Are you wondering why your church, pastor, work place, or Christian institution has not made a statement on the matter of wokeness? Do you wonder what struggles they face and what are some of the background conversations?
Churches, Christian organizations, ministries, institutions and universities face some difficult questions and responses to “wokeness”. Is there an easy, clean response that will not create division of some kind? I do not think so. Let me explain.
For context, I have previously mentioned that I have spent time with woke leaning influences in a Christian environment, that my Intercultural degrees are related to a field that is beginning to flood with wokeness, that I have watched a change in how some Christian organizations are functioning in wokeness, and that I found my self in a deep struggle over the complexities of blending wokeness and Christianity together.
Many have likely already heard me say that after reading from original sources and Christian leaders, I now believe that wokeness presents itself as a new “gospel”, religion and worldview.
Also previously mentioned, it was not the intent of the original philosophers, academics and the legal field to create a new religion.
Regardless, wokeness answers many of life’s major questions and can become a replacement of the Gospel, if not careful. Briefly, the new original sin is “racism”, the means to change is to be an “antiracist” which comes through discrimination and works. A person can only ever do works to alleviate guilt but life is an endless cycle of trying to be a “racist” rather than an “antiracist”.
The cycle never ends. According to wokeness, CRT, Intersectionality (parts of CT), the Bible and Christ’s words of “It is finished”, is not where new life and hope begin. The end goal is not salvation, rather works toward an earthly utopia and equity of outcome.
Depending on the source, like Kendi, DiAngelo and all contributors specifics slightly differ, but these factors that replace with the Gospel message tend to be consistent.
WHAT COMPLEXITIES ARE CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS FACING?
Per my experience, I can share some specifics that I (Kelly) have heard from Christian leaders in various ministries, which reflect the difficulties ahead. Again, these quotes are from a variety of leaders and institutions with whom I have conversed, not one in particular.
“Even if we agree, we would not take such a bold response.”
After presenting the truths I had researched and learned, “Still, there are many emerging thoughts on wokeness/CRT. You can still pray for us as we seek to honor God.”
“We have not always treated blacks and minorities well. Even if this is true, we have to be careful about how we respond.”
“We apologize; if we were to hire a person to help with diversity, it would be a person of color, likely black.” (This is more common now in he Intercultural Studies field; it is a more common experience even for me. This is not only because the goal has shifted to equity of outcomes, but it seems to be the more culturally sensitive move for Christians.)
“I am right on with you and what you express in terms of your experience and the Gospel vs wokeness, except that I see truth to with CRT.” (To many, wokeness and CRT seem to align with biblical principals and they are not committed to see where the search really takes them.)
“I am not really a fan of the Christian voices speaking on this topic, they seem too strong and divisive.”
“I am familiar with the philosophical ideas of CT and CRT.” (It is important to note that the past context of these ideas has really changed over the last 10-20 years, especially in the last 5-6 years. These ideas are not the same as what you may have learned back in college. Are you really up-to-date on how these ideologies are emerging and presenting themselves?)
The greatest struggle I have heard mentioned, by more than one ministry, is the reference to, “but we have not always treated people of color well.” This past fact greatly weighs on many institutions and how to response to wokeness, especially the topic of CRT and racism.
The next greatest struggle is that there are multiple emerging voices on the topic. Either these organizations have not settled on where they stand or they simply do not want to make a choice.
Following closely behind are that of some of the voices speaking out of wokeness presenting itself as a new “gospel” (there are variations of names for this new religion as it is a newer phenomenon), seem to come across too hard.
The Gospel will be offensive to many; have you really researched to see if you are trying to syncretize, blend, together two different religions, even if the speakers seem harsh or divisive?
If this is true that the Gospel and Wokeness are two separate religions, then it will be a divisive message but one that we very much need to hear.
So, have you really sat in this possibility and researched your questions?
This side fact will not reason out the differences, but I can tell you I went from years of not being able to worship or desiring to read my Bible to being so giddy that I could not sleep the night before Easter, overflowing with joy on a recent Easter day.
What made the change? I studied up on the changes I was seeing and hearing.
I realized I was not really living in the truth that Jesus’ death on the cross was enough, after trying to merge wokeness into the Gospel message, because Christians around me were doing so. When I realized that wokeness presents as a new “gospel” and publicly claimed this truth and that Christ is enough; freedom, joy and change flooded my soul!
Going back to the initial question, what difficulties are Christian organizations beginning to face, or what should they expect to face when approaching this conversation?
The answer is not “one size fits all”, neither is it simple. The answer will vary and the responses mentioned are not all the complexities ahead of the church. However, the above does give us an idea of the struggles many leaders face.
For many, these ideologies are a completely new concept.
