Do you believe that people should be judged on the content of their character and not by the color of their skin? You are an irredeemable racist. Do you believe that females should have separate spaces from males, like bathrooms or locker rooms for intimate, private matters? You are a hateful bigot. Do you believe that biological sex is real, that there are fundamental differences between men and women, and that biological males should not be allowed to compete women’s sports? How dare you.
Go back and read that first paragraph again. Notice that the questions are framed in terms of belief. Today a person believes, rather than knows, that biological sex is real. Today a person believes that women should have their own private spaces away from the prying eyes of men, rather than such an accommodation being common sense. Today a person believes that individuals should be judged on their character and not by their race, as if this were just one acceptable position among many. Things that should be common sense or known as facts are instead framed as things that are believed, as if those things were mere opinions. (And the wrong opinions at that!) The word belief connotes something that is subjective, optional, and taken on faith. Belief implies relativity and uncertainty. Most importantly, it implies that other people might believe the opposite, and their beliefs are just as valid as yours because we have abandoned the world of knowable things. We used to know that biological sex is real, but now it is a matter of belief. One person believes we landed on the moon, another that the moon landing was faked. What does it matter, so long as they are both expressing their authentic beliefs?
Woke Apocalypse: Where the subjective has replaced the objective as the defining principle of truth.
The fundamental characteristic of the modern world is that the subjective has replaced the objective as the defining principle of truth. What a person feels is more authentic, and therefore more trustworthy and true, than what a person knows. It is bigoted to say that biological sex is a natural reality because a tiny fraction of people feel that biological sexual categories (specifically male and female) do not describe the way they feel about themselves. To insist on biological sex as categorically definitive is to force these people to live inauthentic lives, which is, in a world defined by “the prioritization of the individual’s inner psychology,” a mortal sin. Feelings trump facts, and it doesn’t matter how any of us feel about that fact.
Will Thomas was a swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania from 2017 through the 2019-20 season. He was a second-team All-Ivy League swimmer in several events his sophomore year, meaning that he was a good, if not elite, men’s college swimmer. By the beginning of the 2021 season, Will Thomas had become Lia Thomas, not only making the transition from man to woman, but also joining the women’s swim team at Penn. Lia has been absolutely dominating events, winning races by more than 30 seconds, setting university records, and even coming close to setting new U.S. women’s swim record times in multiple events.
Many of Lia’s teammates and their families are unhappy about this situation because they believe that Lia has an unfair advantage, having been born male, gone through puberty as a male, and trained as a male for so long. As one parent put it, “transgender women are taking the opportunities that were created for biological women.” However, almost all of those who are upset are airing their opinions anonymously. Why do female swimmers and their families feel the need to remain anonymous when pointing out the obvious injustice of these competitions? What cultural forces are pressuring them to swallow their pain and frustration and not speak out? Women’s sports were created because everyone recognized that males and females have asymmetric athletic ability. But to even say this, and to feel hurt and loss because a biological male is taking opportunities away from biological females, is considered the height of bigotry today.
We see the universe as something to be conformed to our own desires.
We are in the midst of a sea change. More accurately, we are on the tail end of the change and it is only now becoming evident just how radically different this world is from the one that came before it. From the time of the ancient Greek and Asian philosophers until the Germans appeared on the scene in roughly the 18th century, humans believed that the universe was something to which the individual must conform himself. C.S. Lewis called this “the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are.” But we no longer believe this to be true. Instead, we see the universe as something to be conformed to our own desires. We see the world “as so much raw material out of which meaning and purpose can be created by the individual.” We make our world. We create ourselves. I am God, now.
The Beast of the Woke Apocalypse
The book of Revelation is famous for its vibrant imagery of horrific monsters. Beasts with multiple heads and horns fire the reader’s imagination. What could this mean? The interpretations are many, but one of the most plausible is that the monsters of the Apocalypse represent the Roman Empire. The earliest readers of John’s Apocalypse, Christians persecuted by the Roman authorities, would have seen a clear parallel between the great beasts and the brutal power of Rome. How, then, should believers read Revelation after the fall of Rome? One answer is that it can be read paradigmatically. Every epoch of church history is filled with beasts and antichrists. The beasts may change, but the dragon – the great enemy of God and the Church – remains the same. The job of the Christian is to identify and attack the beasts of his age.
