How do we change our toxic outrage culture?

How do we change our toxic outrage culture?

Several weeks back, I told you I was mulling an article on the outrage culture. I’ve started this article over and over again and have had many talks with Peter about the subject, and honestly, it’s a huge, multi-faceted topic that’s hard to narrow into a blog post. I know that this isn’t a scholarly post. Just a few observations because I’m genuinely concerned for our sick culture.

And this will take me a few posts, friends, and it won’t be perfect. I may offend some without meaning to. I hope you’ll sit with me, and hear me out and enter into a conversation. I hope you’ll extend grace. We need to think about this and do better for our culture and for our grandkids.

I want to ask you to make a deal with me. As you read, would you not point virtual fingers to that repugnant other on the other side of the political/ideological aisle? The blame game makes it easy to deflect responsibility.

Would you think of cancel culture and turn it inward on yourself. Imagine yourself the victim. The silenced one. Imagine someone was doxxing you for your beliefs.

Then ask:

  • If the cancel culture starts with anger and ends in outrage, how am I doing dealing with my sinful anger?
  • Do we want cancel culture to be our legacy?
  • How might we be fueling and supporting outrage and online conflict without realizing it? Do we have a root of bitterness under the surface tainting our interactions with even one person? If so, what might God’s Word say about anger that has been left to fester?
  • Can we stand without apology for our beliefs, and just agree to disagree with others without having to silence and humiliate them?
  • Is online outrage, doxxing, and cancel culture really a revelation of the spiritual state of our culture?
  • Is our obsession with 24/7 news and politics (and the spin and bias that these narratives create) a sign of moral sickness?

A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think much about his digestion; to ignore the subject may be fatal cowardice for one as for the other. But if either comes to regard it as the natural food of the mind—if either forgets that we think of such things only in order to be able to think of something else—then what was undertaken for the sake of health has become itself a new and deadly disease. “

C.S. Lewis, Membership

And of course, what is the way forward?

How, as mothers, do we cultivate civility and virtue in our homes and communities?

That’s what I wan to try to discuss in the next few posts, so let’s dig in.

And you know that I’m all about dealing with ourselves. Nobody here will stand before God and answer for what their neighbor did. We stand and give account for our own words, actions, and reactions.

First, some foundations.

Cancelling brands is not the same as destroying and cancelling a person.

In our American economy, we spend our money based on value added. If we like a product, we pay for it. If we think it will add value to our lives, sign me up, right?!

We do “cancel” brands and services. I recently cancelled my Netflix account. During the pandemic, I chose to support small business instead of Amazon. When a brand makes a business decision to share a political/moral belief to attract a certain customer (their right) and I strongly disagree with it then I can spend elsewhere (my right). If I don’t care for the politics made known by Starbucks, then I can buy my coffee elsewhere. If I don’t like the politics of the My Pillow guy, then I will purchase pillows elsewhere. No biggie.

But cancelling should never target people.

I may disagree with the politics of Starbucks, but is it ever right to try to destroy the owner of Starbucks or his employees? Should it be acceptable to post their names and addresses online to try to ruin their lives or call others to violence against a private citizen? This goes on all the time and we need to call for the end of it.

It should never be acceptable to harass people who are trying to eat dinner at a restaurant because someone is angry about a political position. We can protest without violating another human’s rights.

Politicians and their families should not be harassed and heckled and recorded and doxxed because we don’t like their policies? They shouldn’t be threatened as they walk through the streets. This behavior is unhinged and wrong and is not the way of civil society.

In a free society, freedom of thought, speech, and conscience is our right.

This should go without saying, but you don’t have the right to force your beliefs on me and vice versa. We both have freedom of conscience.

Your beliefs are yours, and I don’t have the right to force you into acquiescence because my beliefs are different than yours. That is violence.

And our rights tell us what we are entitled to, per the Constitution.

Enter the First Amendment protection.

I not only have the right to believe what I want, but I also have a protected right to disagree with you and verbalize it.

(Caveat: Because I am a Christian and that is my primary identity, I choose to use God’s Word as my guide. Though I may have a constitutional right as an American to say what I want, and my speech may be protected by the laws of this land, if it’s not expedient to my Christian witness, I will not do it.)

Dissent is the sign of a healthy, thinking culture. But for some reason, we have become a culture that wants to silence dissent.

(History is always a good teacher. Google the Sturmabteilung, Hitler’s Brown Shirts (later SA and SS), who were weaponized to intimidate political opponents and used terror, suppression and violence to slowly eradicate freedom of expression, then certain ideologies, then entire people groups.)

If you have to live in fear of what you say, are you truly free?

I don’t mean that our words don’t have consequences. They should and do. We don’t yell fire in public building or joke about having a bomb in an airport. We don’t threaten people or slander them without being liable.

But what motivation might others have to silence opposition?

Ideas can and should be challenged on the basis of reason, reasonableness, validity, logic, and fairness, and acted on accordingly.

In the arena of ideas, do you want to be the person who is silenced because you are in the minority? And would you like to be threatened with violence, shame, or public humiliation if you would not submit to the bullies and be silenced?

And if you are using violence, threats of or calls to violence, you are part of the problem.You are denying others their fundamental rights. You are immoral and unjust no matter how just you think your cause is.

Those who suppress the free speech and flow of ideas, they are the people we should look upon with suspect.

After all, we wouldn’t need a First Amendment if everyone agreed. It’s to protect the speech that people don’t like.

Since I tend to see life through the lens of home, community, conversation, and a shared table, I want to invite you to an imaginary dinner party next blog post. We’ll look at cancel culture played out in one of the most civilized and nourishing settings I can think of: a dinner table. Until next time…

2 thoughts on “How do we change our toxic outrage culture?”

  • This is wonderful! I’m really looking forward to reading the next post! Thank you for taking the time to think this out and write it down for us. I think so many of us are in full agreement with you.

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