- Rod Dreher and Paul Coleman speak at ADF International – hosted online debate
VIENNA (25.3.2021) – Cancel culture, “hate speech” laws, and online censorship. How can Christian professionals navigate our post–Christian society? Rod Dreher, New York Times best–selling author of Live not by Lies and The Benedict Option, and Paul Coleman, author of Censored and Executive Director of ADF International, discussed these concerning developments at an online debate on Thursday.
Dreher identified the current “cancel culture” as the rise of “soft” totalitarianism. He explained that this progressive ideology ties rights to group identity, seeks to control discourse and delegitimizes all dissenting opinions. “It draws the line between good and evil between different races, classes and genders. People are judged based on who they are, not what they do,” said Dreher. Those who grew up under communism recognize that the current cultural climate leads down a dangerous path. The author emphasized the importance of resisting temptation to “forget” or “rewrite” the past, but instead urged the audience to “preserve our cultural and historical memory”.
“This will not be like George Orwell, but rather like Aldous Huxley. States manipulate people’s comfort and well-being to get them to capitulate. Those who offer up resistance are losing their jobs, have their reputation destroyed, or the mob comes after them on social media for violating the ethical code of [today’s ideology]. You can’t protest it. This ideology has conquered all culture making institutions: the media, academia and politics. It has even made inroads in churches,” explained Dreher.
Living out faith in a hostile culture
Dreher then suggested practical strategies to protect freedom of expression in an increasingly hostile culture.
“To resist this, we must relearn the value of solidarity, teach younger generations about the past and above all rediscover the value of suffering. It’s ok to be hated for the faith. They hated Christ first. We can ask for the cup of suffering to pass but if it doesn’t, God will suffer with us,” commented the best-selling author.
Coleman offered a European perspective on the issue of an increasing “cancel culture”.
“‘Soft’ totalitarianism isn’t so soft. Punishments are increasingly criminal in nature. ‘Hate speech’ laws are spreading like wildfire. Not so long ago, it would have been unthinkable that someone could be criminally charged for a silent prayer or a bible tweet, yet these are realities we are facing. We are called to stand in the here and now,” said Coleman.
Encroachment on fundamental freedoms a growing concern
Free society requires free speech, but many governments are striking a repressive tone on the subject.
“The hijacking and weaponization of ordinary language is a growing concern. There is a constant battle over language. It is difficult for the ordinary person to recognize this and to know where to draw the line. We must grow in skill in the sense of how we use language,” said Coleman.
Dreher: “Disagreement is not disrespect. To love someone is to want them to live in truth. I can love someone without agreeing with them.”
“The collapse of Christianity and old-fashioned liberalism has led to mass alienation and atomization of the young from normative institutions. We must relearn the importance of solidarity. Journalists should use their position to stand up for people who are being persecuted,” Dreher concluded.