113 How to Fight Cancel Culture as a Christian Author with Laura Lynn Hughes

There’s no question that we live in a cancel culture. You may be tempted to bury your head in the sand and try to never offend anyone, but that’s not how the Bible calls us to live. Throughout the Bible, men and women of God took a stand for what they believed, and many of them were canceled because of their faith. In fact, Christian publishing was borne out of an early iteration of cancel culture. When Christian books were pushed out of the bookstores, Christians created their own bookstores and publishing companies because they didn’t want to be canceled. 

As Christian authors, how should we respond to cancel culture? 

I asked Laura Lynn Hughes, who has experienced firsthand what it’s like to be canceled by big tech censorship. She’s an international teacher, human rights activist, author of Choose Zoe: A Story of Unplanned Pregnancy and the Case for Life, and speaker who talks regularly about the sanctity of human life. 

Thomas: Tell us your story. What got you canceled?

Laura: Just as my book was released, Facebook and Instagram decided to label my book Choose Zoe as political. I’m not sure if it was the man’s tattooed arm on the cover or the little naked baby. It could have possibly been the tagline “Unplanned Parenthood” or “Choose Zoe” since Zoe is a word for life in Greek. I’m not sure why it was labeled political, but it was. Facebook and Instagram cost my publisher about 30 hours of phone calls and emails, and they ultimately shut down my publisher’s accounts for over a year. It wasn’t just a denial of being able to purchase political ads; it was also deplatforming. We’ve been fighting censorship. 

Thomas: Your publisher was trying to buy ads to promote your book on Facebook, which is what good publishers do. It’s not an unusual tactic. Indie authors buy lots of Facebook ads, and savvy publishers do, too. But big tech said, “You’re not a publisher. You’re a political activist,” and they kept you from buying ads. 

It’s interesting because that’s not how they treat regular political activists. I’ve managed over $100,000 worth of ad buys for political candidates and organizations over the years, and they had no trouble buying ads. 

You felt like you were singled out because they didn’t like the fact that this was a pro-life book.

Laura: Absolutely. They stopped a bunch of political ads because it was right near an election. If your tagline included the words “guns,” “abortion,” or any hot topics, they were denying those ads. They gave us the ability to purchase the ads, so we ran one, and then they shut the accounts down for over a year.

This was in 2018, before all the political drama of 2020, and I think that’s why I had so much trouble getting anyone to listen to me about what was happening. 

I called Alliance Defending Freedom and various pro-life lawyers, but people repeatedly told me they had never heard of it. It seemed they thought I was referring to one of my personal posts being removed. I can post almost anything on my personal Facebook, and rarely does anything get taken down. However, there were exceptions. Twitter removed a post when I was featured on Focus on the Family, and YouTube removed a video when I interviewed with Eric Metaxas.

Thomas: Facebook typically doesn’t take down posts because that tends to make people angry. Instead, they hide the post so no one sees it. If you post and notice you’re not getting many likes or comments, it’s because Facebook is not showing it to people. Even though people don’t see it, they could still search for your post and find it if you told them about it.

When Facebook takes something down, people can’t find it even if they search for it. Facebook is hesitant to do that because when people realize they’re being censored, they tend to leave Facebook, and Facebook doesn’t want you to leave. They want you to stay there so they can keep selling your attention to advertisers. 

Laura: Which is why it’s odd that they don’t want my money.

Thomas: Your publisher got banned from Facebook and banned from advertising on Facebook for any of their books because they advertised your book. Is that right?

Laura: Yes. I felt really bad because they had four books come out, and my book affected other people’s marketing and advertising plans, which were part of their publishing deals.

Thomas: That’s rough, especially if advertising is a big part of your campaign. 

But your book wasn’t really about politics, candidates, or voting. It was educating people about the issue of abortion, which is a big voting issue. But it’s also an issue with life, like fighting racism or any other kind of issue.

Laura: I always strive to be careful, especially since I lead a post-abortive ministry at my church. Consequently, I avoid being overtly political about abortion. However, I am extremely passionate about life. I consistently advocate from a position of victory and life, emphasizing that everyone needs support during pregnancy, regardless of marital status. Therefore, being labeled as political was quite disappointing, as that is not my focus.