There is something foul in the air these days. A powerful force has burst upon the world and gobbled up our institutions, our culture, our public discourse and our personal relationships. The airwaves are saturated with a toxin that poisons both heart and mind. A virus has spread across the world and the evidence of its noxiousness can be seen in places both humble and great. The COVID pandemic mirrors the pandemic of this mind virus. It has come out of nowhere and no one is able to stop it. Reason and common sense are powerless against it, for it is more than a virus; it is a monster. Like a great beast rising out of the sea to conquer the nations, this behemoth is cloaked by shadowy rhetoric and draws power from the institutions it has parasitized. It shields itself by taking advantage of the best intentions of good-hearted people, cynically misinterpreting every word in the worst possible light, and taking every argument in bad faith. Its sweeping assault on polite society and ascendancy to the heights of our governing institutions has taken the average person by surprise. Few saw this coming, for the beast is bent on vengeance. It has steeled its will to overthrow existing power structures and place a new king on the throne of our culture. No one is safe from its iron jaws. It hunts both the weak and the strong, demanding nothing less than full allegiance and total surrender, extracting confession and punishing dissent.
The beast is angry. The beast is in a rage. The beast has changed the whole world. Our institutions no longer serve the public good, but rather some amalgamation of obscure semi-virtues that seem to have no definable aim. The media has abandoned its pursuit to tell the truth, however inconvenient that truth might be, and instead aims to craft narratives of a very particular fabric that seems to interest no one whatsoever. Our schools have given up on teaching children to be good and productive citizens within their communities. What matters now is not real skill or basic competency in reading, writing, and arithmetic, but the inculcated passion to become activists and world-changers. (God help the world when those who seek to change it cannot even say that two plus two equals four.) Even our words have lost their meanings, reliable definitions replaced with cynical newspeak. Who is this beast that denigrates reason and leads the whole world into a deconstructed future of vengeful chaos? Its name is Wokeness, and it burns red hot with hatred.
Wokeness has brought war upon the earth. Even though this battle looks nothing like what we are used to seeing in war, it is no less dangerous. The violence of Wokeness is a violence of the heart and mind. It pits a man against his own good sense and turns a woman against her own intuition. It cuts through families and brings down churches. It poisons the well of the public good and hollows out the long-standing institutions upon which our communities are built. To the beast of Wokeness the only good earth is a scorched earth. Everything must be destroyed.
Wokeness poisons the well of the public good and hollows out the long-standing institutions upon which our communities are built.
In the spring of 2020 the U.S. was beginning to feel the effects of COVID-19. Leading public health experts were encouraging citizens to wear masks in public and to stay indoors as much as possible. Large gatherings (or even small gatherings) were outlawed in many states, and even churches shut their doors for months so as to reduce the spread of the airborne virus. Many countries went into lockdown to protect their hospital systems from being overwhelmed by those infected with COVID. Public health officials were front and center in this process, advocating for strict adherence to the protocols, especially mask-wearing and social-distancing.
In May of that year a white police officer kneeled on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, for eight minutes, resulting in Floyd’s death. (A jury would later convict the officer of murder.) Protests and demonstrations broke out around the world, lasting throughout the summer, with many of them turning violent and destructive. These protests were encouraged and justified by most of the media in the US, as many public figures fell over themselves to praise the protestors and rioters. Countless celebrities and progressive politicians, including then Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, donated to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which paid the bail of those arrested during the riots. Many people remember one of the iconic images of the summer: a CNN journalist in riot gear, standing in front of a building engulfed in flames, with the text on the screen reading, “Fiery But Mostly Peaceful Protests.” This sort of thing cannot be made up.
Worst of all was the hypocrisy of the public health experts. Those who had, just weeks earlier, denounced protests over draconian lockdowns were now rushing to the camera to praise the protests over the murder of George Floyd. Over 1,000 health professionals signed a statement that read, in part, “As public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States. … This should not be confused with a permissive stance on all gatherings, particularly protests against stay-home orders.” Two weeks after the beginning of these protests, COVID-19 cases spiked in the US, and many blamed the spike on backyard barbecues over Memorial Day weekend. This is the moment, as public health experts applauded the burning of our cities but condemned the visitation of the elderly, when many people lost trust in public health institutions. This is what Wokeness looks like in action.
A Place to Begin
Sun Tzu taught the importance of knowing your enemy. The apostle Paul told early Christians to be aware of the devil’s schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11) The greatest advantage in war, whether physical or spiritual, is knowing, with clarity and accuracy, who your enemy is and what they are planning to do. The fog of every war is vast and thick, but knowledge of one’s enemy pierces through the darkness and shows the army the path to victory. Christians must understand what Wokeness is and the significant challenge it poses to their faith. They must see how it wears a cunning disguise that makes it look almost Christian. (After all, didn’t Paul also say the devil masquerades as an angel of light?) They must know where it came from, how it operates, and what its intentions are for the world. They must see it for the apocalyptic beast that it is.
