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In our last article, we defined wokeness and showed the danger of it infiltrating the Church today.
What we are seeing is the outworking of a new religion displacing the old Christendom upon which our societies were built. As our societies have secularized, a new religion has taken its place. All culture is merely religion externalized. So, our current culture simply reflects the religious shift.
Today’s popular culture is founded upon things such as Darwinian naturalistic presuppositions, expressive individualism, postmodern philosophy and Marxist social theory. It is seen in today’s political Left, in colleges & institutions of learning, Hollywood, entertainment and news media, and the socialistic agendas of global elites.
Elizabeth Corey, Associate Professor of Political Science at Baylor University, recognizes similar undercurrents in the rise of the intersectionality movement, which she identifies as
"a quasi-religious gnostic movement, which appeals to people for precisely the reasons that all religions do: It gives an account of our brokenness, an explanation of the reasons for pain, a saving story accompanied by strong ethical imperatives, and hope for the future. In short, it gives life meaning."
James Lindsay, an atheist and university mathematician, contends that
“social justice fulfills the same psychological and social needs that religion once filled but no longer can. And like conventional religions, it depends on axiomatic claims that cannot be falsified but only accepted as revealed truths. This is why arguments with these zealots are about as productive as theological disputation with a synod of Taliban divines. For the social justice inquisitors, "dialogue" is the process by which opponents confess their sins and submit in fear and trembling to the social justice creed.” (Dreher, Live Not By Lies, 60)
Ultimately, people are turning towards “wokeness” - either self-consciously or unwittingly - because they are seeking religious answers to life. We must not mistake this point. We are not just dealing with a set of abstract ideas - this is an alternative religion and cult, and it should be treated as such. Rod Dreher goes on to note that
“intellectual, cultural, academic, and corporate elites are under the sway of a left-wing political cult built around social justice. It is a militantly illiberal ideology that shares alarming commonalities with Bolshevism, including dividing humanity between the Good and the Evil. This pseudoreligion appears to meet a need for meaning and moral purpose in a post-Christian society and seeks to build a just society by demonizing, excluding, and even persecuting all who resist its harsh dogmas.” (Dreher, Live Not By Lies, 93)
The way I want to frame dealing with wokeness is seeing it as an Anti-Gospel.
It has a different view of origins and purpose in life. It has its own doctrine of original sin and sinfulness, and therefore, also has its own means of “justification”. Except, it only offers perpetual repentance and penance but no absolution of guilt or offer of forgiveness. It also has its own future hope of a communistic utopia. Therefore, even though it can masquerade as “compassionate”, it is radically Anti-Gospel.
Comprehensive & Revolutionary Worldview
Woke ideologies are not just ideas in a vacuum or separate concepts. They form a comprehensive and alternative worldview to Christianity. This is why you also cannot just adopt parts of woke ideology consistently without having to adopt it wholesale. Thus, it is like a virus that tends to spread wherever it is introduced.
This is because it is also a revolutionary worldview - similar to Marx’s original philosophy - and is therefore radically “evangelistic”. This is not just a philosophy to analyze the world, but to change it and that’s why our world has been changed so rapidly by it. Marx wrote, “The philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” (Marx, Theses On Feuerbach: Thesis 11) Marxism is a theology of action. (Ironically, so is Christianity supposed to be!)
The fact that wokeness stems from a comprehensive worldview is also why all of these various Leftist causes often seem to be linked. The same people who support critical race theory are supporting LBGTQ, socialism, etc. To illustrate here are some points from BLM’s Statement of Beliefs before they took it down from their website:
“We foster a queer-affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).”
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”
BLM is not just about racism against black people - all of these other causes are wrapped up in it because it’s part of their comprehensive worldview.
A booklet published by M4BL called “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom, & Justice,” makes this global and comprehensive vision all the more explicit by espousing a sort of diasporic social justice:
“While this platform is focused on domestic policies, we know that patriarchy, exploitative capitalism, militarism, and white supremacy know no borders. We stand in solidarity with our international family against the ravages of global capitalism and anti-Black racism, human-made climate change, war, and exploitation. We also stand with descendants of African people all over the world in an ongoing call and struggle for reparations for the historic and continuing harms of colonialism and slavery.”
