An Ancient Example of Cancel Culture

1Some time later, King Xerxes promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite to prime minister, making him the most powerful official in the empire next to the king himself.  2All the king’s officials would bow down before Haman to show him respect whenever he passed by, for so the king had commanded. But Mordecai refused to bow down or show him respect.  3Then the palace officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why are you disobeying the king’s command?”  4They spoke to him day after day, but still he refused to comply with the order. So they spoke to Haman about this to see if he would tolerate Mordecai’s conduct, since Mordecai had told them he was a Jew.  5When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down or show him respect, he was filled with rage.  6So he decided it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Since he had learned that Mordecai was a Jew, he decided to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes.  7So in the month of April, during the twelfth year of King Xerxes’ reign, lots were cast (the lots were called purim) to determine the best day and month to take action. And the day selected was March 7, nearly a year later.  8Then Haman approached King Xerxes and said, “There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire. Their laws are different from those of any other nation, and they refuse to obey even the laws of the king. So it is not in the king’s interest to let them live.  9If it please Your Majesty, issue a decree that they be destroyed, and I will give 375 tons of silver to the government administrators so they can put it into the royal treasury.”  10The king agreed, confirming his decision by removing his signet ring from his finger and giving it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite—the enemy of the Jews. 11“Keep the money,” the king told Haman, “but go ahead and do as you like with these people.” (Esther 3:1-11, NLT)

Have you heard of this social phenomenon called “cancel culture”? It’s when someone commits an offense, whether intentional or unintentional, that so offends another person that they seek retributive justice in the form of public shaming and ridicule, often for the purpose of seeking a viral response of outrage that might lead to larger consequences, such as loss of job or livelihood.

As I read the third chapter of Esther, it occurred to me that this phenomenon of cancel culture isn’t new. In fact, it has existed for centuries, even millennia.

Haman is actually an ancient example of cancel culture. He gets so offended by the fact that Mordecai won’t bow to him that he decides that it’s not enough to punish Mordecai, but Haman decides to eradicate, erase, yes CANCEL, anyone even associated with Mordecai. (Does this sound familiar?) Hence, Haman approaches the king and arranges for the execution of all Jews throughout the empire on a determined date about a year into the future.

What motivates a person to want to completely cancel or even eradicate another person or race? Verse 5 gives a clue as it says that Haman was “filled with rage.”

Unfortunately, we live in a culture where many people are filled with rage. We can easily become offended and demonstrate unloving and unforgiving behavior towards others (see my post on January 3, 2021 regarding “Online Interactions”). When offended, our tendency is to react and seek immediate justice instead of slowing down and responding in a loving and gracious way.

Cancel culture is real and it’s a symptom of a greater problem – humankind’s sinfulness and self-centeredness. Contrary to what we might think, it’s been around for a long time, and I suspect it won’t be going away any time soon!

Reflection

When have you experienced cancel culture, either as the recipient or initiator?

What issues might cause the kind of outrage in you that would lead to wanting to cancel others?

How can you invite the Lord to develop within you the kind of heart that would demonstrate love, grace and forgiveness to others?