Social Issues, Theology

No one passes the ideological “purity test”

As a long-time fan of Elizabeth I, I was excited to see the trailer for the upcoming biopic Becoming Elizabeth. Yes, Hollywood definitely has an obsession with the Tudors, and it’s high time that they direct their focus to other interesting, underrepresented women in history (and non-European ones at that).

But am I still going to watch it (and tweet my way through every historical inaccuracy)? You know I will. This looks more promising than the trainwreck that was HBO’s The Tudors

One comment left on the Youtube trailer got me thinking. It basically said, “Enough with these biased film productions celebrating colonizers!” And it got me thinking just how many of history’s notable figures would be “cancelled” today for their problematic viewpoints. 

“A Product Of Her Time”?

I don’t want to give a free pass to prejudice or unhealthy bias just because someone is “a product of their time.” I credit Joan of Arc as one of the earliest influences who helped lead me to Christ. But since she lived during the time of the Inquisition, what were her thoughts on Jews? Nothing good, most likely. She wouldn’t be the first saint on the Catholic calendar to harbor antisemitism. That doesn’t make a Christian’s faith less genuine, though it is fair to call it misguided.

People can be simultaneously courageous, principled, and deeply biased. People can be “woke” and still have blindspots. I’d say the test of a person’s character comes down to how willing they are to examine those blindspots, but simply having them is part of being human. 

It’s painfully difficult to separate feelings from facts, personality from personal accomplishment.

Ideological Purity Tests

There is something to be said about the unfairness of ideological purity tests one must pass before they can be deserving of admiration. I have a feeling most of us would be cancelled if that were the case. I know I’ve been guilty of doing that to people whose politics differed from mine.

I believe it’s everyone’s responsibility to untangle our inner biases from our earnest search for truth. This is integral to the practice of repentance, as described in the Book of Common Prayer: “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” Our “problematic” thoughts matter, even if no one but God knows them. Humility is the cure.

Celebrity Worship Is Idol Worship

Our culture places far more emphasis than is healthy on flawed human beings to be our role models. They will fail us; that much is guaranteed. They will inspire us, too, but their examples will always fall short of a true measure of righteousness. There is no grace in cancel culture, but grace without repentance or accountability is a waste of that gift.

I’m actually glad that I never “made it” as a Christian author/influencer (think Rachel Held Evans, Beth Moore, etc) because I know I would fail people’s expectations and disappoint over and over again. Our best influence is in our own communities, where accountability is actually realistic.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash


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