That’s why things like environmentalism, anti-capitalism, socialism, anti-patriarchy, feminism, anti-colonialism and anti-nationalism often come as a package deal.
We must understand and treat wokeness as a comprehensive and revolutionary competing worldview/religion because it is.
Group Identity & Tribalism
This is being widely propagated here, as in 2018, when Toronto's Ryerson University hosted a "white privilege" conference. In a famous training session captured on video in 2016, a black speaker named Ashleigh Shackelford opposed "racism" by standing before a room of women, many of them white, and telling them that "all white people are racists." Not only that, but she pronounced that they had no real hope of changing: "No, you're always going to be racist, actually," she said. "Even when you're on a path to be a better human being."
Because of the woke belief in group identity being primary, white people are automatically guilty because of their belonging to that group. It is wokeness’s doctrine of original sin. Or in the case of people who have the right intersectional credentials, original sinlessness.
Ekemini Uwan, a self-branded “anti-racist public theologian” at the 2019 Sparrow Conference - promoted as a Christian community of peacemaking women - says,
“Well, the reality is that whiteness is rooted in plunder, in theft, in slavery, in enslavement of Africans, genocide of Native Americans.... It's a power structure, that is what whiteness is.... Because we have to understand something-whiteness is wicked. It is wicked. It's rooted in violence, it's rooted in theft, it's rooted in plunder, it's rooted in power, in privilege.”
Now, it is important to note that “whiteness” does not always mean having white skin. Uwan calls on "people of color to divest from whiteness too." For the woke, “whiteness” is not a skin tone so much as it is a plundering, thieving, enslaving, genocidal way of being in the world. This is similarly applied across other areas of wokeness - e.g. males having toxic masculinity, or all leaders having oppressive authority, etc.
This is also why within woke ideology, certain people of oppressed groups cannot be racist or sinful. However, what many fail to realize is how demeaning this philosophy really is to black people, for example, because it flattens all black people to be a certain way and share a monolithic culture. But black people from America, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa are very different and would think through and experience racial issues differently. By wokeness saying in essence that all black people are the same is actually very racist. Ultimately, our identities are fallen in Adam as we share a common humanity, and as sinners redeemed in Christ as people from every ethnicity share a common Saviour. This is the real ground for unity.
Truth, Language & Narrative
According to Shay-Akil McLean,
"The idea of objectivity in western intellectual traditions is problematic for many reasons.... And to think there are universal truths perpetuates a particular kind of able-bodied white cisgender male logic.”
In her diversity curriculum which is used by some of the biggest companies in the world for training on "anti-racism," Judith Katz argues that "objective, rational, linear thinking," "controlled emotions," "the scientific method," and "quantitative research" are all defining marks of racist "white culture" (Katz includes such values as "Individual has primary responsibility," "Working hard brings success," "Plan for future," "Delayed gratification," "Value continual improvement and progress," "Written tradition," "Owning goods, space, property," "Nuclear family is the ideal social unit," and "Belief in Christianity" as "Components of White Culture").
With this sort of disposition towards science, you can see that wokeness does not lead to objective truth. In fact, it is suspicious of objective truth. Instead, the ideology is primary. Facts and statistics or reason only serve the ideology. This goes back to the Postmodern Truth Principle and is the foundation of wokeness’s epistemology (theory of knowledge).
As Timone Cline has noted,
Knowledge is always socially constructed to benefit the knower and, therefore, never value-free. Knowledge is also power, as the old saying goes, but in this case, critical race theorists really mean it. Those in power determine what is true and ostracize any “knowledge” that would challenge their power status. Objectivity, free inquiry, and the like are cast by critical race theorists as tools of oppression because they cast out from the start alternative (experiential and felt) ways of knowing. It’s all a power play. Centering or promoting alternative ways of knowing is the path to liberation from predominant truth claims (i.e. myths) that prop up the hegemony.”
