Protesting Cancel Culture

By Doug Carver

We have one pressing response in the face of today’s cancel culture, “We must protest!”

In his new book The Gathering Storm, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, paints a sobering picture of the United States as a culture drowning in the sea of secularism replete with indifference, intolerance, exclusion and outright rejection of God, or anything that even appears “religious.”

He writes that religious belief in our country has rapidly shifted from the impossibility of unbelief (17th-century Pre-Enlightenment), to the possibility of unbelief (19th-century Post-Enlightenment), into today’s “cancel culture” mentality of the impossibility of belief. In a very short period of time, American society has shifted from the total rejection of atheism (e.g., “there are no atheists in foxholes”) to a growing abandonment of the belief in a sovereign and personal God who holds and exerts absolute authority over the world and our lives.

Followers of Jesus Christ are on the verge of becoming cultural “outlaws” simply because of our traditional beliefs in such things as the authoritative inerrancy of Scripture, the sinfulness of humanity, salvation in Jesus Christ alone, the sanctity of life, the union of one man and one woman in holy matrimony and other theological beliefs as stated in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

I have no doubt that many of you have already personally experienced prejudicial treatment, resentment or angry challenges to your worldview as an evangelical Christian and Southern Baptist chaplain. At the same time, very few chaplains endorsed by other faith groups have performed or provided religious support, delivered timely and loving pastoral care, successfully staffed religious accommodation issues, and fought for religious liberty like each one of you have done and continue to provide for those within your institutional settings on a daily basis.

As the tension between Christians and the culture seems to increase rapidly, Mohler concludes in his book that Christians have one pressing response, “We must protest!” He insists that “protest” is quickly becoming our only alternative to resist the poisonous secular spirit threatening our lives, our churches and the American culture.

“Protest” is a hard word. It can get you ostracized, fired, imprisoned or even killed in many nations across the world. What in the world is Mohler suggesting when he writes, “We must protest!”? Is that even biblical?

First of all, a protest is simply an action—personally or corporately—that goes against the societal norms or historical context. Protests usually occur when things in a society become completely unbearable. God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and protest Israel’s 400 years of Egyptian bondage with the words, “Let my people go!” Queen Esther went to King Xerces and protested that he cancel the edict issued by Haman to annihilate the Jewish people. Jesus went into the temple in Jerusalem, overturning tables and driving out the money changers, saying in protest, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers!” (Matthew 21:13, ESV)

Chaplains, as we see the “gathering storm” of this secular age threatening our long-held Christian beliefs, cultural mores and perhaps even the legitimacy of the chaplaincy, I pray that each one of you daily prepares to contend and faithfully protest for “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3, ESV).

We must all be ready to “protest” in those difficult times when we have the prophetic responsibility of speaking truth to power. We must share the hope of the Gospel with undaunted courage while, at the same time, maintaining total dependence on the providence of God, an authentic relationship with the Savior, the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, the communion of the saints and effectual fervent prayer.

“We must protest every false gospel and every erroneous worldview that diminishes human flourishing. We must hold fast to the convictions of the Christian faith and to the primacy and authority of Scripture. We must not fail in seeing Scripture rightly proclaimed, the church built up, and the message of the Gospel stretched to every corner of the earth.” (Mohler, p.15)

On behalf of your SBC/NAMB Chaplaincy Team and Southern Baptist family, thank you for your faithful and sacrificial ministry of the Gospel to those outside our churches’ walls! We are always available as needed to serve you.

Published September 10, 2020

Doug Carver

Doug Carver, NAMB Executive Director of the Chaplaincy, serves as the senior advisor to NAMB and the Southern Baptist Convention on the chaplaincy ministry. He leads the NAMB Chaplaincy’s Team daily support to over 3,300 endorsed Southern Baptist chaplains.