FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Cancel Culture–and Constructive Conversations: Philip Yancey

with Philip Yancey | May 29, 2024
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Ever felt the pull of cancel culture? It's that moment when someone slips up, whether it's a tweet from a decade back or a recent slip of the tongue, and suddenly the online world comes together to unfollow, call out, and attack them. Author Philip Yancey promotes the idea of grace in this chaotic environment and explains the effects of cancel culture.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Ever felt cancel culture’s pull? Past tweets or mistakes leading to attacking others. Philip Yancey speaks on the effects of cancel culture.

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Cancel Culture–and Constructive Conversations: Philip Yancey

With Philip Yancey
May 29, 2024
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Dave: Before we get started, we’ve got a question for you: how can we pray for you?

Ann: I love this question—

Dave: —I knew you would.

Ann: —because we talk about a lot of serious things here on FamilyLife Today, and those details about our families, they often need our prayers. So, can we pray for you? We’re serious.

Dave: Here’s how you can let us know: Text “FLT” plus your prayer request to 80542 to let us know. It would be our privilege to pray for you. That’s text “FLT” plus your prayer request to 80542.

Ann: We want to pray for you.

Philip: Jesus was so clear. He said, “Whatever you do to the least of these”—not the best of these, whatever you do to the least of these—"you do it to Me.” [Matthew 25:40] When you do that, this whole ranking thing that we’re so good at—“I’m more holy than you,” I’m stricter,” “I’m more right,” “I’m more theological,” or whatever—that’s so irrelevant. The question is, “Are you more loving?”

John, in his Gospel, describing Jesus said, “He came full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14] Truth, we’ve done a good job; we’ve worked at it. I just wish we had a little bit of that same energy and passion toward being more grace-filled [and] grace-dispensing than anybody else.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: Recently, I got attacked online by some people that I’ve been in relationship and ministry with over decades.

Ann: It wasn’t to you personally, but it was on Facebook.

Dave: Yes, just bringing up some things I had taught and how harmful it was.

Ann: I was mad about it.

Dave: Yes, Ann got pretty mad about it. We’re bringing this up, because we’ve got Philip Yancey in here—the grace man (a prolific author). We’ve been talking with you the last couple of days about What’s so Amazing About Grace?

Here I am, being canceled for something that for decades they appreciated, and now—I think as I read this, I [thought], “I’ll bet there’s some hurt there.” So, I texted them—

Ann: —personally.

Dave: —personally, saying, “Guys, I’m not sure how I hurt you, but I have hurt you. I’d love to talk. Let’s have a conversation.” No response, and more response online. It felt very ungraceful, and I was hurt.

Philip: Yes.

Ann: The beauty of it was, I thought, that Dave’s response was so grace-filled. You’re probably right: “I’m sure that I said some things back in the day. I wouldn’t say it like that today.”

Dave: I was trying to say, “It’s a different day and even the language is a little different.” It was stuff [I] was teaching on manhood. I just tried to say, “I’m sorry, and I’d love to have a conversation.” I didn’t want to say, “I’m right.” I wanted to say, “How did I hurt you?”

The reason I brought that up is that’s sort of the culture we’re living in. It’s just one symptom, [but] that’s happening every day times a million—

Ann: —to all of us.

Dave: —to a lot of us. Sometimes, we’re the ones saying things about other people. Sometimes, we’re the ones feeling attacked. Grace is so important in these days, but it’s hard, because that’s almost an everyday occurrence in your life, my life, everybody’s lives.

How do we model What’s so Amazing About Grace? in the day and age we live in?

Ann: Especially in a voting year.

Dave: You’ve got to give us the answer.

Philip: Yes. I’m really glad you brought that up. I’ve got an advantage as a journalist, because I have spent my life going around interviewing people who are not like me at all and, in some cases, I find offensive, you know?

Dave: Yes, yes.

Philip: But I need to get them to talk. If I went in with a chip on my shoulder and said, “I can’t believe you said this about lying!” I can’t get anything to write about. I’ve got to be their friend. I’ve got to use that Columbo technique of drawing them out, you know?