“Because the knowledge of the oppressed is derived from their experience as the oppressed, to reject the knowledge is to reject the person. And because of modern, therapeutic conceptions of the self, to reject or devalue a person is to do violence to them. For example, as Douglas Murray has often noted, being gay is no longer something someone does, but rather something they are. To denounce homosexuality is to denounce them as a person (i.e. de-person them). Those who dare to question knowledge derived from the positionality of an oppressed person will likely endure a barrage of accusations of committing “epistemic violence,” and the like. This is why any detractor will be cordially invited to “shut up and listen!”
Dr. Voddie Baucham has called this “ethnic Gnosticism” - that people of visible minority groups have access to some “special knowledge” by mere virtue of their “lived experience” as a minority which people in the majority cannot have access to - and of course, you can’t argue with a person’s experience.
Change the Language, Change the World
The woke believe that if knowledge is a construct of power, which functions through ways of talking about things, knowledge can be changed and power structures toppled by changing the way we talk about things. This is why woke culture is fixated on controlling discourses, especially by problematizing language and imagery it deems Theoretically harmful. This means that it looks for then highlights ways in which the oppressive problems they assume exist in society manifest themselves, sometimes quite subtly, in order to "make oppression visible”. (Lindsey & Pluckrose, 61-62) This is why woke corporations are forcing employees to put their gender pronouns in their email signatures. Change the language, change the world. If you control what people can say, you also control what they can think. This was one of George Orwell’s insights in his dystopian novel 1984 where the Ministry of Truth deleted or changed the meaning of words in the language in order to control people.
Woke ideology also uses terms like epistemic oppression to describe the “oppression” that marginalized groups (such as witchcraft, folk tradition, etc) feel because they are not included in our society’s prevailing understanding of knowledge. Related is the concept of hermeneutical privacy, which describes the right not to be understandable at all. This is one of the reasons our world looks so strange today and we find ourselves wondering how people could possibly believe such things? It is also convenient for the woke cause because science and reason have the irritating habit of revealing the flaws in their philosophy. But if they can conveniently silence those inconvenient truths by crying out “oppression” and “injustice”, they win.
Again, change the language, change the world.
This is also why it is demanded of people to support the woke cause without concern for getting the details of a case straight first. Take for example the George Floyd case. Black squares were posted on social media and unqualified support was demanded before any of the final details of the case were known. More than 8000 protests erupted in over 2500 cities, sometimes violent and destructive with calls to “defund the police”. Floyd was exalted as a martyr of the systemic oppression of black people and police brutality. It was important that everyone support and promote this approved narrative in an unreserved way. Yet the facts told a different and more nuanced story.
While his death is tragic, he was not the patron saint he was portrayed to be. Floyd was high on fentanyl and meth at the time of his arrest. He was a multiple-convicted felon with a record of armed violence. The County Medical Examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, stated in his report that the autopsy revealed “no physical evidence suggesting that Mr. Floyd died of asphyxiation.” The Examiner also noted the inclusion of fentanyl and meth in his bloodstream, saying that it could be “a fatal level of fentanyl under normal circumstances.” The viral video clips showing Floyd saying “I can’t breathe” don’t show the fact that he was saying that well before he was subdued on the ground by the police. These facts don’t excuse the fact that the officer subduing Floyd had his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck, but it does tell a more nuanced story that is not useful to woke agendas. Similar details could be rehearsed for other popular cases like Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, and others that are held up as “normative” examples of police brutality.
Other statistics are also conveniently ignored in service of the ideology and keeping up the narrative. For example, in 2015, the homicide rate for blacks aged 10-34 years was 13 times the rate for whites and a large majority of those murders were at the hands of other black men, not the police or white people. It has been statistically shown that in the US, police officers are more hesitant to draw and fire their weapon with an armed black suspect than with a white suspect, and are disproportionally injured and killed by armed black suspects over white ones.
Roland Fryer, a black economist and professor at Harvard, carried out a thorough investigation of police shootings in ten major cities across the United States. He concluded that there is no evidence of racial bias in police shootings. In Houston, for example, he found that blacks were 24 percent less likely than whites to be shot by officers even though the suspects were armed or violent. A Washington State University study found that police officers were less likely to shoot black suspects than white suspects in realistic simulations of both armed and unarmed scenarios.
