Wednesday 18 August 2021

#bookreview: Christians in a Cancel Culture: Speaking with Truth and Grace in a Hostile World | Joe Dallas

Christians in a Cancel Culture: Speaking with Truth and Grace in a Hostile WorldChristians in a Cancel Culture: Speaking with Truth and Grace in a Hostile World by Joe Dallas

I have been sitting on this because this book is a difficult one to review. I picked this up as an eARC from Harvest House Publishers via NetGalley and should have probably just passed on it and saved myself some headache.

Maybe let's start with what it does get right. When Dallas actually gets into the meat of the issues he wants to talk about (Abortion, Homosexuality, Race***, Gender, Progressive Christianity*) he sets out quite fairly the current views of the issue** and what God says about them in the Bible. There is no ambiguity, no obvious twisting of verses, no over-the-top bias. He presents a clear Christian worldview of how things were intended to be by God. And that's not a bad thing for someone who professes to follow Christ.

Contrary to popular opinion, Christians do still have the right to take a stance on their beliefs, and in this, I agree with Dallas. Practising or following a religion requires that you follow the standards set by that religion/faith, and stating that you personally believe a certain thing according to that faith is not a crime. Persecuting others for those personal beliefs are a crime, and this is true in both directions.

But this is also where Dallas muddies the waters. As I stated in my Rant Chapter 1, the whole angle of this book presumes several strange premises:
1. That passing laws to allow others to do what you disagree with is a law attacking you and your beliefs as a Christian;
2. That free speech equates to the right to be listened to no matter what and people not wanting to listen to you is an attack on your personal freedom and rights (???); and
3. USA is a Christian nation and all laws need to be Christian and therefore current society is attacking Christians.
(OMG the persecution complex there)

I mean, these three premises alone puts the book in a very weird, off-kilter position, where some of the things Dallas says are true, but the rest of it is very, very wrong. (Also, a note to global readers, most of the issues spoken to here arise out of specifically American problems related to US laws, so may not apply across the board.) One of the reasons this book really irks me, actually, is this uber American Evangelical stance of "what Christians believe should be made law for everyone else", even non-Christians, which in my part of the world, when done other faiths try to do it, is "[religion] is oppressing Christians! How dare they!" Think about that hypocrisy for a moment.

So on one hand, part of the book has its merits. But what Dallas gets terribly, terribly wrong is how he ends each of those chapters. And unfortunately, this is also the most crucial part. Because now that you know what God says about an issue, you also need to know what's the Christ-like way to react to that issue. And instead of anything useful, loving, or kind, Dallas just tells you how to continue digging your heels in and getting people to hate you for your beliefs. The assumption here is that "because I am a Christian, my opinions are right, and whatever you say or think or feel doesn't matter in light of that."

That bit is subtitled "Keep It Going", which I assume refers to keeping the conversation going, and it is just a horrible mess of gaslighting in the name of "discourse". An example would be where the response to "I need you to call me by my preferred name and pronoun" is answered by "Don't ask me to call you by names and pronouns that represent something I don't believe is real". Later on, in response to "If you can't accept me for who I am, then I have to keep my distance from you. I won't tolerate someone who's transphobic" is refuted by "unless I treat you with disrespect and hostility, I really think the transphobic label is way off base". (IDK, I kinda think not calling someone by the name they want to be called, transgender or not, is actually really disrespectful and hostile.)

Circling back to hypocrisy and doublespeak, the one thing that Dallas keeps bringing up over and over again is how hurt Christians feel when current society cancels them for their beliefs and how breaking family relationships and friendships over a difference in opinion is bad and wrong, and why can't everyone just STILL be friends despite them being a horrible, gaslighting person? Let me just end this review with this thought:

How is this any different from when churches and Christian families excommunicated and kicked out members, children, and friends over many of these issues? Did they not also feel hurt? Were they not left stranded and without support, especially when these were minors? Or is it okay to hurt others because you believe you are morally superior/in the right?

Or, as I wrote in a note:
"So, it's okay for the church to excommunicate the backsliders but not okay for the non-believers to return the favour?"

* I would have to note that this refers to a very specific Progressive Christianity that, according to Dallas, believes all paths lead to God and not "progressive" in the general terms of not-conservative.
** I did not fact check any specific examples quoted. If he presented any facts in bad faith, I am not aware of them.
*** Dallas does not believe in systemic racism and Needs You To Specify Each Individual Charge.

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