In a recent episode of his TBN show “Takeaways,” Kirk Cameron tackled the topic of “cancel culture.”
In the course of the episode, Cameron interviewed controversial pastor Douglas Wilson. Known for wanting to make his hometown of Moscow, Idaho, a “Christian town,” as well as for his Christian defense of antebellum slavery in a pamphlet titled “Southern Slavery: As It Was,” Wilson has often been the subject of criticism for his views on race, gender roles, and Christian nationalism.
“Cancel culture: we hear about it. We feel it. We see prominent people being made examples of through pressure campaigns,” Cameron said to open the episode. “Tolerance for differing points of view seems to be at an all-time low.”
“‘Adhere to secular woke dogma or you’re toast,’” Cameron continued. “That’s how it feels, right?”
Cameron went on to say, “The fear of being canceled can sometimes result in self-censorship—arguably the most painful kind of censorship.”
The episode featured two interviews. The first was with authors and speakers David and Jason Benham, and the second was with Wilson.
Cameron’s first interview was with David and Jason Benham, twin brothers who are real estate entrepreneurs known for their dispute with HGTV, wherein the network canceled a reality show planned to feature the brothers in 2014 after controversy arose in light of their views on LGBTQ+ issues.
The controversy specifically centered on comments David made about “homosexuality and its agenda” being connected with “demonic ideologies.” He also had compared same-sex marriage with Nazi Germany.
While HGTV canceled the show, they still funded the Benham brothers’ work on six Charlotte-area homes that were to be featured in the now-defunct real estate reality program.
To begin his interview with the brothers, Cameron said, “When I look at your life, one big word comes to mind: courage. You had courage to stand up. You had courage to speak up. You don’t shrink back from the fight, but you do it in a way that is admirable.”
Cameron went on to ask the brothers where their courage comes from.
“The Spirit of the living God lives inside of us, just like he lives in you and the viewers that are watching this,” David replied. “And he is the lion of the tribe of Judah. He’s also the lamb that was slain. And so there’s a delicate balance when we are walking by the power of the Holy Spirit with the lion and the lamb.”
Speaking about opportunities he and Jason have lost because of their public comments, David said, “It’s almost always rooted in the fear of man and a man-pleasing spirit. There is an agenda. There is, what Jason and I call, a ‘spiritual thought-mafia’ that’s out there and it’s the spiritual forces of darkness that are empowering a very mob mentality in mainstream media, and even many people in the church.”
“That is not a time to be a lamb led to the slaughter, right? That is a time that the lion of the tribe of Judah needs to speak,” David went on to express. “What we’ve done in the church today is that the ‘gospel of nice’ has replaced the gospel of the Kingdom.”
Jason added, “In our culture today, it’s time for us to no longer be candles in shining our light but being coals and burning and emanating our light.”
Despite the various wins for religious liberty in high profile court rulings over the past number of years, David said, “We are just about to enter the criminalization phase where you will be thrown in jail…and that’s why it’s so important for Christians to recognize who is in us. And this is a time now: you cannot be a silent Christian. You have to speak the truth.”
“You know, back in the Third Reich with Hitler, he actually made a bargain with the church,” David said later in the conversation, going on to describe threats Hitler made against clergy to keep them from speaking against his government.
“There are many homosexuals that are out there who have been set free, but now you’re not allowed to tell your testimony, because it’s not politically correct and you’re speaking, technically, against the state,” David said, though he cited no legislation or government action to limit such free speech in America. “And it’s wrong. It’s an attack on the gospel.”
Noteworthy of David’s comparison is the fact that homosexuality was criminalized in Nazi Germany, and queer people suffered great persecution from the government, many of them losing their lives during the Holocaust.
In the second half of the program, Cameron sat down with Douglas Wilson. Expressing that he always feels like his “mind expands a couple of sizes” after speaking with the pastor, Cameron asked Wilson to describe what cancel culture is.
“Cancel culture is a tactic the Left uses,” Wilson said. “The Frankfurt School, Herbert Marcuse, and others developed this idea that certain ideas, basically conservative and Christian ones, were not to be debated. They were just to be shut out, shut down.”
