to “boo bad christians” in a heartbeat.
Feeling this flip occur in my head has made me think more deeply about the article and the subsequent empirical evidence presented.
I think the history of christianity shows that people seeking power and control will always do so through whatever means they can find, especially when there is a monarchy or other absolute ruler in charge. And ultimately as, i think, the saying goes “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”
Possibly the mistake made in those days was that, i think, christianity is really about self rule and not for ruling others or the community at large and a better system was needed at the time instead of the feudal and monarchy that was imposed.
The power seekers saw their chance and copied the structures of power they saw around them with the end result we see in our history books today.

Last edited 3 years ago by Steve Craddock
Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Craddock

“especially when there is a monarchy or other absolute ruler in charge”

The British Queen, I’ll just remind you, is not an ‘absolute ruler’ unlike Louis XIV (“Je suis l’Ă©tat.”)

Last edited 3 years ago by Arnold Grutt
JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Or indeed Emmanuel I, prince of indecisiveness!

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Emmanuel, Prince of Enarqness.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I think I saw that in the 70s. It was a double bill with “confessions of a window cleaner”

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Craddock

Marcus is just a Liberal who believes all morality is relative, ethics are situational, and so if a belief based on ethics and morality tries to actually enforce them they are canceling. This shows a childish lack of understanding of what morality and ethics are. All censoring, all canceling are not the same.

Morals are culture based, a head hunter is moral when he kills a stranger, a Liberal is moral when he destroys the life of someone who appeared in Blackface at a party when 16 years old. A Christian is moral when they protest 700,000 babies are aborted every year in the West.

Ethics are the problem Secular Humanists cannot resolve. Ethics are UNIVERSAL right and wrong. The problem is if all is relative and situational as you hold no ultimate, then ethics cannot exist, only morality, or cultural based. A Religious person has Ethics, as they have a belief in the ultimate, and an ethic can not exist in the absence of ultimate.

(the best definition of religion is a belief in an ultimate. Life and the coming death are ‘Mundane’ they are physical reality, and thus not ultimate, ultimate is beyond that, that which is beyond the mundane.)

Secular Humanists can not have ultimate as secular means worldly instead of spiritual, and Humanism means humans are the core value, and no one can say what that means ethically.

The woke are secular humanists, therefore cannot hold ethics, and thus cannot justify canceling. A religious person can believe in ultimate, thus ethics, so can believe in canceling. A liberal cannot justify canceling porn as it is relative and situational, a religious person can ethically cancel porn as it is against his ultimate beliefs. Big difference.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Morals are culture based

Ethics are UNIVERSAL right and wrong.

Precisely. That’s the point i repeatedly keep hammering every too often, so glad to see it someone gets it right.
Morals are ephemeral, manmade, culture-based, fallible constructs, prone to become dogmata.
Ethics are constant and universal. Same as mathematical constants, their principle will exist even when mankind doesn’t.
Like the cubic root of 27 remains 3, no matter whether there’s anyone around to observe it.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Craddock

Excellent response. Another thought… If you want to see the true nature of a belief system (not necessarily a religion, this applies to politics too) study how they behave when they have power… Now, the church emphasises understanding, tolerance, forgiveness. When it had power, these things were sadly lacking.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Indeed. The church is at its worst when it pursues secular power and its best when it gives it both fingers.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Craddock

Well, it exposes both sides of the importance of open debate: you should be able to hear both sides of the argument, but you also have to be a little wary of what you read – particularly if what you read is a criticism of a reasonably well thought through article expressed in little more than a tweet.
Christian societies were at one point at the peak of cancel culture: people were burned at the stake for saying things people in their communities didn’t like. But the problem was that doing so is an affront to the basic rules of Christianity, and Christianity being our cultural foundation determined the response to stake burnings and the growth of liberalism (see here).
Freedom of speech emerges from Christianity because we are all made in the image of God (so we all have equal dignity), yet we are all fall short of the glory of God (so we are all culpable in God’s eyes), and at its inception humans cancelled God Himself by crucifying Him for saying things they didn’t like and then tried to cancel the Apostles for repeating them. The idea that executing people who are trying to tell the truth is a Bad Thing may have emerged elsewhere, but if it has it was probably cancelled because it didn’t have the force of Divine Jurisprudence behind it which it does in Christianity.
All societies and communities have their rules about what is and isn’t acceptable: Atheists are not invited to run churches, Christians do not lead worship in mosques, Jews are not voted in as the pastors of Baptist churches, the Pope is unlikely to become the head of the Secular Society, and paedophiles are generally unwelcome everywhere. You do not have to associate with people you do not want to. The question is about how far that can go.
Cancel culture is consistent with the rules of Wokism, Communism, and most of the other horrible “isms” which we know of. That is the point. That Freedom of Speech, like the Scientific Method, only emerged from the one particular type of society which Marcus Leach wishes to impute is not a coincidence at all. It is a consequence of its foundations.
Here’s how the atheist JS Mill, addressing censorious Christians, puts it in Chapter 2 of On Liberty:

To pass from this to the only other instance of judicial iniquity, the mention of which, after the condemnation of Socrates, would not be an anti-climax: the event which took place on Calvary rather more than eighteen hundred years ago. The man who left on the memory of those who witnessed his life and conversation, such an impression of his moral grandeur, that eighteen subsequent centuries have done homage to him as the Almighty in person, was ignominiously put to death, as what? As a blasphemer. Men did not merely mistake their benefactor; they mistook him for the exact contrary of what he was, and treated him as that prodigy of impiety, which they themselves are now held to be, for their treatment of him. The feelings with which mankind now regard these lamentable transactions, especially the latter of the two, render them extremely unjust in their judgment of the unhappy actors. These were, to all appearance, not bad men-not worse than men most commonly are, but rather the contrary; men who possessed in a full, or somewhat more than a full measure, the religious, moral, and patriotic feelings of their time and people: the very kind of men who, in all times, our own included, have every chance of passing through life blameless and respected. The high-priest who rent his garments when the words were pronounced, which, according to all the ideas of his country, constituted the blackest guilt, was in all probability quite as sincere in his horror and indignation, as the generality of respectable and pious men now are in the religious and moral sentiments they profess; and most of those who now shudder at his conduct, if they had lived in his time and been born Jews, would have acted precisely as he did. Orthodox Christians who are tempted to think that those who stoned to death the first martyrs must have been worse men than they themselves are, ought to remember that one of those persecutors was Saint Paul.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
3 years ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Christianity never promises Heaven on Earth, the opposite, it tries to give meaning to suffering. As Christ says to Pilate: My Kingdom is NOT of this world. As Giles pointed out in his article, Christianity ultimately is about redemption and forgiveness.

Ian Wigg
Ian Wigg
3 years ago

Christianity, like pretty much all religion, is purely “jam tomorrow.”

Pierre Whalon
Pierre Whalon
3 years ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

None of us gets away from being religious, in one way or another, eh?

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
3 years ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Good point. But maybe we should condition it by, say, contrasting early Christianity (pre-Constantine at the very least) to Christianity post-Pope Urban II (and the start of the Crusades).
Christianity has proven to be a pretty dynamic beast over the last 2,000 years. It’s not a static thing. Folks were not meeting in secret in the catacombs for no reason. Being martyred by burning (see “Roman Candle”), crucifixion or death in the arena was a bad business. Which reminds of a nice line from “24-Hour Party People”: “What the public likes are public executions!” Cancel culture, indeed.

Wulvis Perveravsson
Wulvis Perveravsson
3 years ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

I think we need to separate dogma from belief to have this discussion. We’d probably all agree that racism is wrong, but the woke dogma requires you to prove it by adhering to strict behaviours, and to castigate those who don’t do the same. In the same way, most people believe that doing unto others as they would have done to themselves is good guiding principle for life, but do not feel it necessary to attend church, or participate in any of the other rituals involved in religion.

Last edited 3 years ago by Wulvis Perveravsson
Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
3 years ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Christianity never promised a utopian heaven on earth. You are thinking of Communism.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
3 years ago

Yes it does, it promises that God will bring heaven to earth (the “New Jerusalem”), when he’s ready. The critical difference is that Christians are not told to try and do it themselves – this is something that only God can achieve.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
3 years ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Well, that’s true, but it was also out of Christianity that the idea of a liberal culture emerged – so that we could stop burning each other at the stake. Jesus designed the religion to resist self-righteousness and hypocrisy, it is when those things take hold that the religion loses its authority.
Churches are at their worst when they are powerful, and at their best when they are trying to stand up for the powerless.