Dave: Yes, yes.

Philip: What I’ve learned to do is say, “Okay, what I’d like you to do is put yourself in the shoes of somebody who really opposes you (like on the abortion issue), and could you explain, if a person really believes this is a human being from conception on, doesn’t that matter; doesn’t that count?”

I said, “Let’s not have an argument here, because nobody can solve this for everybody, but I would just like to hear you explain a difficult issue like that to someone who strongly disagrees with you. Have you ever considered their point of view?” I use a technique like that that kind of disarms [the] “You’re wrong! I’m right.” But rather, “I want to understand how you can come to that. This is hard for me—for a lot of people—to understand. How can you come to that conclusion that just seems so strange to me? Can you do that?”

There are groups, as our culture grows more and more hostile and fractured—there are groups. There’s one called Better Angels; it’s a quote from Abraham Lincoln: Better Angels, where they intentionally get together people who are on the opposite sides of big issues like that. They don’t talk to each other. There’s a moderator, and they always have to say everything through the moderator: “Madame Moderator, my colleague here thinks this, whereas when I think about it, I see it a different way.”

It's the way Congress ought to work, but it doesn’t, right? [Laughter] They still do in Britian. In the House of Commons, they talk about “My right honorable opponent,” and then they cut them to shreds. [Laughter]

Dave: They destroy them.

Philip: Yes. We Christians should be leading the way in dealing with people that we can’t figure out.

Again, we’ve talked about how Jesus was among people who were so offensive to Him, and yet they were the ones who would flock to Him because they realized He would give them a fair shake, He’d be compassionate, and He’d listen to them. He’d care for them. He was not going to change His own beliefs because of them, but He was going to reach out, in a welcoming, compassionate way.

Our country is in bad—dire—need of Christians who can live that out. You don’t live it out by being around people who agree with you. The only way you learn to do that is by being around people who disagree with you. I would really encourage Christians to, not just have book groups with people from your church, but book groups—I’m a member of a book group, and the only thing that we have in common is that we all have a degree from the University of Chicago. I’m sure they’ve Googled me and looked me up and said, “He’s a Christian! Can you believe this?” [Laughter] “This guy’s a Christian!”

We read these books together. The things they come up with are things I would never have thought of. “I can’t believe you got that from that book,” but I’m learning how they think, and I’m learning how I can speak to them. So, I think the first step is just to be around people who aren’t like you.

Ann: Let me ask you this; this is super-practical. Let’s say [in] your family, you are on different pages in all areas. Is it better not to talk about it? You know, they say, “Don’t bring up politics, don’t bring up religion.” Is it better not to talk about it, or if it comes up, could you say something— like you’re giving us some instruction: “Wow! You are super passionate about this. There must be a reason why you’re super passionate about it.”

Do we ask those questions, or do we just avoid it? Because we know, “There are big, big feelings and emotions with this, and I’m going to totally disagree,” in your family.

Philip: There are ways to express that. I like the idea of saying, “I don’t agree with the solution that you think is important or would work, but I really like this part of it. I like the fact that you care. That’s really important.”

And if you do that often enough, suddenly you realize: “We have more in common in some ways.”

Ann: Yes.


Dave: Yes. I think a lot of what you’re even doing right now, Philip, is tone. I think that speaks volumes; how we have these conversations with people who have different viewpoints; just the way we talk about it. Are we yelling? Are we throwing up walls between us? Are we graceful in our tone? Your tone is very grace-giving.

I’m not saying everybody has the same wiring and modeling, but I think we have to pray and ask God to give us the right tone when we have hard conversations, because you can say all the right words with the wrong tone, and it just pushes people away. But if you come at them with grace, they feel loved, they feel seen, they feel heard, even though we totally disagree. It feels like they experience grace.

Philip: I think that’s good. In a family situation, [it’s a good] way. I think it’s good to start by saying, “Okay, if we’re going to talk about an issue about which we probably disagree, I think it’s important that there are no winners—”

Ann: —you’re going to preface it by saying this?

Philip: Yes.

