The Many Dangers of "Woke" Christianity
If you ever want a reason to question your faith in humanity, read the comments section of a controversial news story. For me, it is most difficult to read the comments that come from people arguing for a position with which I agree, but in all the most mean-spirited, unhelpful and generally idiotic ways.
Granted, comments sections generally draw in all the Internet's cousin Eddy's like a porch-light brings in moths at night, nevertheless, it forces me, and I imagine many other Christians to fight the urge to shout to anyone who will listen that "We aren't like those Christians."
I think this instinct is part of the draw of "woke" Christianity, which recasts Christianity into primarily a social justice philosophy. I think it comes from a not-so-wrong desire for a kinder gentler Christianity more preoccupied with meeting the needs of the hurting, than with shouting opinions through bull-horns on the street corner.
But, here be dragons. Progressive, or "woke" Christianity isn't just regular Christianity - “Now with more social justice!" What progressive Christianity achieves in social justice awareness, it does at the cost of completely overwriting many of the Bible's foundational assumptions about God, humanity, the nature of evil, the role of authority, and the nature of salvation.
Unless you have taken the time to deconstruct the forces driving the worldview assumptions of popular culture, it may not be immediately clear that many of the foundational principles of progressive belief are built upon Critical Theory, which is a social justice reinventing of Marxism. While I won't take the space here to thoroughly present all the details, consider the following characteristics of Critical Theory:
- It assumes that oppression always happens when one person or group has power over another, and that all societies should be free of these power differentials.
- Group identity is the primary source of personal significance. At its foundation, the group to which you belong is more important than your personal character or behavior.
- Truth is nothing more than the stories that one group tells about their collective experiences. Thus, "your truth" can be different from another person’s truth. Appeals to objective truth are nothing more than oppressors attempting to invalidate the stories oppressed classes tell.
- Thus, ideas aren’t objectively true or false. Truth is about who is speaking, not what is being said.
Given these characteristics, we should make some critical observations:
Critical theory is a fundamentally post-modern philosophy. It depends upon the hopeless uncertainty of post-modernism to elevate one group of opinions and subjective perspectives above the reach of critical examination. It denies not only that objective truth exists, but even that language and the written word carry meaning beyond the subjective perception of the listener. Words like “truth,” “reason,” and “facts” become nothing more than terms used by oppressors to silence the oppressed. One area we have witnessed that degradation of meaning is the word “violence” which used to imply tangible bodily harm. However, now we are seeing that label (and the implied accusation that accompanies it) applied to any speech that might potentially cause emotional discomfort to another person. This devaluation of truth and the written word is completely incompatible with Christian assumptions that God is the measure of objective truth, and the Bible is His Word.
The post-Modern assumption of critical theory that there is no objectively true perspective of reality and history, grants permission to accept or reject a message based upon the class to which the speaker belongs, and not what is objectively true. It can be hard to see this happening, because sympathetic people want to give voice to those who have been silenced. However, accepting a person’s opinion or perceptions simply because they are oppressed or victims (or claim to be) while rejecting potentially refuting factual evidence is not a valid way to discover truth.
Conflict, not unity, is the foundational assumption and goal of critical theory. It separates people into classes, based upon religion, race, sexuality, gender, age, and socioeconomic status. While Scripture places all of mankind on equal footing before the cross, critical theory invites individuals to build their identity upon the intersection of all the ways they can claim membership into an oppressed class. Critical theory all but eliminates the role of personal responsibility, making everyone inescapably a reflection of the class to which they belong, either oppressors or oppressed, regardless of individual character and behavior. Critical theory encourages individuals to judge each other based upon assumed qualities, rather than actual ones, which leads to hatred and division, not understanding and unity.
Salvation lies in two different directions in Christianity and critical theory. Christians understand that all suffering and injustice in this world shares a common root cause, sin, and Christ is the only answer to that problem. Critical theory sees salvation as the process of deconstructing power differentials between classes of people. It defines right and wrong according to the class of the person acting, not according to objective moral values. It fails to see humans as individually morally culpable for the choices they make, sharing a common need for the Savior because of our rebellion against Him. Christians recognize that while reducing suffering is a vital mission, it is a tragic mistake to forget each person’s rebellion and the resulting need for reconciliation with Christ.
Like all forms of Marxism, critical theory leaves people discontent, endlessly pursuing an unachievable utopian dream. Power differentials between humans are a fact that makes all human institutions and society possible. Parents to children, learner to the teacher, government to the governed, it is a reality that will never go away. Even if the powerless were to rise and conquer the powerful, there would simply be a new group of people in power. Perpetual discontentment is an important tool in social justice warfare, but it has no place in Christianity. Yes, Christians ought to make the space we occupy in society the best we can, seeking to cultivate justice and address grave injustice when it is within our power to do so. However, Christians often haven’t existed in ideal realities. One of the strengths of Christianity is that it impowers Believers to thrive in even the most difficult and hostile circumstances. We judge success not by the winning of social justice victories, but by souls transformed through the power of Jesus Christ.
Once secular social theories take over, the Bible loses its place of authority. This could be said of any time and place where some outside movement within the church begins to exert undue influence on the thinking of Believers. Any time Christians try to conform God’s Word to a secular framework, the Bible loses, and we begin to downplay or discard the parts that don’t fit. Progressive influences have redefined what it means to be created in God’s Image as male and female, reworked what it means to keep the marriage bed undefiled, and replaced the Christian’s self-denying pursuit of Christ and His holiness, with the pursuit of “wokeness.” Christians who have drunk the SJW Kool-Aid seem to be more often than not united with the world, bashing, well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ, rather than uniting with fellow Christians to become one Body of Christ.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, such things ought not to be. Christians do need to be concerned about addressing suffering in this world from a Biblical perspective. We do need to make sure that we are the tangible hands and feet of Christ in a lost word desperate for hope. But, we must not accomplish this by looking to the modern social justice movement. The waters of that fountain are poison, they may seem to be refreshing, but in the end they just impart to you a different sort of sickness.