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
3 years ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

People who don’t know very much about Christianity – and certainly not from the inside – are prone to generalisations like yours, as if Christianity were a small select cult rather than a vast, universal, all-embracing body that has always been diverse and extraordinarily open, certainly more so than most other religions. And that was so before the Reformation.

There were always many differences of opinion, multiple differences in liturgy, various schools of thought, often disputing with each other, with remarkable tolerance. Heresies when they arose were studied carefully and condemned only when they blatantly contradicted basic Christian doctrine – but quite often survived under the radar in some form or another, to keep reappearing, such as Arianism or Pelagianism. Ordinary folk generally practised a colourful mix of orthodox doctrine with a vibrant undercurrent of pre-Christian beliefs and practices, and the Church authorities turned a blind eye or even encouraged some of these folk traditions as at least they kept people coming to church and taking an interest. So crosses were carved on Neolithic standing stones, ancient sacred wells were used for baptisms, harvest festivals were brought into the church and so on.

Excommunication, contrary to popular legend, was very rare, and generally confined to high status individuals who were setting a bad example or a cause for scandal.

So equating the vastness of Christianity with “cancel culture” is incredibly shallow and only reveals your ignorance, I’m afraid.

Margaret Donaldson
Margaret Donaldson
3 years ago

Thank you, Giles. Holy Week is a time of both great spiritual richness and renewal and acute moral and spiritual discomfort. Your article reflected that. Easter greetings to you and your readers.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago

Amen Giles, thank you.

J J
J J
3 years ago

Racism, sexism or overt injustice became taboo a long time ago. At some point the left worked out the mere accusation of one of these taboos is sufficient to silence someone. They found a way to ‘weaponize’ morality.
If you disagree with a policy aimed at reducing one of these taboos, then you are by definition guilty of the taboo the policy is trying to address. It has been an incredibly successful political strategy. It’s given the Left a traction they would not otherwise of had. The same old socialist policies of resentment and hatred, but now masked by an overt form of moralising. We have been and remain in the grip of a form of moral hysteria.
Then someone like Trump comes along and tells the left to ‘go fuc* themselves’. Something we have all secretly wanted to do for sometime. In a far more subtle (and probably smarter) sense, that is what Boris Johnson has done too.
The Left’s campaign of moral outrage is starting to fail. I fear in the process of this failure they will become ever more desperate. They will also leave in their wake a trail of division and mistrust. Never have the real racists had so much cover as they have now, as the term ‘racist’ has lost all meaning. Politicians like Boris Johnson have a mountain ahead of them to climb.

Last edited 3 years ago by J J
catherine.gormley
catherine.gormley
3 years ago

Great article Giles though I think your thoughts/lessons are applicable to us all not just the woke fraternity . Happy Easter.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago

Lovely. Thanks for the article

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
3 years ago

Wonderful article. Thank you Giles

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
3 years ago

Thank you Giles. I deeply appreciate what you said
Happy Easter to you and your family

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago

Wonderful article, thank you very much

klusmann
klusmann
3 years ago

This is the finest sermon I heard or read in years. Thank you!

James B
James B
3 years ago

Superb article. Thank you.

Malcolm Davies
Malcolm Davies
3 years ago

If you want to imagine the the future its a picture of a human face with an image of a policemans boot stamping on it forever (G Orwell)
Thats cancel culture …..
We need -Redemption —–rather than the nhilistic finality of this cult of woke cancel culture.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago

“… that debased and moralistic approach to human values that is known as cancel culture. In cancel culture there is no way of coming back from the taint of guilt. … Cancel culture offers no redemption, so encourages only the denial of one’s complicity.”
I would argue it is also debased in its application as a totalitarian moral system, such as revealed in its method of tainting individuals and organisations through the performance of a cruel, unreasonable and arbitrary aggressive tactic of career and reputation destruction. This tainting is performed from a position of power through an accusation of a transgression against an arbitrary moral doctrine and then the application of punishment.

Chris Rimmer
Chris Rimmer
3 years ago

A culture of unforgiveness gives an awful lot of power to the people who have the photos.
(Edit) And to the people who control mass-publishing.