Add on all the new terminology and throw in new voices saying that these ideologies now present as a new religion, though it was not their original intent.
Then the cherry on top of that is the difficulty that only few academic voices are calling this new form of wokeness, CRT; a new metanarrative, “gospel”, worldview, religion, gnostism, Utopian Judicial Paganism. This phenomenon still does not have a name and in that sense, I agree, the conversation is still emerging.
Do also note that these are both secular and Christian academics that are noting this change. (Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsay, Voddie Baucham, Owen Strachan and others)
So leaders first have to establish what they believe about this conversation. If Christian leaders do not see wokeness or CRT as another “gospel”, they will treat it as a “secondary” issue and will not take a strong stance on it.
What I have heard expressed and experience also presents a concern for long standing organizations or ministries that have not always done right. As humans, we will sin along the way. Even if sins are in the past, efforts have been made to change policies and treat all individuals well, there is still a struggle that making a bold statement will not go over well due to past sin.
I have noticed, many Christian leaders and organizations have stayed quiet on the topic, for differing reasons. Some do so because they do not know how to respond, others because they value unity and earthly peace more than speaking hard truths, some do not see wokeness and these theories presenting as another religion, some are unaware of the conversation, and some are just letting it ride out.
In direct opposition to the above, there are many who seem to be making clear statement for diversity, racial reconciliation, and wokeness. This is complicated. First you have many who are simply using new cultural terms but have no idea what they are really presenting. You have some that truly buy into the message of wokeness. Then you have many who think it is harmless to blend the two ideologies and are dabbling in mixing the two. This is becoming a very common response. There are organizations that are not making a bold stance either way but are just letting it play out for the sake of unity.
Then on the other extreme, you see some saying that wokeness is another religion. This is not something pastors or leaders were taught in seminary.
When a ministry faces reconciling that wokeness may be anti-biblical (we will start softer than a new “gospel”), the struggle ahead includes a concern for unity, caring for persons’ of color (POC) but also how to stand grounded in the Gospel without seeming heartless.
Wokeness is twisted. Satan has been ever so crafty in that there seem to be many biblical components, though their foundation is not grounded in Christ and God’s Word.
But much of the church has begun to accept this ideology that quietly crept into it’s body. So a Christian organization faces the possibility of division. It also faces the possibility of harsh labels, which seem counter to biblical standards. But their definitions from from a worldly interpretation, and are unfounded. Nonetheless, they can be scary and painful.
Continuing in the battle ahead, many may face loss of friendships, jobs and an unknown future.
I get it. I am stepping out knowing many will be angry or irritated with me. Normally, I prefer to avoid conflict.
WHAT COMPLEXITIES DOES WOKENESS ADD TO A LEADER OR ORGANIZATION PROCESSING A RESPONSE?
Christian leaders and organizations have a difficult task ahead. I do not envy the task at hand. It is not an easy road to face all this hurt, passion and confusion. No matter the approach, one will face unhappy persons. And, we are taught to love, forgive and seek unity in Christ. So the conversation cannot be brushed aside.
As noted, Christian leaders and institutions face many questions related to culture, wokeness, sin, guilt, pain, and justice. Many of their voices and concerns I have noted above. Adding to the newness of wokeness and some calling it a new “gospel”, a whole new vocabulary, it is worth noting that woke ideology is very inconsistent.
Living in this mind set felt like a game to me.
There are a list of rules to learn, but no one admits there are works being prescribed. You may ask if the organization is functioning in accordance with Scripture. Of course the answer is yes, because Scripture and God are always a part of how they function. However, it is often based on eisegesis rather than exegesis; how the individual or organization interprets Scripture rather than how it was intended to be interpreted. The answers always attach Scripture but are grounded in wokeness and social justice.
You must learn what is and is not acceptable, along with showing active means to learning and engaging in the systemic issues of injustice that have been defined by society. You must walk on eggshells by learning what is acceptable to current culture, though not required in scripture. Not this will be referred to as “white fragility” speaking. I do not believe it is biblically based.
Here are some examples of these inconsistencies. Note that most will not have this list handy. You will likely notice it slowly over time.
- The respected narrative comes from the voices of the “oppressed” and their standpoint. This is who we must learn from as they are the enlightened and only they can ever be so. (A white pastor will have trouble being respected speaking on diversity, unless a woke narrative and phrases are somehow integrated. Why, because a white person is an unenlighted oppressor. So here, eisegesis will reign over exigesis.)
- Not using woke terminology, will make one seem unenlightened and racist (you are only not racist when functioning as an antiracist, assuming you are actively fighting against systemic structures/racism which CRT says is “systemic”)
- You are to show guilt and lament, BUT also white tears are very offensive
- You are to show a passion for diversity BUT you must do research. Do not expect persons of color to teach you. There are specific questions one should and should not ask.
