As Easter draws nears, Christians around the globe prepare to celebrate the conquering of death and the promise of salvation fulfilled through the crucifixion and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Of consequence as well is forgiveness: that Jesus atoned for our sins, forgiving us, and urging us to forgive one another in His model.
But over the last decade, forgiveness has too often been forgotten. What we refer to as being “woke” and “cancel culture” have deeply affected not only our national dialogue, but our daily life as well. The woke idea that ulterior motives, harms, and causes haunt every single thing, from policing to toy potatoes, is coupled with condemnation, or canceling. People are bullied, banned, fired, and shunned for real and assumed slights. This reactionary mindset undermines forgiveness, denies improvement, and ruptures the best of America.
We believe in second chances in America (and third, and fourth, and fifth chances, and on…). America herself was a second chance, a revolution of humankind in securing under law the natural rights given to us by God. Those rights, expressed in the Bible and found in God’s creation of nature, were reflective of God’s loving concern with each person. That love ultimately translated into Jesus Christ.
It should be no surprise, then, that America has often been called a land of second chances – because it is. The Judeo-Christian tradition, which has become inseparable from the American identity because of its foundational influence, prizes and celebrates what God and His Son mean for us: forgiveness. It is only natural that such religious belief translates into American life.
Today, these sacred truths continue to be challenged on all fronts, including a denial of God. (If God can be denied, so too can everything which follows.) In speaking of God, some of today’s prominent atheists cast Him as an unforgiving judge set only on condemnation, especially prior to the birth of Jesus. Likewise, the woke founders and practitioners of cancel culture deny, reject, or condemn the Judeo-Christian origins — and nature — of America.
Despite the efforts of those prominent atheists, God in the Old Testament is just as willing to forgive as He is in the New Testament. For example, consider how God sent the prophet, Jonah, into the corrupt city of Nineveh to urge the population to repent or face destruction. Unexpectedly to Jonah, the citizens there did indeed repent, and God spared them. Jonah, unable to comprehend God’s decision, urged God to destroy the city anyway. But God explained that forgiveness was warranted because those residents of Nineveh, when given the chance to understand, chose repentance and improvement.
Proponents of today’s cancel culture, whether on Twitter or in the ranks of Antifa, might well be viewed as a variant of Jonah. They are motivated by the present circumstances, and their aims and goals are chiefly political, social, and personal rather than moral or divine. Their calls for equality sound moral, but the methods employed to do so — from declarations that “white people are cancer” to the setting of federal buildings on fire with human beings inside them – belie whatever moral surface they may appear to have.
For a nation whose entire existence has, in part, been about trying to practice and live up to moral truths on which it was founded, such secular prophets are far out of step with reality. It isn’t that, like Jonah, they can’t initially understand forgiveness, but they outright refuse to accept it — because of those political and social ends in mind. That is the radical reordering of society as they see fit.
Such individuals could also be understood as secular fundamentalist puritans, for whom no reality ever meets the theoretical standard of purity they construct. In such cases, they survive only on the discovery of enemies, real or invented, who they proclaim must be canceled.
But the problem with extremist elements is that they produce far more harm than they declare they want to address. French Jacobins, Russian Bolsheviks, even Antifa, which has turned against some of its liberal allies for wanting to beautify, rather than burn parts of cities, are evidence of this.
What is forgotten is that, in the United States, the Judeo-Christian heart and heritage of our society and culture cause us to reflect on right and wrong. Man is not perfectible, but he is capable of good. Sins and mistakes of the past are not death knells, but reasons for growth. We struggle with ourselves on a daily basis, trying to do what is right, and as a nation, trying to do what is right. We try to be better than who we were, yesterday. And always in these reflections, we seek God’s guiding light.
If we take seriously the examples of God and Jesus Christ, all of us must strive to forgive as we hope to be forgiven. Easter reminds us of this. We can disagree, vote differently, and be different individuals — but in the end we are all lovingly created equal by God. “For He so loved the world …”
Joe Vigliotti, a contributor to The Flip Side and a Taneytown city councilman, writes from Taneytown. His column appears every other Friday. Email him through his website at www.jvigliotti.com.