The “Worked Up” vs. The “Woke”

The “Worked Up” vs. The “Woke” July 11, 2023

The “Worked Up” vs. The “Woke”

The Rev. Robert Jeffress, in an appearance on the Todd Starnes radio show, accused Democrats of worshiping the pagan god of the Old Testament Moloch. Jeffress said, “Well, apparently the god they worship is the pagan god of the Old Testament Moloch, who allowed for child sacrifice,” Jeffress said. “The god of the Bible doesn’t sanction the killing of millions and millions of children in the womb, I think the god they are worshiping is the god of their own imagination,” he added.

Starnes laughingly told Jeffress in response that he came “loaded for bear today” on his program.

“I’m worked up Todd,” Jeffress replied.

That vignette illustrates an interesting disparity between the issues that cause evangelicals to be, in Jeffress-speak “worked up.”

The worked up are concerned with an odd collection of issues. They are worked up over the issues that have nothing to do with the issues that threaten the survival of humanity. They are worked up over:

Sexuality – GLBTQIA+, abortion, bathrooms for transgenders, gay marriage.

Race – Mostly a denial of the existence of racism with spasms of “wokeness,” “Critical Race Theory,” colorblindness, and the denial of systemic racism.

History – an insistence on writing a whitewashed version of American history that makes America a nation formed as a Christian nation on Christian principles.

Science – a denial of science including evolution and COVID.

Books – The banning of books has to do with sex and race.

Guns – especially the private ownership of all kinds of weapons.

The worked up, in contrast, are not worked up over:

Infectious disease

Global warming

Nuclear arms, war, and guns


Systemic racism

The issues that evangelicals are “worked up” over are not a threat to human flourishing. The exception to this would be if the evangelical attitudes toward race led to an outbreak of white supremacy that threatened to ignite a race war. The evangelical anti-science stance suggests a precarity for human existence if the rest of the nation fails to act on the necessary legislation to curb human-caused global warming. But by and large, these issues are not the mega-issues that determine our future existence as a species on planet earth.

The ability to face the precarity of the human species requires a “woke” mentality not a “worked-up” emotionalism.

“In the Anthropocene,” note G. Mitchell Reyes and Kundai Chirindo, “the precarity that had been the nearly exclusive preserve of people occupying the bottommost rungs of human society is becoming generalized to most if not all humans—though not in equal measure.” The challenge of the Anthropocene is that it signifies precarity at the biological or species scale. It indexes the fact that we (and our various publics) “have now ourselves become a geological agent disturbing [the] parametric conditions needed for our own existence.” In other words, all humanity is now in the precarious mode. Our refusal to face squarely the reality of climate change is a stubbornness that can lead to our destruction.

Climate denial may be the biggest lie in our culture. Take all the thousands of lies that Donald Trump has told and they pale in comparison to the lie that the earth is doing great and climate change is a liberal hoax.

Above all though: climate deniers can’t stand to be told that they don’t have as much epistemic right as anyone else on any topic that they like to think they understand or have some ‘rights’ in relation to: “Who are you to tell me that I have to defer to some scientist?”

Philosopher Rupert Reed observes, “Climate-denial is not just the original but also the ultimate possible form of post-truth, in that it involves the denier in a kind of fantasized power over reality itself in the form of the ultimate reality: the nature of our planetary system, and thus of life itself.”

Climate change is the most dangerous reality facing all humanity today. When we couple the over-demand for ultimate freedom with the desire for unrestrained consumer growth, we have two giant motivations for denying climate change. Only the “woke” can save us from ourselves.

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