This is not to dismiss legitimate instances of wrong done by police (of which there are many examples). However, as Christians, our opinions should be formed by the truth - the whole truth - otherwise we’ll get the diagnosis and the cure wrong too. God commands us not to “pervert justice” and show partiality in Leviticus 19:15 and Deuteronomy 16:19. The whole truth matters to truly do justice, and often, we cannot know the full story until after investigations have been thoroughly conducted. This means we cannot be like the world in its viral outrage at every instance that is put forward as examples of oppression or injustice - we must judge with the right judgment. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)
Systemic Oppression & Victimhood
Karl Marx wrote,
"Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes." Therefore, "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave...lord and serf, guild master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed." (Marx, Communist Manifesto, 9)
Jeffrey Johnson, in his book What Every Christian Needs to Know About Social Justice writes that,
“Marx believed that the great moral problem of society could be reduced to the institutions of authority within society. He held that because authority by its very nature is oppressive, all authoritative structures and institutions must be destroyed. And when all decentralized divisions of authority have been dismantled, a globalized classless society must take its place in a new world order. In this new world order, people will no longer have to relate to each other as superiors and inferiors, rich and poor, leader and follower. Not until there are no class divisions, diversity, or hierarchical stature of authority will society be free of oppression. Only then will the world be rid of evil and experience utopia." (Jeffrey Johnson, 28-29)
This is where the woke obsession over oppression and victimhood comes from. It assumes that oppression is everywhere. Oppression is the lens through which the woke view the world.
However, if merely holding a position of power makes one evil, then God must be the evilest and most oppressive entity in the universe - for He holds all power and authority. Power and authority are not inherently bad. In fact, we know from God’s Word that He has instituted various powers and authority structures such as parents and children, husband and wife, government and citizens, elders and churches. Just because there is an authority structure does not automatically mean there is oppression nor that the problem is “systemic”. This is far too simplistic of a view of complex realities.
Because of sin, we know that people can be corrupted and even build corrupt systems. But that doesn’t mean that all people and all systems are corrupt. However, wokeness sees the existence of power dynamics as the cause of oppression and not necessarily willful individual agents. Thus, a society, social system, or institution can be seen as oppressive without the need for proving any individual actions or even a person holding oppressive views. Therefore, in Critical Race Theory, you can have racism without individual racists. For example, Evangelical woke author, Jemar Tisby says in his book The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church's Complicity in Racism,
“What do we mean when we talk about racism? …racism is a system of oppression based on race… Racism can operate through impersonal systems and not simply through the malicious words and actions of individuals. Another definition explains racism as prejudice plus power. It is not only personal bigotry toward someone of a different race that constitutes racism, racism includes the imposition of bigoted ideas on groups of people. In light of these definitions it is accurate to say that many white people have been complicit with racism...” (Jemar Tisby,16)
In fact, in Canada, Martin Loney, in The Pursuit of Division: Race, Gender and Preferential Hiring in Canada, found when he examined the census data and other income and labour statistics looking for evidence of racial or gender discrimination in preferential hiring practice, there was no "generalized trend for visible minorities to be concentrated at the bottom of the labour market." Loney wrote that "the disadvantages of visible minorities in the labour market were never documented, though a casual reader could have been excused for assuming the learned judge had seen overwhelming evidence." Even an advocate for preferential hiring, Monica Boyd, reviewed census data in 1986 and found, as Loney paraphrases it,
"scant evidence of discrimination against racial minorities in Canada. Instead, visible minority women born in Canada actually displayed mean employment income 13 percent higher in 1985 than their white female counterparts."
The facts simply don’t support the woke assertion of systemic oppression. But this doesn’t fit the narrative, so it is conveniently left out. Similar details have come to light about the claims of mass burials of indigenous children at reservation schools like Kamloops - where some investigations have come up with not one single body. Yet these details are often suppressed by mainstream media and even woke Big Tech corporations like Google. We must be careful as Christians about jumping onto every woke narrative pushed forward in our culture - not dismissing legitimate concerns, but being discerning about the narrative being pushed.
In today’s woke culture, being a victim is socially advantageous. As Robert Martin notes:
“The key to social and intellectual legitimacy is to be a victim, or, if one has little or no concrete personal experience of being a victim, to be a member of a recognised victim group.”
