Woke Oppression

We have, thus far, defined Wokeness as “compassion for the oppressed.” This definition, however, is not as straightforward as it might appear. In the previous essay we outlined the three elements of Woke compassion: critical awareness, political advocacy, and social activism. With this understanding of Woke compassion in mind, we come to the following definition: Wokeness is critical awareness of, political advocacy for, and social activism on behalf of the oppressed. But who are the oppressed? And just as importantly, who are their oppressors? Let us now seek to understand oppression in Woke terms.

The Oppressor/Oppressed Dynamic

While the following idea will be discussed in more detail in future essays, it is important to state that Wokeness is a manifestation of cultural Marxism. This means that the principles of Marxism, particularly the oppressor/oppressed group conflict as the foundation of history, underlie Wokeness, even if they are applied in different ways. Cultural Marxism is the application of Marxist theory to cultural institutions like family, religion, art, education, law, etc. In traditional Marxism, where the conflict is primarily along economic lines, the oppressors are the upper class and the oppressed are the working class. Cultural Marxism takes this power-conflict out of the material world, the world of economics, and places it in the psychological world, the realm of thoughts, motivations, and desires. Thanks to the work of Sigmund Freud, the Frankfurt School, Antonio Gramsci, Wilhelm Reich, and others, the Marxist history of group conflict is now internalized and personalized. The result is that now one is free to see the oppressor/oppressed dynamic at work in every aspect of society and culture, and especially in one’s own personal life, often simmering just below the surface, in the subconscious of both groups and individuals.


Because of cultural Marxism, one is free to see the oppressor/oppressed dynamic at work in every aspect of society and culture, and especially in one’s own personal life.

“The psychologizing of oppression and the placing of it at the center of the history of human society plays directly to the idea that history is something to be overcome. After all, [according to Marx] the history of humanity is the history of oppression and victimhood. In Marx this was understood in economic terms, but from the mid-twentieth century onward it became psychological.”[1] If oppression is psychological, then it is also personal. If it is personal, then it is also subjective, an experience of one’s interior world. The oppressed person is now understood to be the victim, not only of acts of oppression against himself as an individual, but of all historical acts of oppression, persecution, bigotry, etc. committed against the group with which he identifies. For example, in Cultural Marxism, African-Americans perpetually belong to the victim class because of the history in America of African enslavement. This is true regardless of whether or not individual African-Americans wish to understand themselves as victims or oppressed. There is no opting out of the oppressor/oppressed dynamic in Wokeness. One can, however, be booted from one’s privileged position as victim by having the wrong politics, as the Los Angeles Times made clear when they opined that Larry Elder, a black conservative running for governor of California, was “the black face of white supremacy.”[2]

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In the last essay we defined Wokeness as “compassion for the oppressed.” While this is a good start, it doesn’t quite capture the true nature of Wokeness. The Woke, after all, have very little in common with The Little Sisters of the Poor, for example, or even Dorothy Day, at least after she converted to Catholicism. It is insufficient, then, to say that the Woke are animated purely by compassion, or that they are trying to do the Lord’s work. Compassion may be an animating force in a general sense, but we must try to be as specific as possible because it would be wrong, both historically and morally, to conflate social compassion, much less Christian compassion, with Wokeness. Mother Theresa was not Woke. Neither was Martin Luther King, Jr. Just because two movements identify the same problem does not mean that they offer the same solution or adhere to the same underlying ideology. Identifying social ills is easy. Creating solutions is the hard part.

Christian Compassion

It’s worth taking a moment to parse out Christian compassion. The word compassion literally means “to suffer with” someone, so to be compassionate transcends the emotional state of sorrow for someone in difficult circumstances. (Though it certainly includes this!) To demonstrate compassion is to walk alongside someone in their hardship, which means to engage in their struggle in a helpful way. Paul encouraged believers to “carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) The law of Christ is summed up in three related commands: 1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; 2) Love your neighbor as yourself; and 3) As I [Jesus] have loved you [my disciples], so you must love one another. Compassion, therefore, is an expression of love. To be more specific, it is an expression of agape love, which is the love referenced in all three of those commands.


Compassion is an expression of agape love.

