I am asleep. I am not awake. Or to use the PC term, I am not ‘Woke’. I fully agree with the excellent articles on transgender by Dr Sharon James in the February and March editions of ET. I am convinced that the Bible teaches that marriage is only for a man and a woman and is for life. All sexual activity is for such marriage relationships only. To be Woke is to believe in the opposite to all of this. I’m not sure what the opposite of Woke is. Perhaps I am even comatose?
Woke is a modern set of beliefs created by privileged wealthy Western liberals, by a narrow academic and media coterie. Woke is the 21st century religion of the Western metropolitan elite with its own morality, beliefs, and practices. It is at once nebulous and easily recognised. It is a vague amalgam of racism, feminism, homosexuality, transgenderism, and climatology.
On its website the BBC (who ought to know!) have stated: ‘“Woke” is described as being alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice, along with being aware of what’s going on in the community.’ A vague effort which conceals more than it reveals. Fundamentally, while there are elements we would agree with (most obviously the repudiation of racism), at its heart it is profoundly anti-Christian and a great troubler for those of us at work among the Woke.
Woke is irrational, inconsistent, and thus arbitrary in its decisions about what is declared to be right and wrong. Thus even those who have encouraged and supported its development, such as Martina Navratilova (see ET April 2019) and Barack Obama (see below), have found themselves castigated for sinning against Woke.
It is clear that Woke is more than a system of zeitgeist beliefs. It is more because it involves ‘virtue signalling’. The follower of fashionable Woke has to make it known they are signed up to its anti-Christian agenda. It isn’t enough to quietly own it: to be truly Woke everyone needs to know you own it. We recently witnessed such cowardly virtue signalling from a battery of Harry Potter stars who castigated J. K. Rowling for the sin of saying that women should be called… women!
But Woke is about more again, for it isn’t enough to own the position and to signal your righteousness to those you live and work with. To be truly Woke means converting or, usually, coercing others to join you. At the heart of Woke-dom is a vigorous evangelism which aims to proclaim (we may indeed say preach) these convictions and when that fails to intimidate others into silence or bullied ‘agreement’. Woke is anti-freedom of speech, leading to banning of non-Woke views from universities (deplatforming), which are supposed to be places which most of all promote such freedom.
For the disciples of Woke it is about putting up posters in the workplace saying that you will be joining the local Pride March and asking everyone else to sign the list to do the same (for remember, we can then take note of those who refuse to do so). It is about urging your organisation to order rainbow lanyards and badges so everyone can wear them (whether they wish to do so or not). It is about sounding off that the local Tesco should be boycotted for the great sin of not having transgender toilets.
Another key feature of Wokefulness is a desire to be offended and then to persecute those who offend you. The Woke are hypersensitive to criticism, though not delicate when lashing out at those with whom they disagree. This and its inconsistency is causing grief among its proponents who are now being eaten by the beast they have created.
Thus, in October 2019, Barack Obama sought to publicise the problems Woke culture is causing US Democrat politicians. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand had withdrawn from the race to be the Democratic nominee for President after going on television to apologise for using the term ‘illegal alien’ in the past.
Another hopeful Pete Buttigieg had apologised for his use of the phrase ‘all lives matter’, which sounds innocuous enough but to the easily offended Woke sounded like a criticism of black people (whom if I were woke I would be calling People of Colour, I suppose, but I don’t think ET readers will be offended by my terminology).
In a tweet on 30 October Obama said: ‘The idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re politically woke, and all that stuff – you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.’ In a related speech he declared: ‘I get a sense among certain young people on social media that the way of making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people.’
Woke poses as a freedom-loving, open, and happy approach to life while in practice intimidating and bullying those of us who disagree. While pretending to be liberal and to support freedom of speech, the Woke vigorously shutdown opinions contrary to their own and ensure that Christians struggle to get a look in with our truly alternative views.
How do we respond? We follow Peter’s teaching in 1 Peter 3:8-18. We do not pick fights. We don’t seek confrontation with the Woke. We live quiet and godly lives in our workplaces and let our gentleness be evident to all. Yet we are always ready to give the reason for the hope we have and thus why we disagree with the Woke agenda, but we do so with gentleness and respect. We may not be under the same pressures as the Christians to whom Peter wrote, but out in the world we need the same wisdom and strength to conduct ourselves as Christ himself did under threats and persecution.
Alan Thomas is Professor and Consultant in Psychiatry. Elder at Newcastle Reformed Evangelical Church.