President’s message: Canceling the cancel culture

President’s message: Canceling the cancel culture

“Cancel culture” has arrived. Cancel culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles because of something they have said or written or because of personal beliefs that are met with disapproval. Cancel culture is not limited to people; it also applies to books, songs, movies, and political views that a segment of society has judged to be unacceptable or even harmful. Dr. Seuss and Gone with the Wind are just two such victims. Cancel culture has caused politicians and celebrities to be banned from Twitter because of public positions and has led to calls for boycotts of states and cities and corporations because of “incorrect” policies or laws.

The purpose of cancel culture is to silence people whose ideas and viewpoints don’t meet with the approval of self-appointed guardians of social standards. But it’s really nothing new. Totalitarian governments, social and religious warriors, and political extremists have used the same tactics to silence opposing ideas for centuries.

Christianity has had to deal with cancel culture since its beginning. Opponents of the gospel have not simply condemned the teachings of God’s Word; they have also sought to silence anyone who proclaims God’s truth. Jesus spent his entire ministry hounded by religious leaders who wanted nothing more than for him to be quiet.

After Pentecost, when Peter and John publicly confessed Jesus as the Messiah, the Jewish leaders responded by ordering them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John would not be canceled. They said, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). One apostle after another lost his life for refusing to be silenced or canceled, but they continued to preach the good news.

Faithful proclamation of God’s Word has always been met by those who want to cancel or silence God’s messengers. It’s no different for the church today. Salvation by grace alone is dismissed as being irrelevant. When the church faithfully teaches that human life begins at conception and that the taking of that life is murder, cancel culture leaps to muzzle God’s truth by labeling the church as backward in its thinking and unsupportive of women. When we preach God’s teaching that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, cancel culture tries to label Christians as haters and bigots.

Not just the church, but individual Christians are often targets of the cancel culture. Maybe it’s happened in the workplace. Perhaps you’ve had friends “unfriend” you. You may have even faced cancellation by your own family members.

In the face of all of these attempts to silence God’s truth, remember God’s promise: “[My Word] will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). When Satan’s allies try to cancel us and our beliefs, we can say with the apostles, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” When we state our beliefs lovingly and are accused of being closed-minded haters, pray that God will give us the courage and a faith that refuse to bow to a bullying culture. When our beliefs make us unpopular with the world, say with the apostle Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

Remember: With God’s help and the power of his Word, cancel culture itself can be canceled.

Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 108, Number 6
Issue: June 2021

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President’s message: Cooperating in externals

President’s message: Cooperating in externals

WELS confesses and teaches that for church bodies to express unity and fellowship there needs to be full agreement in doctrine. Such fellowship is practiced when members of each church body can commune in congregations of the other; when members gather together in joint worship and prayer; and when churches join together in carrying out mission work, schools, and other means of grace ministry. But where there is no unity in doctrine, there can be no practice of fellowship.

Yet there are times when church bodies and synods that have differences in doctrine can work together for a common cause. That is the case when the common cause does not involve gospel ministry, joint mission work, or worship. Working together in situations that do not involve the ministry as such has been called “cooperation in externals.” In other words, it’s cooperation in matters outside the realm of church work.

Already in the late 1800s the Wisconsin Synod followed this principle of cooperating in externals. The Wisconsin state legislature passed the Bennett Law, which required all schools to teach non-religion classes in English. This would have had a severe impact on the Wisconsin Synod and its parochial schools, since nearly all of our churches and schools still used the German language in worship and instruction. The law had the same impact on the many German-speaking Roman Catholic parishes in the state. Our synod worked together with the Roman Catholic churches to have the law overturned; the effort was successful. The cooperation in externals was perfectly permissible, and it proved to be beneficial to all the churches harmed by the law.

In 2012, when the US Health and Human Services Department issued a mandate that religious organizations would be required to provide all types of contraception (including abortions) to their employees, WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod joined with many other church bodies in writing an open letter stating opposition.

Even more recently, a Roman Catholic congregation in Illinois was sued for terminating an employee whose lifestyle was not in keeping with the teachings of the Catholic Church. The court ruled against the congregation, and the Roman Catholic Diocese appealed. WELS, along with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, participated in the appeal as a friend of the court.

Cooperation in externals is a timely and important thing to remember because of some current potential threats to our religious liberty. The Equality Act, already passed by the US House of Representatives and likely to be taken up by the Senate, declares that sexual orientation will be given special protection. The act would prohibit all individuals and organizations, including churches, from discriminating against homosexuals and transgenders in hiring, enrollment policies, and participation in athletics. Organizations that do not comply will face government punishment or sanctions. In addition, a recently filed lawsuit seeks to impose many of these same requirements on churches, charities, and schools.

If these things become a reality, it will likely be another time when cooperation in externals becomes not only wise but also necessary. If our religious freedoms are taken away, we will continue to proclaim God’s truth and follow his Word no matter what the consequences. At the same time, we will exercise our legal rights vigorously to oppose those who want to restrict our freedom. Such opposition will likely be most effective when our synod’s voice can join with other voices to defend the freedoms we enjoy.

Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 108, Number 7
Issue: July 2021

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