Published November 4, 2021
The current brouhaha surrounding Dave Chapelle, Netflix, and his alleged transphobic jokes is a likely bellwether for things to come, not simply in the secular world but also in the church. The power struggle it represents will be played out in the church and Christian organizations in the near future. And it is a reminder that strange times create strange allies. What Christian five years ago would have looked with qualified admiration on stands taken by the likes of Dave Chapelle and Bill Maher? Yet, in our opposition to the lunacies of our day, that is where many of us now find ourselves.
As of the moment of writing, Netflix is standing firm in its support of Chapelle, and the comedian himself is refusing to be intimidated into any kind of retreat. Presumably, he has seen enough of cancel culture to know that retreat, even total retreat, is never atonement enough. In a world where forgiveness is now a dirty word, acts of repentance, however sincere, are merely the juiciest part of the spectacle of punishment. At least the guillotine was swift. In our present revolutionary times, death by social media is long, messy, and lurid.
Carl R. Trueman taught on the faculties of the Universities of Nottingham and Aberdeen before moving to the United States in 2001 to teach at Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. In 2017-18 he was the William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. Since 2018, he has served as a professor at Grove City College. He is also a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor at First Things. Trueman’s latest book is the bestselling The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. He is married with two adult children and is ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.