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Cancel culture is making us less forgiving, Archbishop of Canterbury warns

Society has become increasingly unforgiving because of cancel culture, with people harshly punished for making a mistake, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.

Speaking on BBC One at the weekend, the Most Rev Justin Welby was asked by Laura Kuenssberg, host of the BBC’s flagship Sunday morning politics show, if he thought there is a lack of togetherness.

Responding, the British Bishop said that he felt people have become “very unforgiving” – with people “crucified” for want of another word if they make a mistake.

“I think there is,” he answered. “I think we just haven’t adjusted to the way in which we communicate, is one problem. I think also we’ve become very unforgiving. When people make a mistake, they’re absolutely, to use a phrase from my own world, crucified for it — sorry, I couldn’t think of another word”.

He continued: “I think people suffer hugely when they go wrong, not just with public exposure, but the awful trolling that goes on, and the inability to accept apologies, to seek forgiveness. Those are really difficult things”.

The head of the Anglican Church has previously been criticised for politicised comments in the past. Last December, he claimed that getting vaccinated against Covid-19 was a moral issue as taking the vaccine reduces the chances of the illness being spread. Speaking at the time, he ignited division when he said “it’s not about me and my rights to choose – it’s about how I love my neighbour”.

He was widely criticised for “playing the God card” with the vaccine and demonising those who did not receive it, while he has also been accused of being “woke” for voicing opinions on various issues including the controversial Edward Colston statue which was toppled in the summer of 2020.

However, the Archbishop has been a defender of free speech. Earlier this year, Welby said he believed secularised societies in the West had lost the ability to “disagree well”.

During a trip to Australia, he said: “We have not found a way of disagreeing without exclusion, without cancelling people.

“We invariably end up setting one group’s rights against another group’s rights.” 

He has also been a firm defender of the younger generation’s interest in minority rights. Speaking in the House of Lords last year, the Archbishop blasted attempts to limit free speech, stating:

“We hear much nonsense of the snowflake generation who seek safety,” he said in his speech at the time, adding:

“Younger generations are much more concerned than their older counterparts about the safety and protection of minorities and more willing to call for restrictions on speech to achieve this.”

The Member of the House of Lords added: “We need to keep a sense of perspective here. No-platforming is not a new phenomenon and there is evidence to suggest that it is very limited”.

Cancel culture, defined as a movement to remove celebrity status or esteem from a person, place, or thing based on offensive behaviour or transgression, has become more prominent in recent years.

The head of the Church of England’s comments over the weekend coincide with the ongoing controversy in the UK over British TV personality Jeremy Clarkson’s recent comments about Meghan Markle following the airing of the much-anticipated Netflix documentary series.

Commenting on the debacle, ITV’s Lorraine was among those to report on Clarkson’s ‘cancellation’, stating: “After fantasising about publicly humiliating Meghan Markle in his latest column for The Sun, Jeremy Clarkson has been cancelled – even by his own daughter – for his misogynistic comments”.

The former Top Gear host’s column in The Sun has become the most complained about in the history of the Independent Press Standards Organisation, with at least 12,000 complaints lodged. 64 MPs have also signed a letter to the editor of The Sun condemning the column “in the strongest terms” – after the presenter said Meghan should “parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain,” making reference to a scene in the series Game of Thrones.

The letter put forward by Tory MP Caroline Nokes demanded that the publication take action against Clarkson.

It said the former Top Gear presenter’s “hateful” article about Meghan Markle had contributed to an “unacceptable climate of hatred and violence”.

Taking to Twitter following severe backlash, Clarkson apologised, saying he was “horrified to have caused so much hurt”.

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