Last edited 3 years ago by Chris Rimmer
michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Rimmer

Yes. But the comments about cancel culture are sometimes predicated on the assumption someone has done something immoral when measured against a background theory of morality that either has right or wrong or consequentialist principles.
It is the acceptance of this background theory of morality that is the question for, IMO, it itself is in turn predicated on non-consensual, unsubstantiated assertions/quasi religious beliefs.
Because of that, its application – that has extreme punishment associated with it, is both unreasonable and tyrannical.

Last edited 3 years ago by michael stanwick
Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
3 years ago

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.
1 Timothy 1:15

Last edited 3 years ago by Mikey Mike
Jennifer Britton
Jennifer Britton
3 years ago

One of the ideas Christianity shares with Socrates is the necessity of knowing oneself before claiming to know others. And this Good Friday is an appropriate time to reflect on that wisdom.

Marco S
Marco S
3 years ago

I was assaulted and raped by senior boys at boarding school and seduced by the housemaster that groomed me when I left. This Easter I will try to forgive him but cannot forgive myself. He continued to have a senior position in childcare and the Anglican Church. I never felt good enough. This article was very helpful. thank you. Mark

Ray Hall
Ray Hall
3 years ago
Reply to  Marco S

A brave comment . I hope you find some kind of peace

Jayne Lago
Jayne Lago
3 years ago
Reply to  Marco S

I agree…what courage, something the wokeraty would never understand or appreciate.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
3 years ago

And the Jewish authorities, the ones at the Cross who said, “He saved others …” They admit knowing that, but still they conspire against him. Perhaps that’s also a feature of cancel-culture: only the woke types are allowed to do anything for the victims. If someone outside the charmed circle does something good that is twisted into an attempt to deny their historic guilt. And if a person chosen for the role of (perpetual) victim dares to improve their own circumstances – well they are really in for an online stoning.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

‘This Christian attitude is the absolute polar opposite of that debased and moralistic approach to human values that is known as cancel culture.’
I agree with that, and in this respect I depart from Tom Holland on this subject.
That picture accompanying the article reminds me that I must construct a rudimentary crucifix for the purpose of crucifying the worst bottle at our Easter tasting tomorrow. I guess that’s not very Christian.

Last edited 3 years ago by Fraser Bailey
Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Can you give a reference to Tom Holland’s comments on cancel culture? He is so interesting; one of the few atheists who has no axe to grind and is happy for others to believe if they choose.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Well I refer more to Holland’s view that MeToo, BLM and woke etc is derived from Christian principles. But cancel culture is a huge part of that.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Fraser, you appear to be able to see replies to your comments. Could you – or anyone else – advise me how? Many thanks.

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Reload the page?

J Bryant
J Bryant
3 years ago

The Left’s campaign of moral outrage is starting to fail, as a strategy.
I would like to believe you but I don’t see the evidence. If anything, cancel culture and wokeism seems to be gaining strength.
What evidence do you see that the Left’s campaign of moral outrage is starting to fail? I’m not trying to be contentious. I really want to know.

Steve Craddock
Steve Craddock
3 years ago

I think often the channel a message or thought is delivered through can sometimes be as important as the message itself, especially when trying reach out to “non-subscribers” or maybe those of us using the free “limited feature version”. It is interesting to have someone cut through the layers and symbolism and expose the core concept being conveyed.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Craddock

Paywall coming, there is no such thing as a free truth.

Pierre Whalon
Pierre Whalon
3 years ago

Well done, Giles.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago

 I looked away when I should have stepped in. I too pretended it wasn’t going on. 

Or worse. I clearly remember Fraser actively drumming up support for thirdworld mass immigration on the Guardian’s opinion pages, a few years ago (2015 – ’16, when the flow became thick & fast).
I was actually a bit taken aback by seeing his name on Unherd, but oh well… diversity of opinions & all that, i guess.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

I wonder if Giles thinks of Welby as being right wing? The Guardian thinks the BBC is.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
3 years ago

Same with me. I couldn‘t believe that he writes in UnHerd. But I am pretty sure he had a Damascene conversion in the last few years. I couldn‘t agree more with most of his articles. He turned out to be pro Brexit.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago

Hope you are right.
I was a bit dubious about Trevor Phillips too, five years ago (after all he was one of the architects of the current madness under Blair) – and he turned out a genuinely all-around fine chap.

trevorgevans
trevorgevans
3 years ago

We are in a state of flux….we have always been in state of flux. Those of us following a Christian life have a 2,000 year old anchor on which to stabilise and this provides comfort in a time where everyone who develops an opinion can, in a trice, make billions aware of such opinions. I accept that other religions can make similar stability claims.
Today is like no previous time inasmuch as the speed of our thoughts is matched by the speed of technology: this is disruptive, making the journey through life more difficult to negotiate as influencing views come thick and fast, very fast. Giles’ powerful article is testimony to this phenomenon.
Individually, all one can do is to focus on being a better person, seeking to always take the right action. This is life’s never ending challenge.