Ann: I think that’s wise.

Philip: “You’re not going to convince me, and I’m not going to convince you, so I’m not going to try to convince you, and I ask you to try not to convince me. I just want to understand what you think and why, how.

As you were talking, I thought, “What was Jesus’ technique?” Well, Jesus’ technique was to tell stories that would leave people scratching their heads saying, [Laughter] “Boy, that sounded good but—”

Ann: “—what does that mean?”

Philip: —"how did that relate to my question?” Then, maybe years later, maybe they’d think, “Oh, I get it. I get it!” He was so wise like that. I never went through and counted, but Brennan Manning, an author, said that there were 183 times when people asked Jesus a direct question. You know how many times he gave them a direct answer? “Three,” he said.

Ann: Really? 

Philip: That’s what he said. He either told them a story, or sometimes contradicted them or whatever. We’re not as far as Jesus, right? There’s no way.

Ann: Yes.

Philip: But when I look at how He diffused those kinds of situations, like the woman caught in the act of adultery [and] dragged into the temple. Here were these Pharisees ready to [Angry Voice], “Kill her! Kill her! Kill her!” [It was] a very tense scene, and Jesus completely diffused that just by turning around and saying, “Okay, she should be killed. Whoever has never sinned, cast the first stone.”

Ann: Brilliant!

Philip: “Oh, never mind.” [Laughter]

Ann: I’m thinking of the listener right now who is [saying], “But they are wrong!” Maybe not your family, but “This issue—we are in the right! They are in the wrong!” What would you say to that person?

Philip: First, I would say, “You could well be right. Let’s assume they are wrong. How do you treat people who are wrong?” Then just go to the Gospels and see how Jesus treated people who were wrong, dead wrong. Jesus loves being around people who are so different than He is.

One time, I asked myself, “Jesus was accused of hanging out with the tax collectors and the sinners and not the Pharisees. Why did He hang out with tax collectors and sinners?”

I don’t think it was because: “Oh, I think I’m going to go evangelize today.” [Laughter] I think it was because they knew how to enjoy life, and the Pharisees didn’t. They were going around comparing and judging and pronouncing, and these other guys were just enjoying. I understand why Jesus hung around those people. He didn’t leave them in their misery, but He started there because they were more fun to be around, frankly.

Ann: He knew they were looking for something.

Philip: He could tell that thirst was there.

Ann: Yes, but He loved them. He wasn’t just trying to convert them, which is what I’d be [doing]: “Let’s go down into the streets and save everybody!” He wanted to hang out with them.

Philip: Right.

Dave: I remember a guy, early in my ministry years, 40 years ago, saying, “I think you like hanging around non-Christians more than you do Christians.” That was a judgment. [Laughter] I said, “Yes. Is that a bad thing?” He said, “Why?”

I said, “They seem to be free. It feels like I can’t enjoy life around—I’m always feeling judged like, ‘What song did you listen to? What kind of music do you like?’ It’s like they look at me and take me as I am.” At the same time, I loved them. I really did love them.

Ann: You enjoyed them.

Dave: I wanted to be the light around them because I knew—we said it yesterday—they’re thirsty; they’re really thirsty.

Philip: Yes.

Dave: I’m actually drinking from the Living Water, and I want to show them that.

You might recognize this quote; a famous author once said: “The strongest argument in favor of grace is the alternative, a world of un-grace.” That was you. [Laughter]

Philip: We’re getting there very quickly, aren’t we?

Dave: But it really is, isn’t it? The argument for grace is when you don’t have it, when you don’t live in it, it’s horrible.

Philip: Yes, yes. We’re in a place of un-grace, not just in our country, but in our world, that is a scary thing. Christians should be—we really should be—the light on a hill. We should be the lubricant of society that says, “Let’s separate—the issues that are important, but they’re not more important than the person. The person is the most important thing.” So, I don’t care what you believe about this issue or that issue. My job is to love you, to try to understand you, to treat you with dignity and compassion. I’ve got to do that.

Ann: How do you think we change as a people, as a church? What does that look like?