Thomas: I’ve been active in the pro-life movement for a long time, serving on the board of directors for both a crisis pregnancy center and a political organization. I can tell you there are two distinctly different pro-life movements. One is politically focused, deeply involved with legislation and elections, often getting into the nitty-gritty. The other aspect of the movement focuses solely on ministering to women facing unplanned pregnancies, without concern for bills or laws, just aiming to help women in need. This is the side of the ministry you are involved with. You’re not campaigning for candidates but rather helping women who are struggling. Despite this, Facebook canceled your content, and Twitter went on to cancel some of your interviews.

But no one will cancel this interview because I’ve built my whole platform on an uncancelable technology. Podcasts interviews can’t get canceled. Thank God there’s no company that controls who the podcasts go out and how they’re downloaded. It’s on an open internet technology. 

How have you been forced to use open internet technologies rather than technologies named after companies?

Thomas: Here’s a useful rule of thumb: if the name of the technology is also the name of a company, then you are at their mercy. Conversely, if the technology is named after something technical and not a company, you are free. For instance, Twitter is a company, so on Twitter, you’re essentially a peasant. On the other hand, RSS, the technology behind podcasting, represents freedom, making you a free citizen in the realm of RSS.

Laura: I realized how important it is to have an email list when the social media went down. In the last few months, I’ve added a couple thousand people to my email list, and I’m focusing my efforts there. When I speak, I try to get people’s email addresses to add to my ConvertKit email list. I now realize that I have free speech through email, and I have some control over who I can communicate with. 

Thomas: ConvertKit allows you to email all your email subscribers in a certain geographic area. If you’re speaking in Denver, you can email everyone within a 50-mile radius of Denver and invite them to your speaking event. That way, you can start growing that direct connection you have with your fans. It’s a really powerful, social-media-free way of building actual social connections with your audience.

How else have you been getting the word out about your book despite being silenced on social media?

Laura: I wrote a lot of handwritten letters and mailed them to people, which is also a great way to get endorsements. I wrote to the president and the pope, and I sent books. In the same week, I received a reply from the Vatican and the White House, from the president and from the pope. It really lifted my spirits because they were affirming my pro-life work, and it helped me grow a little stronger. It spurred me on to keep moving and writing. 

I emailed a lot of people. I wrote articles for Focus on the Family and Christianity Today. The written word is a wonderful way of getting your story out without being canceled. I also traveled to anybody that would have me speak. Whenever I traveled to speak, whether at pregnancy clinics or conferences, I would try to meet the other keynote speakers. I often handed them a card or asked for their email so I could send them a book later. That way, they wouldn’t have to carry the book while they were busy attending the conference. Occasionally, their assistant would offer to take the book, or the person themselves would say, “Oh, I’ll read this on the way home.”

I went to Family Talk with Doctor Dobson to be part of his live audience. I took a copy of his book, The Strong-Willed Child, because I was a teen mom who was pregnant at age 15, and my daughter is very strong-willed. He signed my copy of his book, and I signed the copy of my book and gave it to him. 

When you can’t reach anybody because you’re not famous, then you have to go to where they are. That strategy proved very profitable for me. When I went to New Jersey to be on a small show, I contacted The Eric Metaxas show and said, “I’m in the area, and I could be on your show on one of three dates.” They responded, and I got on the show. When you’re flying somewhere to network and paying for your flight, you better make sure the trip is worth your effort. 

How did people perceive you after you were canceled?

Thomas: People have a tendency to side with the powerful over the powerless, and when you tell them you got canceled, they probably thought you did something wrong. 

We tend to assume the rule is good and the person is bad, when it’s actually the other way around. We have to fight that instinct because getting canceled is very scary and isolating, especially for a younger person whose life is on social media. When you get cut off from all your social connections with your friends, it’s very traumatic. That’s why I encourage people to get off Facebook as their primary means to communicate with people. 

You were one of the first to get canceled, but now they’re canceling lots of people. Even the president got canceled by big tech. 

It’s important for us to show love to people who are canceled, especially if they’re your friends. Remind them that you can still be friends in real life. I imagine it was very encouraging to get that letter from the pope.

Laura: It was so cool. I was raised Catholic, and my parents are the ones who taught me that we’re all made in God’s image. Even pro-choice advocates and atheists are made in God’s image. We are all fashioned in love, and we’re all able to procreate, and I grew up understanding that.