- You are to recognize differences in other BUT if you mention them, even positive ones, they are stereotypes which are a microagression, which is racism
- You are to teach diversity BUT the time is inappropriately used if it is not addressing systemic injustices for black America, even if the group consists of other persons of color (I have personally been told this)
- The goal is unity BUT we are from different groups, will never fully understand one another, antiracism teaches discrimination and safe spaces are needed. Essentially, we are to grow within our culturally defined group, not as God’s family.
- Institutions will need to recognize diversity BUT only in the terms of culture, through the perspective of the oppressed.
- You are to show interest in diversity BUT do not show cultural appropriation. Basically, you can only represent the culture you are from.
- The bible teaches “equality of treatment” BUT culture teaches “equity of outcomes” (Strachan and many others)
Many of these complexities, per Theory, have been paraphrased by John McWhorter’s and his response to the ironies of wokeness. (p.22-23, Christianity & Wokeness) I will not touch on all points, rather those complexities that Christian leaders and organizations are likely facing.
- 1. When black people say you have insulted them, apologize with profound sincerity and guilt. BUT don’t put black people in a position where you expect them to forgive you. They have dealt with too much to be expected to.
- 2. Black people are a conglomeration of disparate individuals…BUT don’t expect black people to assimilate to “white” social norms because black people have a culture of their own.
- 3. Silence about racism is violence. BUT elevate the voices of the oppressed over your own.
- 4. You must strive eternally to understand the experiences of black people. BUT you can never understand what it is to be black, and if you think you do you’re a racist.
- 5. Show interest in multiculturalism. BUT do not culturally appropriate. What is not your culture is not for you, and you may not try it or do it. But if you aren’t nevertheless interested in it, you are racist.
- 6. Support black people in creating their own spaces and stay out of them. BUT seek to have black friends. If you don’t have any, you’re a racist. And if you claim any, they’d better be good friends. Just know that you still aren’t allowed in their private spaces.
- (Again, not all contradictions are listed, hence the inconsistent numbers.)
- 9. Black people cannot be held accountable for everything every black person does. But all whites must acknowledge their personal complicity in the perfidy through history of “whiteness.”
Considering all of the above, churches and Christian organizations have a great struggle ahead. Again, one that I do not envy.
There will be much love and forgiveness needed on ALL accounts, if true unity is desire.
HOW SHOULD CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS RESPOND?
For those who do not see CRT and wokeness as another “gospel”, make sure you have done thorough research and you are comfortable leading your organization on the path you choose. You will be responsible for the lives under your care and what you are teaching, as a leader.
If your organization struggles with a past that has not treated all individuals well, there is not an easy response to this. But when considering this perspective, after having righting those you have specifically treated wrong, along with revising institution policies and seeking Christ’s forgiveness; did you also factored in that Christ said, “It is finished”? Is His grace and forgiveness enough for you?
If you are just riding this out but are now aware the there may be a new “gospel” being presented to your ministry or flock, this is now between you and God.
Be careful what you say. Really research the terminology for the emerging social justice conversation so you understand the context of what you are saying and how it may be interpreted.
Had someone explained to me that wokeness can present itself as a new gospel and what it was, I would have felt the support to stand strong when other Christians did not see my concerns. I just needed a trustworthy Christian to present the facts. This may have kept me from a period of doubting.
One thing I noticed and made my struggle all the more great, Christians I knew on both sides of the spectrum genuinely seemed to be seeking God. I still believe that to be true but now I also believe that these are two separate religions and worldviews that are creating further division and differing worldviews among God’s church.
Only God knows hearts, that is not for me to judge. However, I will strongly say that many will be held accountable for leading others astray.
Be attentive, do your research and know you are accountable for your response.
HOW SHOULD CHRISTIAN INDIVIDUALS RESPOND?
As a believer, how should you respond to your church or the Christian institution with which you may be involved?
First, know your Bible. Second, I would recommend reading either, “Wokeness & Christianity”, “Confronting Justice Without Compromising Truth” or “Fault Lines”. If I could recognize one source that may have changed my journey of questioning, it would be “Wokeness & Christianity” by Owen Strachan.
Be aware of new terminology: social justice, equity, whiteness, demonizing of the evangelical church, racial reconciliation, antiracism, concepts like oppressed/oppressor, victim mentality, micro/macroagressions and reparations. These are words and concepts you want to have defined to understand where these institutions are coming from.
Make sure to clarify what racial reconciliation entails. Does it include works and requirements that do not align with scripture?
Ask questions like, “How would you distinguish social justice vs. biblical justice?”