Philip: I find the churches who do that best are churches who follow Jesus’ lead by going to the least of these. If you have an active prison ministry, if you work among the homeless (unhoused), if you spend time in a hospice, this whole, “I’m better than you,” doesn’t apply anymore. When you hear their stories, you realize, “Yes, they’ve made a lot of mistakes. Nobody has loved them. I’m going to love them. That’s my job. I’ll go to people.”

Jesus was so clear. He said, “Whatever you do to the least of these”—not the best of these; “whhatever you do to the least of these”—"you do it to Me.” [Matthew 25:40, Paraphrased]

Mother Teresa is an example of someone who took that literally and said, “I’ll find the least of the least, and I’ll treat them as if they were Jesus,” and that’s what she did.

When you do that, this whole ranking thing that we’re so good at—“I’m more holy than you,” “I’m more strict,” “I’m more right,” “I’m more theological,” or whatever—is just so irrelevant. The question is: “Are you more loving?”

John, in his Gospel, describing Jesus said, “He came full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14] Truth, we’ve done a good job; we’ve worked at it. I just wish we had a little bit of that same energy and passion toward being more grace-filled [and] grace-dispensing than anybody else.

Dave: I mean, is that an extension of sin—[Laughter] of our nature-–that we’re always going to lean toward, “I’ve got the truth. You don’t. I’ve got to convince you; I’ve got to judge you”? Rather than—our nature is not that; our nature is to judge.

Philip: Yes.

Dave: God’s got to supernaturally change that to be the heart of Jesus.

Philip: Yes, I think you’re right. I think part of it is—I don’t know if it’s Western culture of what, but—we’re so into the head rather than the heart.

Dave: Yes.

Philip: Jesus starts with the heart, goes right to the heart: “How do you feel?” “Where are you really?” “Where’s your soul?” not “Have you ticked off all the right theological boxes?” but “Have you shown the fruit of the Spirit? Have you connected with the Spirit? Have you spent time with the Father in prayer?” Those are the real questions, not: “Did you believe this particular aspect of this particular part of theology?”

Ann: It’s funny, I was recalling—you know, we all have marking moments in our lives we will never forget—I’m friends with Miss Nonna who had a ministry in downtown Detroit. She would take her white van down. Everybody knew it in the streets.

She would take sack lunches and just put bags of food, makeup, toilet paper, feminine needs. When she’d go down the street (and I’ve gone down there with her many times), [she’d] pull up to the curb. I’d be in the passenger seat. She said, “Your job is to say, ‘How can I pray for you tonight’?”

I was scared to death. [Laughter] People started coming, and they said, “Oh, Miss Donna, will you pray for me? My 11-year-old daughter was raped at school today.” So, I prayed over this woman. So, I decided to take some of the Detroit Lion’s wives downtown with me and with Miss Donna.

We went downtown. We were in this van, and they were so nervous. [Laughter] Miss Donna is—we’re in this van; we’re driving—she’s driving, and she [said], “We’re going to go to the biggest crack house in Detroit right now.”

I can hear this one girl in the back; she was 21, and she said, “Where did she say we are going?” because at that time, Detroit had a bad reputation, too, and we were in the roughest part. We had all this makeup. A lot of the wives had donated a lot of these things. She said, “This is also known as ‘The Block of Trans.’ All these people are mostly trans, and this is where they live.”

We got out of the car, and everyone was so nervous. All these women (men) were all flocking around the van because there was makeup. It was very awkward; it was very awkward. Then the owner of the crack house came out. We probably had 12 people, and Miss Donna said, “Let’s all gather in a circle. We want to pray for you.”

I said to this woman that I was discipling, “Lakesha, will you pray for us?” She gave me this look like, “What am I going to pray for?!

We were all holding hands, and she started this prayer that was so powerful: “Father God, thank You for every person in this circle.” It made me cry even when she was praying; but when she got back in the van, she said, “Am I supposed to pray that God blesses their hands and their work? What was I supposed to pray?”

But I felt in that moment: “This is where we’re supposed to be; these are the people we’re supposed to love.” They probably each have such a story to tell. I know some of their stories, and they are horrific.