And thus, this is why many today seek to find some victim status to be identified with. We need to be aware of this trend and temptation in our culture today as we seek to help disciples grow in a Biblical world and life view.
Fixation on Disparities
Another feature of woke ideologies is that it fixates on disparities between identity groups and assumes that there are only nefarious explanations for them. However, not all disparities are unjust. Some disparities just are, some are because of different choices that individuals make, and some are legitimately unjust. The details matter. Woke culture tends to only highlight the disparities that serve their goals.
For example, take the fact that bank lenders across the US rejected twice as many blacks as whites for home loans, 44.6 percent compared with 22.3 percent. Taken alone, that fact seems damning. But the same US Commission on Civil Rights report found that white Americans are turned down nearly twice as often as Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians for those same mortgages (22.3 percent versus 12.4 percent). Does this prove systemic racial discrimination against whites? Of course not. How about the fact that black-owned banks turned down black applicants for home mortgages at a higher rate than white-owned banks? Is that systemic racism? No. The median net worth of conservative Protestants came to $26,000 compared with a median net worth of $150,890 for proponents of Judaism. Are such inequalities evidence of systemic anti-conservative Protestantism?
There are, what professor Thaddeus J. Williams in his book Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth calls, “undamning explanations” for many disparities in life. He notes that,
“When we automatically assume damning explanations for unequal outcomes, we not only lock ourselves in a prison of never-ending rage but also dull our senses to the point that we will be useless for the sacred task of recognizing and resisting the real racism, real sexism, and other real vicious isms around us.” (Williams, Confronting Injustice, 84)
One major “undamning explanation” for some disparities is freedom. Because people are free to make different decisions, that necessitates different outcomes. The only way to eliminate that would be to eliminate freedom - which is what some woke ideologues would like to do and why some of these woke global elites move more and more towards totalitarian forms of government. Global elites who fancy themselves to be humanity’s saviours must step in with more laws, and more forced wealth redistribution to enforce “social justice” until this quest for equality turns our societies into Communist Russia, North Korea or Venezuela 2.0.
Perpetual Guilt & Grievances
Assumed guilt is wokeness’s doctrine of sin. Whether it is white people, heterosexuals, Christians or males - woke ideologies impute guilt on people who belong to identity groups it determines to be “oppressors”.
However, Paul in the first century did not go around playing a game of grievances between Jews and Gentiles in the newly formed churches. The Jews could have easily brought up the oppressions of the Gentile Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians and even Romans around them for how they had historically treated the Jewish people. They could have pointed to the mass taxation of the Romans and complained that the whole system was rigged against them by these Roman supremacists who enforce their cultural hegemony upon them! They could have demanded that they repent of their Romanness and divest themselves of their privilege and pay reparations.
Yet this was not what Paul writes in Ephesians 2 addressing the divide between Jew and non-Jews. The basis for unity he puts forward is unity and forgiveness in Christ who creates one new man out of the two and ends the enmity between them by reconciling them in his body. If we play the perpetual guilt game, there’s no end and no one wins. One example of this is the perpetual guilt and grievances held onto from chattel slavery in North America (which was evil). However, the narrative is not quite so simple as “white people bad, and black people are always innocent victims”.
Take for example the issue of slavery. Here are a few facts of history that are often overlooked by the popular social justice narrative in our culture today:
"Slavs were so widely used as slaves in both Europe and the Islamic world that the very word 'slave' derived from the word for Slav-not only in English, but also in other European languages, as well as in Arabic."
At least a million Europeans were enslaved by North African pirates alone from 1500 to 1800.
"Europeans enslaved other Europeans, Asians enslaved other Asians, Africans enslaved other Africans, and the indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere enslaved other indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere."
"It was the Africans who enslaved their fellow Africans, selling some of these slaves to Europeans or to Arabs and keeping others for themselves. Even at the peak of the Atlantic slave trade, Africans retained more slaves for themselves than they sent to the Western Hemisphere."
"Slavery was also common in India, where it has been estimated that there were more slaves than in the entire Western Hemisphere."
"Arabs were the leading slave raiders in East Africa, ranging over an area larger than all of Europe."
