In just a few days, my brand-new book Christianity and Wokeness releases. Salem Books is publishing it on July 20, 2021. Because you put so much into a book, it is always surreal when it is actually time for it to drop. I am feeling that now.
I am also aware that there are going to be numerous objections to my presentation. I have heard them all before. Below, I list five, and respond to each. It is my hope that readers will see how vital it is that we Christians respond to wokeness, and give a reason for the hope that lies within us in these evil days.
First objection: wokeness isn’t even a real thing. This whole anti-CRT thing is made up.
I only wish this were true. Alas, it is not. Critical Race Theory is an academic discipline. It makes numerous claims, many of them flagrantly wrong and even poisonous. CRT is the formal theory, while wokeness is the mindset and mentality created by the theory. In this sense, there is formal postmodern scholarship, and then there is a less formal (but no less real) postmodern mindset and mentality it creates.
Some of the key ideas that one finds in CRT and wokeness:
–White people are racist.
–People of color are oppressed by white people.
–Our society is structured to foster “white supremacy” and “racial inequality.”
–You can never change your racist nature, but can only embrace activist “antiracism.”
Some of the key ideas one finds in religious wokeness:
–The church is complicit in “systemic racism.”
–White Christians have created a majority culture religion that is a tool of oppression.
–The way to make progress is to target inequality through reparations, racially-driven hiring practices, lament, and white evacuation of power.
–Unless we make such changes, the gospel is not sufficient to change our situation.
In both cases, there is a body of literature ready at hand for consultation. At pains of repeating myself: CRT is anything but imaginary. If people say that, they show they are either woefully uninformed or intellectually unserious. There are many secular books that communicate woke ideas, and there are tragically many “Christian” books that teach wokeness. The first two chapters of my new book list a good number of these texts, and even walk through several of them in brief form. Only someone who does no reading, and thereby has no right to issue authoritative proclamations, would claim otherwise.
Second objection: being against wokeness means being against the movement fighting racism today.
One of the major ways the woke movement is advancing is this: it tells us it is against racism. If you want to be against racism, therefore, you need to be woke. This is the very opposite of the truth. Wokeness is not anti-racism. Wokeness is neo-racism. In other words, it is racism in a new form. It explicitly targets “whiteness” and “white” people as the central problem of our racist and unequal society. This is nothing if not unfair, biased, and hostile.
The absolute worst way to oppose racism is to embrace wokeness. Embracing wokeness will mean that the people in your classroom, your workplace, or your congregation see themselves not as fellow schoolmates, workers, or church members. They will instead see themselves in racialized terms, believing their skin color is the most important marker of their identity. Wokeness will not create togetherness. It will create division. So, be against racism, in any and all forms. Fight partiality—sinful preference of some over others—wherever you find it. And by all means, reject wokeness in totality.
Third objection: being against wokeness means going against the “black community.”
This is a major anvil that hangs over the heads of folks being compelled to go woke. They fear that being anti-woke means being anti-black. But this is not true in the least. Many of the strongest voices against Critical Race Theory are “people of color.” One thinks of Voddie Baucham, Jr., Darrell Harrison, and Virgil Walker in the evangelical community. In the political realm, one thinks of Larry Elder, Thomas Sowell, and Walter Williams. This is a small sampling, but these are all very gifted thinkers and communicators. There are many others like them who in no way embrace wokeness.
In truth, this kind of language betrays its woke origins. Humanity is not divided up into communities of common skin color. This is the way our secular culture talks, sure. But this does not reflect reality. There is no “white community” or “black community,” just as there is no “white way to think” or “black way to think.” People may have shared ethnicity, common backgrounds, and similar heritage, yes. But this idea of monolithic, everyone-thinks-the-same community is a myth.
There are human beings who may think like people who look like them (in relative terms), or may not. Instead of boxing people in to such categories, we do better to treat them as God-made individuals with their own mind, their own beliefs, their own independence. It’s amazing the freedom that flows when you make this switch out of cultural thinking.
Fourth objection: opposing wokeness means we will be seen as “fundamentalists.”
I’ve seen a good bit of this kind of discussion in evangelical and Baptist circles. People seem petrified of labels like this one. It’s as if you can hold entire blocs of people hostage simply by threatening to call them a pejorative. What a sad, and silly, state of affairs. If you fear name-calling, you fear man. This is out-of-bounds for biblical Christians. We are those who are said to be “blessed” when others hate us and even persecute us for the sake of righteousness (Matthew 5:10-11). While no one wishes to be called names, we care immensely more about standing for God’s truth, whatever the consequences may be.
My recommendation to fellow Christians is to simply stop caring about such slander. This is no easy thing in our flesh. But by God’s grace, we really can let go of reputation-management in the man-centered form. While always striving to live at peace with all men, we can genuinely entrust our “image” or “brand” to God. Like Paul, Christ is our “all” (Col. 3:4). He is all that matters. He himself was not celebrated. He was crucified. Why would we assume that we would fare any better in this fallen world?
Fifth objection: opposing wokeness is a distraction from focusing on the gospel.
This surfaced some weeks ago. Supposedly, calling attention to the ideology of wokeness per Colossians 2:8 is a dodge from serious Christian focus. It means one ends up chasing silly ideas that no one truly believes instead of prioritizing real Christian unity. Better, the argument goes, to stop squibbling about unimportant theories, and start recognizing all we have in common.
This is not a bad reflex in the Christian life. We can all get side-tracked, this is true. But in analyzing and responding to wokeness, we are not wide right of the gospel. We are doing the kind of cultural deconstruction and gospel reconstruction that the apostle Paul emphasized as essential in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. We are “demolishing strongholds” and “taking every thought captive to Christ” (4-5). We are freeing people from ideological captivity. And as we do so, we are making clear how the gospel of Scripture is our true hope. This is where true unity is found, not in any worldly system. This is where hope is. There is where life is. Everything else has the stench of death about it.
My hope as we survey these different objections is that Christians will gain confidence to understand and refute wokeness. We do so not because of motives stemming from hatred or division or racism. We do so because we love God, we love Christ’s church that is pulled to affirm falsehood by false teachers, and we love unbelievers who are trapped in lies. We do so, furthermore, because we are a people of truth who must speak truth in order to answer the evil confusion promoted by our great foe, the devil.
Now is not a time to be silent about Critical Race Theory and wokeness. Now is a time to learn about such systems, to understand them in light of the gospel, and to respond to them. This sort of work is not a distraction. It is the very essence of gospel proclamation. Many are pulled to believe lies. But with all the strength that is in us, we will do all we can not to let them embrace such self-destruction. At the very least, we will not leave the world without a witness, a clear and uncompromising Christian witness motivated by love.
For help with such work, pick up Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement Is Hijacking the Gospel–and the Way to Stop It (Salem, July 20, 2021).