Right-Wing Wokeism

Right-Wing Wokeism December 8, 2022

According to woke progressives, America systematically oppresses blacks/women/gays/Muslims/ and other intersectional victims. But how many times have you heard conservatives maintain that America systematically oppresses whites/men/heterosexuals/Christians and their allies?

Doesn’t the political rhetoric of both sides consist largely of telling their audiences that “you are a victim” and that shadowy forces are oppressing you?  Both sides even agree that some of those shadowy forces are big corporations!  The Left spins conspiracy theories about “Christian fascists” taking over the country, while the Right spins conspiracy theories about secularist socialists taking over the country.  But both sides try to advance their political cause by fomenting resentment and fear.

Isn’t this true?  So can we conclude that there is a right-wing wokeism as well as a left-wing wokeism?

In a review of Stephen Wolfe’s The Case for Christian Nationalism, Reformed theologian Kevin DeYoung makes an observation that has broader applications:  we conservatives are sometimes guilty of the same mindset that we criticize progressives for.  From his Gospel Coalition essay entitled The Rise of Right-Wing Wokeism (my emphases):

Wolfe’s apocalyptic vision—for all of its vitriol toward the secular elites—borrows liberally from the playbook of the left. He not only redefines the nature of oppression as psychological oppression (making it easier to justify extreme measures and harder to argue things aren’t as bad as they seem), he also rallies the troops (figuratively, but perhaps also literally?) by reminding them they’re victims. “The world is out to get you, and people out there hate you” is not a message that will ultimately help white men or any other group that considers themselves oppressed.

When Wolfe sarcastically thanks those who “woke many from their dogmatic slumber” and rejoices that “more are awakening each day,” one might be forgiven for seeing his version of Christian Nationalism as a form of right-wing wokeism. What does it mean to be woke if not that we’re awakened to the “reality” that oppression is everywhere, extreme measures are necessary, and the regime must be overthrown?

If critical race theory teaches that America has failed, that the existing order is irredeemable, that Western liberalism was a mistake from the beginning, that the current system is rigged against our tribe, and that we ought to make ethnic consciousness more important—it seems to me that Wolfe’s project is the right-wing version of these same impulses.

We might say that these two kinds of wokeism are mirror images of each other.  They look the same, but, as in all mirrors, the images are reversed.  So they are not really the same.  Indeed, they are opposites of each other.  But don’t they both share the same reductionistic worldview and the same divisive rhetoric?

Some might say that the differences are over matters of fact, that your group is really not oppressed, but mine really is.  But doesn’t that concede the overall view that society consists of different groups trying to exercise power over each other?  It is a fact that this view derives from Karl Marx–certainly not Christianity or American constitutionalism–so that it cannot be described as conservative.  So should conservatives think this way?


Illustration via PublicDomainPictures.net, CC0


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