Alex Delszsen
Alex Delszsen
3 years ago

In Germany, their new citizens call the O.G. Natzees when they want to deflect criticism or call off any authority trying to uphold rules. That word is their Kryptonite. They simply die inside because they were taught to hate themselves collectively in school. E voila.

David Fitzsimons
David Fitzsimons
3 years ago

Lots of bases covered in this article; not convinced in the links between them.

Karen Jemmett
Karen Jemmett
3 years ago

Yes, fear of unemployment has a lot to answer for. In a bizarre sense, Covid seems to have freed us from that particular moral panic… at least for now.

Kerie Receveur
Kerie Receveur
3 years ago
Reply to  Karen Jemmett

Not if you’re one of the 3million plus Excluded, like me. We have not been “freed”, at all.

Arild Brock
Arild Brock
3 years ago

What happens to pride (in the normal sense) in the christian perspective on life?

Lyn Griffiths
Lyn Griffiths
3 years ago

Oh if able to write within one breath of thought as this appeared to be. Wonderful and thank you Giles

Caroline Martin
Caroline Martin
3 years ago

They are lucky those who are in your congregation.

ltarget.esq
ltarget.esq
3 years ago

The pilgrim crowd of Palm Sunday was probably differently composed from the early morning Temple Complex crowd of Good Friday.

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
3 years ago

I just read, in Tom’s book, Rubicon, (page 32, 2nd c BC) where it was prophesied that “They will sink into a swamp of decadence: men will sleep with men…”.

This is a decidedly negative attitude.

J G
J G
3 years ago

Solid article. Thank you.

James Wardle
James Wardle
3 years ago

I resisted bullying in boarding school, but my mother was empathic and said repeatedly, I can cope with murder but never come home with a letter about that. I used to occasionally pleb but I paid 4th formers to post office very rarely and 50p is 50p in 1989. That’s when you coyld buy 1 cigarette from your local. I just never understood why putting my brother in a cold bath with goldfish was that entertaining. Sat nights was a really sinister bully from Liverpool but hd tried to speak like Wirral sort after postcode, where you slow the words out, pausing after verb, after noun etc but he ended up scally like my stepmother who now says ‘as it were’ after everything. It’ll be ‘WHAT WHAT’ next like George III.
Thing is I know what happens to the tea you make for Upper 6 if they’re a nasty physical type. Toothbrushes rubbed with used jockstrap, deep heat in jock strap, I remember them taking all the screws out of a teachers desk and waiting for the whole thing to go. Poor man.
There was a chinese or korean with a cd player, a power amp, 80s dance like stephanie mills and princess…and tourettes, who would spadm up to volume 10 with “if you really want me” by sister sledge and it was literally the same volume as prodigy live at t in the park or whatever it was called. They never said and left him all night in one dorn with 10…noone slept a wink. Teachers are daft sometimes. Just explain and give him a room but no.
Oh and Princess at Volume 10 in the heat of a passionate moment, hands flat on ear, curtains twitching 3 miles away. I like that album, just not sporadic vol 10. Still, I didn’t sandpaper anyones scalp in acts of wanton cruelty. My dad/stepdad were very racist, at 8 i tood a joke, this poor black lad said wait unil im out the room. I took him home on an exeat weekend because his parents were away. All forgotten. Not any more.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago

Cancel culture, deplatforming, pile ons and name calling is power masquerading as morality. The only goal of its protagonists is the advancement of their own opportunities within a peak prosperity world.