Wilson described this philosophy as “repressive tolerance,” adding that “it all boils down to the Left, or the progressives, whatever you want to call them, taking this approach: ‘Shut up,’ they explained.”
This is what Wilson described as “totali-tolerance.”
“Totali-tolerance is, in the name of tolerance and freedom of expression, we shut up anybody who disagrees with us,” Wilson said, later adding, “If you say that I cannot say certain things, watch me say them. I’m gonna say them anyway.”
Describing the difference between being a “reformer” and a “revolutionary” in response to the issues that face society, Wilson said, “The revolutionary has an ideological utopian vision of fluffy clouds and unicorns, you know, ‘Let’s just pay everybody a livable wage,’ and ‘Let’s just make everybody happy and everybody rich, and free chocolate milk for everybody.’ That’s their idea of this paradise. That’s what they want to lurch into.”
Conversely, Wilson argued, “the Christian wants to weigh the options, and he wants to push in the direction of the ideal form, but at the same time being patient.”
Quoting economist and political commentator Thomas Sowell, Wilson continued, “Liberals tend to think in terms of solutions, and conservatives tend to think in terms of trade offs, right? So conservatives always think, ‘There’s a price tag.’ … The liberal thinks in terms of, ‘Here’s a problem. Let’s pass a bill; let’s fix it; let’s appropriate the money,’ and they don’t think in terms of the price tag.”
Arguing that each new societal problem is the result of the previous generation’s liberal solutions, Wilson added, “It’s the bill coming due.”
Later in the interview, Wilson argued that Christians are morally obligated to engage in culture warring, something he believes was ordained in the curses God gave in Genesis 3, putting “antipathy” at the center of the relationship between Adam and Eve and the serpent. Because of this, Wilson contended, a person is either on the side of God or the side of the serpent with regard to their civic engagement.
“You could pretend to be neutral for a time, but it’s all gonna come crashing down,” Wilson said.
Addressing the criticism levied against him for his more nationalistic viewpoints and the possible threat they pose to Western democracy, Wilson said, “I trust our willingness to not cram our beliefs down their throat better than I trust their willingness to not cram theirs down our throat.”
“The thing that we have to understand is that the liberties we enjoy here in America—freedom of speech and those sorts of things—those freedoms were invented by Christians,” Wilson said. “So when America was closer to its founding and it was a Christian nation, a Christian culture—there was a Christian consensus close to our founding. When that happened, we were the ones who developed freedoms for nonbelievers.”
Noteworthy of Wilson’s recounting of history is the omission of widespread Anti-Catholic discrimination throughout America’s early history and similar treatment of the Muslim faith in more recent times.
Further, Wilson’s claim that America was founded as a Christian nation has been the object of debate for some time. While many, though not all, of the founding fathers held Christian beliefs, and Christians have constituted the majority of the nation’s population since its founding, the Constitution expressly prohibits “an establishment of religion” by the government.
In other words, the veracity of Wilson’s claim is determined by how he defines “Christian nation.”
“I’m 69 years old; I was born in 1953. And I know that the America I’m living in right now is a lot more polarized and a lot less tolerant than it was when I was a young man,” Wilson, who was born roughly a decade prior to the end of legalized racial segregation in America, said. “It doesn’t even begin to compare. We have lost our ability to respectfully talk with one another.”
“And, I would say, back in the day, when we could respectfully talk with one another, that was closer to the day when we were closer to our Christian roots,” Wilson added. “The farther away we’ve gotten from our Christian roots, the less tolerance we have for one another.”
“Our second president, John Adams, once said, ‘Our Constitution presupposes a moral and a religious people…it is wholly unfit for any other,’” Wilson said. Notably, John Adams was a Unitarian and denied the divinity of Christ.
Wrapping up his reflections on culture warring in America, Wilson said, “You can’t run away forever…We need to have certain key places where we take a stand.”
Reporting from Church Leaders.