When I was affirmed by the pope, I knew my parents would just be dancing in heaven, and it really did encourage me because nobody else really cared. This book was the first thing I’d ever written. It sold 800 copies in the first few days, and my publisher was happy. I was looking at a book deal with Sam’s Club, and then we got canceled. It destroyed my launch, but I refused to let that that destroy the message. Babies, lives, and souls are too important for us to just sit down when something hard happens. 

In the Bible, the apostle Paul reminds us that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). As Christians, we face never-ending struggles against evil in this world, but like Paul, we know where our strength comes from. We’re fighting a good fight, so there’s no reason for us to sit down because we are to fight from a place of victory in Christ.

Thomas: But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Just because a door is closed doesn’t mean you should give up. In the last 20 years or so, people have started teaching and believing that God speaks through open doors. But where in the Bible does God ever speak to somebody by opening a door? Often, he told his people to “go into the promised land and take it,” regardless of whether the doors were open. In fact, there were walls and giants. Even Paul said, “Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 2:12-14, NLT).

He chose not to go through an open door because he didn’t think it was the right thing to do. If we follow the path of least resistance and only go through the “open doors” and avoid every closed door, we become very vulnerable because powerful people control the doors. We call them gatekeepers. 

But we follow the King of all the world! Do we follow him or the powerful people who are holding the gates closed? Don’t let your context dictate your theology and obedience.

Laura: I always say that big tech cannot stand against our big God. Big tech messed with the wrong girl because I’ll talk to anybody. 

I was a photographer for over 30 years, and no one every objected to me charging for sessions or prints. I deserve that same right in the marketplace to be able to sell a book that was written with love and creativity. The stories and resources I’ve included will give people hope and help with pregnancy loss, miscarriage, fertility, foster care, adoption, and abortion. There’s so much good in that book. That’s how we fight; we fight evil with good.

Thomas: As the old saying goes, “Don’t curse the darkness. Light a candle.”

What advice do you have for listeners who are feeling nervous about standing out from the crowd? 

Thomas: How would you counsel people who are afraid of being criticized or canceled?

Laura: I would advise anyone who thinks they may have been canceled to remember that truth can never be canceled. Always speak the truth with love, as this is how we influence the culture. Even if we face cancellation, there are still people out there who are hurting. In my experiences, whether speaking with love to an atheist, a pro-choice woman, or a post-abortive woman, I have seen positive outcomes. Some of them have read my book, and I’ve received five-star reviews on Amazon from several atheists and pro-choice readers who connected with the stories I shared. So, don’t hesitate to speak the truth with love; it is always gentle, always aligns with God’s plan, and it never goes out of fashion.

Thomas: Many people are writing and publishing books about abortion, but the fact that yours was canceled has made it particularly noteworthy—everyone wants to talk about it. For instance, about 10 or 15 years ago, Florida proposed a “Choose Life” license plate featuring two cute children. The additional cost of this optional plate was intended to support crisis pregnancy centers and women in need. This initiative sparked a significant controversy and a prolonged five-year legal battle, which ultimately increased its demand. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Floridians wanted this plate due to its notoriety.

In Texas, where there are crisis pregnancy centers all over the place, we attempted to introduce the same license plate. However, without any opposition or legal challenges, it lacked the same appeal and did not become as popular as the Florida plate. The desire for the forbidden played a significant role in Florida’s situation, demonstrating that being canceled can serve as powerful marketing. 

Your cancellation may be a blessing in disguise if it forces you to explore promotional avenues outside of social media. Social media is rarely an effective platform for promoting books, as the results it promises are seldom delivered.

Laura: It’s funny that you mentioned those license plates because I’m in California, which is a major battleground for the pro-life movement. I also work at a pregnancy clinic. California law prohibits the issuance of a ‘Choose Life’ license plate, so my license plate reads ‘Choose Zoe’ instead. ‘Zoe’ is the Greek word for life, as referenced in John 10:10, so I found a creative way to express the same sentiment. 

I’m excited that you’re featuring me on your podcast because, despite being censored and canceled, it hasn’t really helped me sell any books since no one has discussed the cancellation with me. You’re the first podcast, TV, or radio host to talk to me about this censorship.

When I was at Focus on the Family they talked to me about the book, but not about being canceled. I’m always interviewed about the book because the stories are fascinating. When something gets canceled, I let Focus on the Family know. Of course, Eric Metaxas knows what it’s like because he’s been taken off YouTube. 