I think about Jesus knowing all of our stories, and He offers grace every single time. I would hope that my kids and my grandkids get to experience that kind of thing. That’s where Jesus walked. Whew! It is scary. It feels so awkward. I don’t know what to do or say. I wish we, as a church, would expose ourselves to loving people in the way that Miss Donna has over the years.

Philip: That’s beautiful, really beautiful.

Ann: You have so many of those stories in your book, too. I was just going through so many stories of you talking about grace.

Dave: Just picking up the book to read those stories—

Ann: —yes!

Dave: —your chapter, “Grace-healed Eyes,” that’s what I just heard: “See these people with grace-healed eyes.” They’re image bearers.

Philip: Yes.

Dave: They’re beautiful.

Ann: I think, Philip, I look at you [thinking], “Man, this guy’s got it! He’s a grace giver.” When I read at the beginning of your book how you were a racist, I [thought], “What?!” God had so transformed you.

Philip: You’re right, and I don’t take credit for that. I was loved by the woman who became my wife. That helped a lot of the healing. I’ve been so blessed by God. It goes back to that time in that dorm room, in that prayer meeting, where I went in thinking I was so sophisticated and smart compared to these other kids, and I walked out crawling. I had a glimpse of who I am; but God doesn’t leave you there. He gives you a glimpse of who you could be, as well.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: That’s good.

Philip: Sometimes, it takes a long time.

Ann: I thought it was great to be with Philip Yancey and to watch your face.

Dave: Why?

Ann: Because he’s just always been this hero to you, especially, because he writes about some of the things you have struggled with.

Dave: I think he’s a deep well.

Ann: Me, too.

Dave: There is so much wisdom in that man’s heart.

Ann: I just cry the whole time he talks, because he’s talking about the amazing grace of God.

Dave: I never thought I’d sit across the table from Philip Yancey, reading Disappointment with God thousands of years ago, it feels like.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: And now, talking to him today about What’s so Amazing About Grace? Both of those books and others have literally changed my life.

Ann: Yes, I know they have.

Dave: I’m guessing that they’ve changed your life, as well. Sitting with Philip Yancey again today reminded me of what our theme is for the year: Psalm 34. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” [Verse 8] Even as you talk about disappointment with God, or you talk about how amazing His grace is, you’re reminded that He is a good, good God.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: And let me just say, “thank you,” to you, as well, that help us do what we do; to put FamilyLife Today on the radio and on podcasts. It’s because you donate and give to FamilyLife.

Some of you don’t even know that that is a possibility. We can’t do what we do without financial donations from partners like you. So, jump in and become a partner with us. Go to You can sign up there and help programs like this keep coming to you and to your friends.

Shelby: That’s right. Dave’s absolutely right, and the uniqueness of becoming a partner with us this month—in fact, there are only a few days left in the month of May—is the fact that every dollar given this month is going to be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $550,000.

We’re a donor-supported ministry, and we rely on situations like this month in order to keep valuable programing coming to your ears all the time. We’d love it if you’d hop in.

Again, the website that Dave mentioned was, or you can find a link to it in the show notes. Or you could just give us a call and become a partner at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

By the way, I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Philip Yancey on FamilyLife Today. Haven’t the last three days been absolutely incredible? I know Dave and Ann were gushing there at the end, but it’s so easy to do that with someone like Philip Yancey. He has been such an incredible gift of God’s grace to us here at FamilyLife Today. He’s actually written a book called What’s So Amazing About Grace? Maybe he wouldn’t call himself the amazing part of grace, but he has been to us.

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Philip’s book, you can head over to and request your copy there. Or you can give us a call at 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Now, coming up tomorrow, we’re going to talk about stepfamilies; specifically, stepmoms navigating Mother’s Day and the challenges that happen with that when it comes to expectations for you as a mom, the kids that are involved, the husbands that are involved; and finding worth in faith amidst the complexities of being a step-parent. That’s all going to be happening tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a donor-supported production of FamilyLife®, a Cru® Ministry.

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