Redemption doesn’t come into it. It is dog eat dog and survival of the fittest.

barbaragraziaserra
barbaragraziaserra
3 years ago

What a wonderful article. Especially useful as I try to explain the events of Holy Week to my little boy. Thank you Giles, and Happy Easter.

john dann
john dann
3 years ago

One can hope that all children will be educated in the myths of Christianity and as well as other saviour religions.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

I Miss ”Hellfire Preachers” they had purity of thought ,Dave Allen got them to a tee/..?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Isn’t Excommunication the ultimate in Cancel Culture?

Mikis Hasson
Mikis Hasson
3 years ago

Amazing analogy! Remarkably spot on!

Barbara Kuhlmann
Barbara Kuhlmann
3 years ago

Very well put, and thank you for your honesty about your own role in it when you were a child. For a child it is nearly impossible to take one’s own stance. But it seems to be as difficult for adults as history shows again and again. Deep psychological mechanisms make us oscillate between those who celebrate certain people in one moment and make them victims of the cancel culture in the next. There doesn’t seem to be any other way than to deeply look inside oneself and honestly face whatever one encounters, from a position of compassion instead of judgment, if possible.

Last edited 3 years ago by Barbara Kuhlmann
Mark Lilly
Mark Lilly
3 years ago

I thought this website was for intelligent discussion. Why is there a resident supernaturalist?

john dann
john dann
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Lilly

There seem to be several here at UnHerd who preach the Xtian myth unquestioningly.

ed adams
ed adams
3 years ago

???The core of the Christian myth is cancel culture in its most extreme form.
Those who reject the Holy Spirit suffer either eternal torture or annihilation.

It’s remarkable how Christian cheerleaders hide that extreme barbarity which is at Christianity’s heart. A Second Coming when the impious will be cast into a lake of fire together with Satan and his angels.

And you wonder why Christianity is declining at an accelerating rate throughout the industrialized West?
To turn Tom Holland’s argument back on himself, Christianity has been so successful in humanizing us that we recognize the inhuman barbarity of the Christian mytheme and it repels us.

That, and the fact that Christianity is based on repugnant barbaric practices of human blood sacrifice, scapegoating and ritualized cannibalism.

Cave Artist
Cave Artist
3 years ago

Yup well you’re certainly right about public schools in the 70s. You can’t imagine a child being beaten with a cane by a doctor of letters now can you?

Lindsey Thornton
Lindsey Thornton
3 years ago

Wonderful piece of writing, thank you Giles. So much to read into this. The most profound example of this in my opinion was the looking the other way of Christians during the Holocaust, many ‘Christian’ German Theologians denied Christ’s very Jewishness. The Christian church still hasn’t come to terms with what happened, and taken a share of responsibility.
I kept thinking back to reading Giles’s excellent book Redeeming Nietzsche. Nietzsche attempted to find human salvation in a post-Christian society through art, music, philosophy (the ‘humanities’), and as someone who is studying an ‘Arts and Humanities’ module with the Open University I can understand how you can come to find great empathy and understanding of what it means to be human – ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ (the inevitability of HPtFtU, Human Propensity to f**k things Up), and perhaps through acknowledgement of this fact, find a kind of redemption, or does it inevitably lead to despair/madness as in Nietzsche’s case?

chrisholmesjazz
chrisholmesjazz
3 years ago

It’s quite laughable that a rector from the C of E is contributing to this site. The church in it’s entirety is a self serving, corrupt, racist, club for the middle class ‘holier than thou’ clan. It has no function or point in our modern society. And the opinions of its salesmen are even more irrelevant.

Gareth Rees
Gareth Rees
3 years ago

I hate cancel culture, but at least one’s torment is temporary as opposed to cancel culture in Christianity where you are tortured in Hell for eternity.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Gareth Rees

unlike cancel culture, Christianity offers a path to avoid that outcome.

Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

No. Both offer salvation by compliance. Cancel culture only comes for those who stray from the true path of Leftism.

Chris Rimmer
Chris Rimmer
3 years ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Cancel culture doesn’t seem to offer salvation for people who have failed to comply one time in the past. People who get denounced seem to end up telling everyone how terrible they have been, say that they’re learning to be better, more woke, people, and then disappear for ever.

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  Gareth Rees

Good point, so presumably the message of Christianity should be taken infinitely more seriously?

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
3 years ago
Reply to  Gareth Rees

I think you have the image of a Renaissance painting, where you see naked people being tortured over a caldron of boiling water. Hell is more of a state of mind, finally recognising/seeing your life in God‘s Truth.