Clearly defining Wokeness is a challenging but vital task now that Wokeness is ascendent in nearly all of our institutions and communities. It has been said of pornography, “I don’t know how to define it, exactly, but I know it when I see it.” The same is true for Wokeness. You know it when you see it. With its virtue signaling and performative righteousness, Wokeness is difficult to define but impossible to miss. The slipperiness seems to be a feature, not a bug, as Wokeness tends to be flexible with its rules and doctrines, sliding the scales depending on the situation. It has an uncanny ability to change its form depending on which context it is in, but the underlying doctrine remains constant. One must be an agile interpreter to keep up, and one must always keep up. The Woke are notorious for eating their own.
Speaking from Academia, Charles Pincourt defines the Woke as “people who are conscious of the Critical Social Justice perspective and adhere to it.” Critical Social Justice is an academic term that most people, Woke or not, have never heard of. While many know the term “social justice,” the capitalization with the addition of the word Critical is unfamiliar. Is this a subject like English Literature or Geometry? One does not need to write a term paper on Critical Social Justice in order to be Woke anymore than one must be able to preach a sermon on Trinitarian theology to be a Christian. Wokeness has deep roots in academia – it is the sea from which it has emerged. Once it leaves the university, however, it is not crucial for the Woke to be conscious of Critical Social Justice as an academic subject. What is most important is adherence to its doctrines.
John McWhorter and Vivek Ramaswamy, respectively speaking from the perspective of race (Woke Racism, McWhorter) and business (Woke, Inc., Ramaswamy), define Wokeness as a religion. They each make compelling arguments regarding the religious nature of Wokeness, and that it should be treated as such both socially (McWhorter) and legally (Ramaswamy). While the religious nature of Wokeness will be dealt with in a later essay, it should be alarming to Christians that two unbelievers are able to understand and articulate the religiosity of Wokeness while so many Christians seem blind to it. If it is, in fact, a religion, it is not Christianity. As will be shown in another essay, the intellectual roots of Wokeness are a swirling cauldron of anti-Christian thought and activism. From a religious perspective, Wokeness seems to have been uniquely created to undermine and subvert Christianity in the guise of an alternative form of Christianity.
Wokeness was uniquely created to undermine and subvert Christianity.
Yet so many Christians are falling into the Woke vortex. Whole churches, and even denominations, are going Woke. The largest Lutheran denomination in Europe, the Church of Sweden, recently announced that it is trans. (Yes, the denomination announced that it, the denomination, is trans.) And if McWhorter and Ramaswamy are correct, huge masses of the Church are abandoning the Christian faith for a false religion. But these Christians do not seem to think that is what is happening. They do not suspect that they are swapping out one religion for another, or as Paul put it, “exchanging the truth of God for a lie.” (Romans 1:25) They believe that they are deconstructing their faith and finding a more loving way of following Jesus (at least those who are still interested in following Jesus). While some are no doubt deconstructing their Christian faith into Wokeness with anger and vengeance, many more seem to simply be sliding into a cultural religion with a vaguely Christian vocabulary and evangelical zeal. How can this drift be stopped?
This series is an attempt to help Christians understand Wokeness and its corrupting influence on their faith. Jesus said in Matthew 6:24 that a man cannot serve two masters; he will wind up hating the one and loving the other. A member of God’s family cannot also have a second religion. There is one master, Jesus, and he is owed our full allegiance. The Church is the Bride of Christ; she can take no other lovers. As you will discover in this series, you can either be Woke or you can be a Christian, but you cannot be both. If you go Woke, you will end up hating Christianity. (For some it seems that they go Woke because they already hate Christianity.) In order to help Christians clearly understand what is at stake with Wokeness, it is essential to be clear. A satisfactory definition of Wokeness must be found, so that we can elucidate exactly how these two religions differ.
Perhaps the most charitable place to begin would be to define Wokeness thusly: compassion for the oppressed. To their credit, the Woke are compassionate for those who find themselves outside of, or minorities within, the traditional culture. The Woke genuinely care for the powerless and marginalized. They are moved to help the helpless and to speak up for the voiceless. This is a good thing, and something that God directs his people to do. Proverbs 31:8-9 states it plainly: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” God cares about the poor and the people who are despised, oppressed, and overlooked. His people must also care for them. This has always been a core expression of biblical faith.
In this way, the Woke are fulfilling one of many biblical commands. But, are they really? Does Wokeness truly accomplish the Lord’s work? To answer this, we need to clarify what the Woke mean, exactly, by the words compassion and oppressed. We will take each in turn in the next two essays.
 Trueman, p. 39.
Image adapted from Buzzfeed’s reporting on the Kenosha, WI riots of 2020.