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Response to Griffin, Cruickshank and Reiher on Cancel Culture and BLM

Tuesday, 17 May 2022  | Gordon Preece

The recent inclusion in Engage.Mail of my friend and former PhD student Rev. Dr David Griffin’s article on ‘Cancel Culture and the new Puritans’ produced some strong but helpful reaction, which requires both some explanation and apology on our part.

Another friend, historian Dr Joanna Cruickshank, requested a right of reply which we immediately and gladly accepted. Her response is a very thorough and convincing. Dr Jim Reiher wrote a shorter but also convincing comment under the article itself. Both aired concern that Ethos had erred by publishing Griffin’s article unquestioned or without a thorough edit, and that it would mislead many and cause hurt and damage to black and indigenous people battling racism.

As Director of Ethos and the one who received and read the unsolicited article and passed it on to the editor of Equip and then Engage.Mail (upon request), I admit that we should have discussed with David both the truthfulness and one-sided tone of some statements, particularly about Black Lives Matter (BLM) and leftist anti-Semitism. I apologise unreservedly on my and Ethos’ behalf. Our normal procedures did not pick up this potential harm. We publish for different readership levels and perspectives, requiring less and more editing, while always trying to aim for truthfulness and a loving, civil, but sometimes robust tone. This time I and we fell short.

Normally, when we solicit writing on controversial issues, we try to get balancing articles. However, sometimes with unsolicited material we have neither the time nor the space to ensure this as much as we otherwise could. We of course have our own views and the right to publish them when needed to clarify where I or we stand.

The two recent excerpts below, almost simultaneous to David’s article, provide a sample of my stance on the above issues related to Black Lives Matter. In this way we perhaps did provide balance, even correction, but not in the same publication.

In my editorial for the Zadok Perspectives issue on Public Speaking, I stated:

Thus we are not merely tribal, with backs to the world, nor engaging in a collective version of the common, possessive and relativist ‘my truth’. We are engaged in mutual encounter, searching together, but across tribal lines, for transcendent truth beyond both groups’ grasp. This is somewhat different to Martyn Iles’ ACL column ‘modestly’ entitled ‘The Truth’, with its unbiblical hierarchy of truths privileging personal righteousness in sexual and bioethical areas over social justice issues like race, refugees or climate change. Towards Truth would be more true.

Further, and more specifically, in my article ‘Truth on Trial’ in the same edition I stated on p.13:

Tell the truth, not in postmodern relativistic terms as ‘my’ truth, but also not in absolutist, modernist, personal property-like terms of ‘The Truth’ that I possess, as Iles’ column by that name suggests over-simply and sometimes falsely, especially when labelling all activist believers on ecology or race as ‘cultural Marxists’ (see for instance, M. Iles, ‘Don’t be Deceived: you know the truth’, in Voice for Truth, July 2020, 1)

Finally, we do provide several fora for enabling strong expressions of opinion from Left to Right, unlike most publications. We will continue to do so, but hopefully, as limited resources allow, more carefully. We will also invite Dr David Griffin, whom I know (as his former supervisor) to be a fine scholar, to reply to his critics with enough space, including footnotes if needed, at a similar but accessible level for doing so, in what was a popular piece, but needed more moderation.


Gordon Preece is the Director of Ethos.




Jim Reiher
May 18, 2022, 7:38PM
Thanks Gordon for this clarity and honest reflection. It is much appreciated.

And I can appreciated that the pressures of editing work can lead to exactly this situation at times.

Yours sincerely
Jim Reiher

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