China in centuries past has been described as “one of the largest and most comprehensive markets for the exchange of human beings in the world.”
While slavery was common to all civilizations because sin is common to all mankind... yet, only one civilization developed moral revulsion against it, very late in its history - Western civilization based on Judeo-Christian principles of morality... Themselves the leading slave traders of the eighteenth century, Europeans nevertheless became, in the nineteenth century, the destroyers of slavery around the world - led by Christian convictions and Evangelicals like William Wilburforce, a fact conveniently ignored.
Perpetual guilt and grievance narratives can be deadly and dangerous as seen in the Rwandan genocide. Gregoire Kiyabanda, soon to be Rwanda's first post-independence president, articulated just this position in a 1959 speech: "Our movement is for the Hutu, who have been insulted, humiliated, and scorned, by the Tutsi invader... We must ignite the masses; we are here to restore the country to its proprietors; this is the country of the Hutu."
In the years that followed, the government implemented affirmative action measures in favour of “ethnic redistribution” to try to “correct” the disparities. The policy was known as iringaniza or "social justice." The government made clear to all that just as the Tutsi excluded Hutu that "[the Hutu] were going to do exactly the same thing." The end result of such perpetual guilt and grievance narratives was one of the worst genocides in modern history. Canadian author, Mark Milke in his book Victim Cult: How the Culture of Blame Hurts Everyone and Wrecks Civilizations records that,
“Nature itself was mauled by Rwanda's genocide, the eastern rivers packed with bodies, the 40,000 bodies pulled from Lake Victoria, the corpse-eating dogs that also attacked the living, the rats that grew to the size of a terrier after having feasted on human flesh.121 Twenty years after the genocide as National Geographic chronicled in 2014, the country was still "oddly devoid of dogs.” The canines had developed a taste for human flesh during the genocide. All had to be exterminated.” (Milke, 168)
As Francis Bacon has said, “A person who broods on revenge only worsens his wounds. His injuries would heal if he would refrain.”
Perpetual guilt and grievance narratives are simply unforgiveness. Rather than holding on to perpetual guilt and grievances, the Gospel calls us to forgive as we have been greatly forgiven ourselves (Matt. 6:15; 18:21-35; Luke 17:3-4; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13).
Blame Shifting & Reparations
Ian Rowe of the Manhattan Institute, in his article “Barriers to Black Progress: Structural, Cultural, or Both?” notes that,
“If you’re a kid and you keep hearing over and over and over that because of your race these are the outcomes that you’re going to have in your life, it’s really hard to feel a sense of personal agency.”
Noted black economist Thomas Sowell has raised the point,
“Have we reached the ultimate stage of absurdity where some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, while other people are not held responsible for what they themselves are doing today?”
Blame shifting is simply the reaction of Adam and Eve in the Garden when they were caught in their sin repeated today. If we want people to act as responsible agents, then they must be treated as such. Individual responsibility is a topic that will get you in some hot water talking about to the woke crowd - because blame shifting is an easier way to self-justification.
However, instead of encouraging personal responsibility, woke ideologues demand reparations to be paid for past injustices in order to close the disparity gap. Reparations is like woke penance or indulgences. However, these are never direct. Simply because someone has white skin does not mean they were related to someone who enslaved black people, nor does it mean they themselves are guilty of any particular sin in how they attained their wealth. Furthermore, how do we calculate what are just reparations?
Thomas Sowell in his analysis of the slave trade for Great Britain notes that, "...if all the profits from slavery had been invested in British industry, this would have come to less than 2 percent of Britain's domestic investment during that era," (Sowell, Race and Culture: A Worldview, 215) and that when such profits are tallied against later British efforts to suppress and end the slave trade, i.e., the pounds spent on its navy and military to such an end, such expenditures are comparable to the earlier profits. Similarly, in the United States, the cost of the Civil War was over $60 billion (in 2008 dollars), according to the U.S. Navy Department, with three-quarters of that cost, $45 billion, borne by the anti-slavery Union." (Milke, 229) Furthermore, the fact is that economically, slavery actually turns out to be less advantageous than the free market where people willingly work and are more productive overall and employers don’t have to pay for all their living necessities.