Thomas: There are two approaches you can take when you’re canceled. You can either continue to promote your book without emphasizing the cancellation, or you can use the cancellation as a selling point. Back in 2018, people might have assumed you were doing something wrong to get canceled, believing that a big tech company like Facebook was essentially acting in our best interests. However, perceptions have shifted, and it’s unlikely anyone still holds that belief, given the immense power we’ve ceded to Facebook. 

One effective strategy to reduce Facebook’s influence in your life is to change your settings and turn off notifications for likes. This change helps break the addictive cycle that keeps you glued to the app. If you only receive notifications for comments, Facebook becomes less addictive and more useful, which reduces its control over your daily activities.

Tell us about your book Choose Zoe.

Laura: I became pregnant at age 15 while attending a Catholic school in Billings, Montana. As the youngest of eight children, my situation was not well-received. My mother was involved with a pregnancy center in Billings, and my father was staunchly pro-life. Despite that, both the church and the school ostracized me. I was asked to leave my parochial school and my church, which was quite disturbing at the time. However, my parents upheld the gospel and the sanctity of human life. They supported me through high school, taught me how to parent, and showed love for my daughter, which was incredibly precious.

Did I learn my lesson? No. Statistics show that 50% of teenage girls who get pregnant will become pregnant again within a year, regardless of whether they have aborted, placed the baby for adoption, miscarried, or parented. That was me. I became pregnant again and kept it a secret once more. I was still searching for love, trying to fill that void that only God can satisfy. Tragically, I lost a little boy at 22 weeks. His loss profoundly affected me and led me into the arms of Jesus.

Within one year, I experienced both the joy of motherhood and the pain of miscarriage. 

My experience has driven my passion for helping young girls who are pregnant. I’ve worked in a pregnancy clinic for a couple of decades, and in one month, we had three 12-year-old girls who were pregnant come into our clinic. That night, I went home and cried out to God. I prayed, “How can I help?” Around 3:30 in the morning, I got that Holy Spirit nudge that I should get up and write to educate people. I thought, “I’ve never written an article. I’ve never written anything. I don’t even read books. I couldn’t even read to my kids because I kind of read backward. God, what are you talking about?”

When I got up in the morning, I felt like Jesus was saying, “Just use me. I was from the most famous unplanned pregnancy.” Of course, God knew, but it was pretty unexpected for Mary and Joseph. So, I started writing my story of teen pregnancy and miscarriage. As I wrote, I also wanted to talk about abortion and abortion recovery. I interviewed people who had been adopted out of foster care and parents who had adopted children from foster care. Eventually, I talked to people who’d had a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome. 

I just started looking at the “exceptions,” where normally people say abortion is justified and then telling the stories of people who chose life instead. 

I’ve also provided resources in the back of the book as well as some instructions for churches on how to talk about it from the pulpit and start a post-abortive ministry in the church. If we’re going to speak life, then we need to embrace everybody. We need to talk about all aspects of sexuality and pregnancy and pregnancy loss, because the church has missed out in this area, and we can no longer be silent. Lives are at stake.

Thomas: One story is an anecdote, but multiple stories from different angles present a better view of the of the big picture. We support life by supporting love. Hatred leads to death and love leads to life, and that means loving our enemies, loving those who are hurting, and loving those who are broken. Love is messy and difficult. 

The pro-life movement was under the gun long before many other issues were. It’s hard to get any pro-life content on television. Opponents do not want to hear what we have to say because they know it’s the truth, and the truth is powerful.

You know you’ve lost the argument when your only response is to silence the other side. Either you have the truth, or you don’t. You have a good answer, or you don’t. We have the answer, and the answer is love. 

Any final tips or encouragement?

Laura: One of the ways we fight cancel culture is through prayer. Christians overcome evil with good, so I encourage you to keep doing good. Don’t grow weary of doing good because, in due time, you will reap a harvest. 

I hope and pray you will find the strength to be strong and courageous and find the platforms that you can own, that no one can cancel. If you do, you’ll still be able to affect the culture with the love of the gospel. 

If anyone is struggling with an abortion in your past, whether you paid for one or had one, please reach out to me. I can help you find hope and healing, and I love the one-on-one connection. Be brave and courageous. There’s always, always hope for you. 

If you’re having trouble with being canceled, I also have a paper I can send you on the five best ways that I found to beat the cancel culture as a Christian author. I can email that to you as well. 

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