Get woke people! Come on!
Getting woke is like being in the Matrix and taking the red pill. You get a sudden understanding of what’s really going on and find out you were wrong about much of what you understood as truth. –Urban Dictionary
You don’t have to be woke to have heard the phrase everywhere over the last little while, and if you cringe at the painful abuse of grammar the term employs, it probably doesn’t describe you.
Sadly, it can’t be used for that moment in a book or a movie where you figure out the twist, it is reserved for social (and particularly racial) justice issues. There are those who argue that the big problem with the world today (and some would say white people specifically) is that they simply aren’t woke. If only enough people were, we could end war, world hunger, and, most prominently, racism.
The churches of America are readily taking up this narrative; that if only we could be more proactive about fighting racial injustice in the world then things could finally change and improve. It’s been a big theme in recent conferences and twitter storms.
Doesn’t it sound great though, raising awareness of these issues in order to promote reconciliation, forgiveness, and working together (as we should be if we are one in Christ)? It sounds precisely like what we should be doing.
Well, actually, as wonderful as it sounds, and as unloving and unchristian as it can be made to sound not to be ‘woke’, the plain truth is that woke is not the answer. It’s not what the world needs and it’s not what the church should be preaching.
What is Woke?
Though woke descended into teenage slang, it has been around since the sixties. Back then, it meant ‘well-informed’ and ‘up-to-date’ but it was the Black Lives Matter movement that bumped it into wider circulation around 2014. At that point, it was predominantly a social media hashtag related to the black liberation movement, related to #ASeatattheTable and #BlackLivesMatter. Used on social media in the specific context of black oppression and/or political consciousness, it was the hashtag version of a direct quote from the first recorded usage from the sixties: #StayWoke.
It’s not as simple as being clued in on the issues, as one writer says:
…you can become aware of the racialized nature of class and still hold to the oppressive ideologies of patriarchy or homophobia. To be woke is to be malleable — one can always be more critical, more empathetic, and more sensitive to justice.
The problem is that woke is more than being aware, there’s a very particular set of beliefs and behaviours which you are expected to adhere to and questions are not as welcome as they should be. The New York Times was not so very far off when it said ‘It means wanting to be considered correct, and wanting everyone to know just how correct you are.’ Even, it would seem, if that means apologising for your melanin count. Even if it means apologising for what your great-grandparents may or may not have done to someone else’s great-grandparents before your grandparents were even born. Even, it would seem, in the church.
Woke is so much more than paying attention to what is happening in the realm of racial and social justice, at times it is simply pandering to the left’s standard of political correctness.
Not a Skin-Deep Problem
As per usual, the world has raised a valid point but is too blind to see beyond the superficial expressions of the deeper problem. What is truly sad is that the church seems to be following suit.
Racism is real and racism is wrong, it’s that simple. This is not virtue signalling on my part, it’s a Lincolnshire accent that grew up in a less-than-affluent pro-Independence city in Scotland and wasn’t allowed to forget it. It’s the reality of being the granddaughter of a xenophobe. Most importantly, it’s because as a Christian, it’s true, regardless of experience. The image of God transcends skin colour and country of birth and it is the image of God in my fellow men that demands I treat them with dignity and respect. Racism blatantly disregards the image of God in mankind.
It is an issue in the world — unquestionably so. It can even be an issue in the church, but if your church is full of people who are genuinely saved and growing in maturity, it shouldn’t be for long.
If we tell ourselves the truth, we know that racism is a superficial manifestation of a far deep calamity.
How can I say that? Because of the Communist Era. Because of the Rwandan Genocide. Because of the Sampit Conflict of 1999. Because of Glasgow v. Edinburgh. Because of Celtic v. Rangers. Because of the kids that regularly smashed the windows at our neighbouring school because it wasn’t our school. Because I’m allowed to collect Pokemon cards and you aren’t.
I’m not diminishing racism, I’m trying to highlight sin. My mother, when she was exasperated with our bickering, used to berate us saying, ‘you’d pick a fight in an empty house!’ Therein lies an accurate summary of much of human nature: we will always find something to fight about, some way to distinguish ourselves (and obviously make ourselves higher than) the next guy. Your appearance or accent is just another thing to latch on to.
Racial injustice goes so much deeper than the outward appearance. It’s not about skin, it’s about sin.
That’s why the church needs to stop pandering to the racial justice movement that the world has sneaked in. We need to remember that in Christ, all are equal. We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism and we have one inheritance and one citizenship.
The children of God are God’s children, he puts no markers on us to divvy us up. Salvation is the same for everyone, your soul has no colour.
The Bride of Christ is mixed race and Christ declares her beautiful. When we become part of the Church, we become part of the Bride and our sins — against one another as well as against God — are repented of and forgiven. If Christ has forgiven my brother for racism, for lying, for stealing, for lust, for gluttony, for covetousness, for dishonouring his parents, for blaspheming, for whatever else he did while he was still dead in sin, who am I to hold against him what Christ has already covered?
Unless you yourself are God (hint: that would be a no), you cannot continue to hold sin against someone who has already repented and turned from it. So why are there those in our pulpits who call for we paler members to repent of historic grievances that we had no part in and do not condone (many of us weren’t even born when they happened)?
Being aware and clued in and active in fighting racial and social injustice (real and perceived because there is both) is not the answer. This is not what we should be preaching from our pulpits. There is a far deeper problem, a plague, a curse in the very core of who we are as human beings and if we fight that, then everything else will begin to change like ripples spreading outward. To be rid of it, we must strike at the very root of the problem and that problem is, quite simply, sin.
Woke Ain’t the Answer
As I said, racism is one of many outward expressions of the corruption of sin at work in us. The history of mankind shows that we will fight over absolutely anything and absolutely nothing. So rather than focus so heavily on race, we should be preaching the gospel.
Why? Because woke is not the answer, resurrection is. The world is not sleeping, it’s dead.
Mankind is stone dead in sin. The only thing that can rouse the world from its grave is a divine act. The world needs life that only God can give. Life comes through hearing and hearing by the word so preach the word. Preach Christ crucified, preach him resurrected, preach him making the way open for us to be forgiven and reconciled to God because when we are reconciled to God, then we will find ourselves truly reconciled to our fellow men.
Don’t be sidetracked by preaching social issues. Until we have divine reconciliation, we will never see racial or social or familial reconciliation. Not until God regenerates our hearts.
The world has distracted you from your true message: Christ crucified. Sure, racism, abortion, trafficking, poverty, hunger, war, these are all things we should fight against but they’re lace on a pig until we are made right with God.
Preach sin and death and hell. Preach repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God. Preach man’s greatest need and God’s great answer. That’s the real issue. That’s what changes everything. Cut off the head of racism and the root will remain unharmed, growing back either the same or in a slightly different guise, it doesn’t matter. But strike at the root, sin, and things will finally start to change.
We have one job: to preach Christ. Nothing else can be allowed to distract us from this, no matter how noble a cause it may seem. Repentance from sin and faith in Christ are the only things that are going to change men’s hearts and attitudes.
So preach the gospel because woke is not the answer, resurrection is.