Furthermore, peddling woke reparations is big business. Robin DiAngelo charges fifteen thousand dollars per speaking event and has earned over two million dollars from her book White Fragility, even while castigating capitalism as a racist economic system. Ibram X. Kendi and Ta-Nehisi Coates have even higher price tags: Kendi’s speaking fee is twenty-five thousand dollars, while Coates’s fee is between thirty thousand and forty thousand dollars per event. There is a lot of personal greed behind the woke agenda.
Reparations in the end tend towards more injustice because it is indirect (not against the real perpetrators) and do not actually right wrongs but encourage entitlement. Furthermore, biblically, showing favouritism, even to a suffering group, is repeatedly denounced throughout Scripture (Exodus 23:3; Leviticus 19:15; James 2:1, 9) because it contradicts the very character of God (Romans 2:11).
Cancel Culture & Activism
Public figures as diverse as Michelle Obama and the feminist group Code Pink have been criticized for failing to be woke enough. The black actor Kevin Hart was forced to step down as host of the Oscars, because of old tweets containing gay slurs. The lesbian presenter Ellen DeGeneres was also censured, for her qualified defence of him. She also caused outrage by tweeting a humorous picture of herself appearing to ride on the back of black Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. Hollywood star Matt Damon incurred online feminist wrath simply by saying that a pat on the butt is different from rape, and game-show host Mario Lopez was pressured to apologize because he said that parents shouldn't uncritically accept a three-year-old's self-defined gender identity. Tennis superstar Martina Navratilova was attacked for arguing that it is not fair for trans women (i.e. biological men) to compete against biological women.
Cancel culture is important to wokeness because, as we have discussed, its whole theory is based on the games they can play with language to control the narrative. Therefore, any dissenting voice must be silenced because the woke have no legitimate arguments and cannot afford to be exposed. Lindsey & Pluckrose comment that,
"No-platforming" policies for particular legal or political groups and certain public figures have become common, though they often fly under the radar. Certain views academic views shared by professionals are considered too dangerous or even "violent" to be allowed a platform. Unlike deplatforming drives in which someone who has been invited to speak has that invitation rescinded policies that disal low certain views in the first place attract little attention.” (Lindsey & Pluckrose, Cynical Theories, 217)
It is akin to the silencing techniques of totalitarian regimes against their political opponents. Rod Dreher calls it,
“A softer, bloodless form of the same logic is at work in American institutions. Social justice progressives advance their malignant concept of justice in part by terrorizing dissenters as thoroughly as any inquisitor on the hunt for enemies of religious orthodoxy.” (Dreher, Live Not By Lies, 59)
Cancel Culture is wokeness’s defence - its apologetics - and its judgment against its “unrighteous”. This is why any dissent is met with heavy handed repercussions - like people being threatened with loss of jobs for not putting their pronouns in their email or going through mandatory Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training.
Activism is its offence. It is its great commission.
In 2013, activist and scholar Sandra Grey, in Policy Futures in Education insisted, “Part of being active academic citizens involves challenging our students to do and be more” and “to take up activist roles.”
"More white people are finally beginning to realize how white supremacy and how even whiteness itself is killing them.... It literally is posing an existential threat to humanity. It always has. And so fundamentally, antiracism is life. It literally is, it can save humanity."
This is salvation by activism. As Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic note in ther book, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction,
“Unlike some academic disciplines, critical race theory contains an activist dimension. It tries not only to understand our social situation but to change it, setting out not only to ascertain how society organizes itself along racial lines and hierarchies but to transform it for the better.” (Delgado & Stefancic, Critical Race Theory, Introduction, 7-8)
However, woke activism never actually “saves”. One must perpetually be an activist in a cycle of woke works-based righteousness and virtue signaling.
Woke culture is committedly utopian.