If you are in a place that constantly focuses on heaviness, lament, sins of the past, that is also very common with wokeness and CRT. These are important concepts, but for a time. Remember that your sin is as far as the “east is from the west”. Also remember you are not responsible for sins you did not commit. You can empathize with others but God does not call you to live in guilt and lament.
For me, it took a few years of conversations and context to realize that some were putting the Gospel second to diversity and social justice.
Do not over react to everything but do store phrases and concepts you hear to later revisit.
WHEN SHOULD YOU LEAVE?
This should be the last resort.
Again, do not over react and think everything is considered wokeness. If I hear one or two “woke” words, I understand there is a good chance that a person is using terminology they think is simply culturally relevant.
If you ever have the chance, you could directly as the individual to ease your mind. For me, I would be attentive but not be overtly concerned unless I heard a clear biblical contradiction, saw a pattern that fit wokeness, heard a handful of phrases that needed clarification, or if my spirit was at great unrest.
It would also be wise to share your experience with someone that shares your same concerns, both inside and outside the context, to process along with having extra eyes and insight.
If I reached on of the points above that would lead to responding, I would then talk to leadership for clarification on terms, concepts and direction. Go prepared with specific questions and concerns.
Know if you do this, woke individuals know how to skirt around direct conversation, so trust your gut if they will not directly answer.
If you think the response was biblically grounded, move forward with the organization and stay attentive. (Again, for me, it was a period of time and many conversations before I began to really understand the context was leaning woke.)
If you very clearly know that you are in an environment that is not aligned with the Gospel, then I would encourage a transition.
IF I COULD SEND A MESSAGE TO YOUR ORGANIZATION
As someone who spent time with many Christians trying to normalize both wokeness (CRT, Intersectionality) and the Gospel, please take great caution to know the current situation and these ideologies. I would ask every Christian leader to read, “Wokeness & Christianity” by Owen Strachan. This is the most thorough biblical response to how these two ideologies are incompatible and how wokeness presents itself as another “gospel”.
For your flock, I beg you do not take the ideology of “wokeness” lightly.
I personal spent a few years in darkness trying to merge wokeness and the Gospel. I was left without hope and realized that I was questioning Christ’s death being the answer.
If I had a solid Christian leader or friend come alongside me and be able to tell me that wokeness was replacing the Gospel, I likely would not have fall into depression and dark nights where I begged for God to take my life. Instead, most Christians around me were trying to blend the two and not seeing the concern that we were replacing Christ death with another metanarrative.
Again, these ideas are not new but they continue to develop and emerge in new ways. Most recently, in the last 5-6 years, both atheist and Christian academics have started to notice this new trend of society responding to wokeness as a religion.
I understand these are new concepts for many. I understand the great struggle many organizations face in how to respond to this new “gospel”. I do not write this to any one institution. I write this as I have found a new peace in this crazy journey. I believe God allowed me this period of doubt and an environment with an emerging “gospel” to 1) draw me to Him and 2) I pray for the saving of many.
In one of my darkest times, I remember God gave me a glimpse of His victory and that He was still with me, as I drove home from counseling. It was early evening, the sky was bright and the sun was setting. God spoke this verse to me and I, confident and giddy-like, spoke it to Satan; “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
I remember the only thing that I could think of making this dark, doubting period worth it; if somehow God could use it to save lives. I could sense God with me and spurring me on in the battle.
If it be His will, would you awaken and protect your flock. Do not be afraid to speak truth and be honest with your people.
WHERE ARE YOU LEADING YOUR SHEEP? AND, THANK YOU.
To all those who spoke truth and played a role in my journey. Thank you. Had we crossed paths sooner, I may not have struggled in the way I did. But God. His purpose is greater and in my weakness; He is strong.
Unspoken Mentors & Prayer Warriors: To those who prayed for me when I could not pray for myself; THANK YOU. To the mentors who have support and walked the journey with me; thank you.
Everett Piper & Jim Garlow: Thank you for being the first two I saw speaking out about wokeness and CRT. Catching a glimpse of support and truth whispered life into me.
Amanda Williams: Thank you, friend, for reaching out because you saw me on CBU. You pushed me to process and further research. You helped pull me back up on my feet.
Owen Strachan, Voddie Baucham, Neil Shenvi: Thank you for your books and written works. They gave me backbone and spoke life into me.
Gary Swyers: Thank you for guiding and supporting me. You have grounded me, taught me and spurred me on to rise up.
Center for Biblical Unity (CBU): Thank you for your additional voice. I learn from you and your guests almost daily.
If just one of these men or women did not stand in truth and play a specific role in my life; I do not know where I would be today. I beg you to please protect your people.
Are you leading your sheep away or letting them stray from the fold?
Rise up church. Be loving and gracious, but speak truth and give hope.