Compassion is one expression of love, but it is not the only expression of love. (Another expression of love that all Christians are familiar with is self-sacrifice, which is what Jesus did for us at the cross. He said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”) Compassion is, therefore, subordinate to agape love (or charity as it used to be called) and cannot be rightly expressed, at least in any conceivably Christian way, apart from love. This makes compassion an important, but secondary, virtue. It does not stand above love. Instead, love provides the context in which compassion is rightly expressed. Compassion is a governed, not a governing, virtue. The highest virtues that govern the rest are wisdom, courage, justice, temperance, faith, hope, and love. These are what the Church has traditionally called the cardinal virtues. It is one thing, for example, to exercise justice without the virtue of mercy. This may seem harsh, but it is fair and good, so long as the judge stays within the confines of true justice. It is something else entirely to exercise mercy without justice. How could a society survive in such a state? (Incidentally, this is precisely what certain cities appear to be doing by allowing shoplifters to steal up to $900 worth of goods without facing a penalty. These lawmakers think they are being merciful, but they are placing an immensely large burden upon the shoulders of store owners, managers, and retail workers by refusing to pursue justice on their behalf.)

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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,”[1] a mortal sin. Feelings trump facts, and it doesn’t matter how any of us feel about that fact.

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For the past couple of months I have been reading and writing about a topic that is important to me: Wokeness. In some respects, I have been thinking, writing, reading, and preaching about this for most of my adult life. Only recently, however, has it seemed to coalesce into an identifiable movement in mainstream society. It reaches into every aspect of our culture, and has especially influenced the Church in America. As with everything else I have written and preached about, my primary concern is with God’s people. Where does Christianity stand in the Age of Wokeness? Should Christians be Woke? How can the Church engage Wokeness and remain faithful to Jesus Christ? Why do so many evangelical Christians seem to abandon their faith and take up the banner of Wokeness?

Books for studying WokenessThese are the questions that I am turning my attention to in 2022. Throughout the year I will be publishing (with no set schedule in mind because my life is quite full already) essays in a series called Christianity in the Age of Wokeness. My hope is that readers will find them engaging and helpful, particularly in, and this is where I lay my cards on the table, fortifying their faith against the poison of Wokeness. In addition to these essays, I intend to start a podcast with my friend Corey Brecht in which we will discuss these matters in more detail. My hope is that these discussions will be lively and insightful, and that anyone who stumbles upon them will be both encouraged and entertained.

If you would like to follow along with this series, please use the subscribe button below to make sure you get notifications of publication. I may post some essays to social media, but I have not found discussions on these matters to be productive on those platforms. While I am happy to engage the Woke amicably, I have no hope that they will repent and turn to Christ. Too many of the Woke people I know have rejected Christ and embraced what I will demonstrate is a new, and radically different, religion. They have already made their choice. My concern is with helping the people of God remain faithful to him, to equip them with the knowledge and insight we need to both resist and combat Wokeness, and to be a voice that warns against our postmodern slide into apostasy. I hope you will join me on this journey.

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
-Revelation 3:14-22

The last of the seven letters is to the church in Laodicea, and they got the harshest treatment of all. Jesus typically started off a letter with some praise for what the believers were doing, or some compassion for what they were going through. Not Laodicea. He just went straight after them, comparing them to lukewarm water. Their problem was that they were neither hot water nor cold water — they were somewhere in the middle. Cold water is refreshing and revives the spirit on a hot day. Hot water is comforting and healing, relaxing the muscles after a hard day’s work. Lukewarm water is basically useless. You don’t want to drink it, and you can’t bathe in it. I suppose you could give it to the dog, but that’s about all that it is good for. The point that Jesus was making is this: We need to be useful for something in God’s kingdom.

Being Lukewarm isn’t about Passion

For a very long time, I thought that Jesus was talking about being hot or cold in our love for him. I thought that Jesus would rather we love him A LOT or be completely indifferent to him, just don’t be somewhere in between. I was taught that being lukewarm means being wishy-washy. It means coasting through life without taking God seriously. We’re supposed to be passionate for God. We’re supposed to be on fire for him. And if we’re not, then we’re the kind of Christian that Jesus despises. Our only two acceptable choices are unbeliever or passionate believer.

But I don’t think that’s what this verse is saying. Being hot or cold isn’t about passion; it’s about purpose. I’m pretty sure that everything I was taught about this passage is wrong, and that has pretty significant implications for a lot of people who just couldn’t live up to the demand of being a passionately on-fire for Jesus 24/7. I mean, just think about the metaphor for a minute. When you want a cold drink and you drink something cold, you’re happy. When you want a hot drink and you drink something hot, you’re happy then, too. But when your drink has been sitting out for a while and it gets to room temperature, what kind of face do you make when you drink it? A contortion of disgust, right? When you want a cold Coke or a hot coffee, do you even finish the one that’s at room temperature? I’m guessing not.


Being hot or cold isn’t about passion. It’s about purpose.

Jesus isn’t secretly saying, “I wish you would be hot all the time.” He’s not putting pressure on us to live at an unsustainable level of passion all the time. What he’s saying actually cuts much deeper. He’s telling Laodicea, “I wish you were good for something.” I mean…dang.

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