Utopianism is the belief that man, by use of his autonomous reason, power, politics, etc, can achieve a perfectly just and peaceful society apart from God. Utopianism seeks Christ’s Kingdom apart from its King. It wants Heaven without God. It is the attempt to regain the Garden of Eden after having bit the Fruit. This is woke eschatology. Professor Thaddeus Williams notes,
“Why were all the utopias of the modern era doomed to fail? Because the evil did not originate in politics, society, or the economy. It is expressed there, but evil originates in human hearts that "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things" and the sun and water and gold and sex and power.” (Williams, Confronting Injustice, 17)
All of these factors make woke ideology very sympathetic and supportive of Socialistic and even Communistic government. Yet, the harder they try to create heaven on earth, the more they unleash hell, and sadly most often upon the poorest and destitute of society. We once again are seeing our world come dangerously close to repeating the slide into some form of totalitarian state. Rod Dreher, in his book, Live Not By Lies, writes this:
“In 1951, poet and literary critic Czesław Miłosz, exiled to the West from his native Poland as an anti-communist dissident, wrote that Western people misunderstand the nature of communism because they think of it only in terms of "might and coercion."
"That is wrong," he wrote. "There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction." In The Captive Mind, Miłosz said that communist ideology filled a void that had opened in the lives of early-twentieth-century intellectuals, most of whom had ceased to believe in religion. Today's left-wing totalitarianism once again appeals to an internal hunger, specifically the hunger for a just society, one that vindicates and liberates the historical victims of oppression. It masquerades as kindness, demonizing dissenters and disfavored demographic groups to protect the feelings of "victims" in order to bring about "social justice."” (Dreher, Live Not By Lies, 9)
Hannah Arendt, a Holocaust survivor and one of the most influential political theorists of the 20th century, warns that
“the twentieth-century totalitarian experience shows how a determined and skillful minority can come to rule over an indifferent and disengaged majority. In our time, most people regard the politically correct insanity of campus radicals as not worthy of attention. They mock them as "snowflakes" and "social justice warriors."
This is a serious mistake. In radicalizing the broader class of elites, social justice warriors (SJWs) are playing a similar historic role to the Bolsheviks in prerevolutionary Russia. SJW ranks are full of middle-class, secular, educated young people wracked by guilt and anxiety over their own privilege, alienated from their own traditions, and desperate to identify with something, or someone, to give them a sense of wholeness and purpose. For them, the ideology of social justice as defined not by church teaching but by critical theorists in the academy functions as a pseudoreligion. Far from being confined to campuses and dry intellectual journals, SJW ideals are transforming elite institutions and networks of power and influence.” (Dreher, Live Not By Lies, 42)
However, we know that man cannot usher in the consummation of God’s Kingdom merely by his autonomous power and will. The New Jerusalem comes down from heaven (Rev. 21). We receive, not make for ourselves, a Kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). It is the Spirit who generates new life and who will ultimately usher in the eschaton. In the eternal state, all distinctions are not obliterated, but rather, they are centred on the worship of the One True God. Even in heaven, there are differences in rewards and different tribes, tongues and languages before the Throne.
Tell the Right Story
As Francis Schaeffer once asked, in light of all of this, how then shall we live? How should Christians respond to wokeness? And what do we do instead?
Let’s not simply be anti-ideological social justice. Let’s be pro-biblical justice.
This requires faithfully preaching the Gospel but then also calling Christians to faithfully engage with the culture from a Biblical worldview. This is where we apply the Gospel’s truths of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Consummation to tell the right Gospel story of reality and hope. The temptation by opponents of secular social justice is to overreact by pitting evangelism and gospel proclamation against cultural engagement. Thus we must, as did so many of our forebears, fight for true justice in this world and defend the legitimate victims of injustice. But we must always be careful that we do so according to a biblical, holistic definition of justice.
Finally, live out and tell the true story. Show how it is a more beautiful and fulfilling way of flourishing in God’s world. A lot of Christians who succumb to wokeness do so because they are seeking a vision of justice in the world. So, tell stories of forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation of enemies, of true justice being served and the right reward for integrity. Tell stories that inspire the imagination of what a truly just society based on God’s law might look like and dream a little. Help paint a picture for people of how the Bible’s vision for justice is not just true, but also beautifully glorious.
For Small Groups:
For Further Study:
Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism's Looming Catastrophe by Dr. Voddie Baucham
Christianity and Social Justice: Religions in Conflict by Jon Harris
Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody by James Lindsey & Helen Pluckrose
You can also find a lot of helpful resources and book reviews on Neil Shenvi’s website.