Friday, October 9, 2020

The Heretical Religion of Wokeism

"And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell, but as for me and my house, we shall serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15)

This verse has given many Christians the courage to stand up to the world and serve the Lord Jesus, but if you look closer you'll see that it's more than just a declaration of faith, it's also an intellectual challenge.
Joshua invites his hearers to choose the God they would like to serve best, but in so doing he takes it for granted that the people need a God, and will serve a god whether they want to or not. That is, he presupposes that they, being men, will always be slaves, that they are feeble creatures like sheep, and cannot get along without something reigning in their lives. In light of this he asks the people to consider if they will serve the gracious Living God, or the cruel god of the nations. It's a question for us as much for them since we do not get to answer "Is there a god over us?" only, "Which god will we serve?"

Our service to our god must necessarily exist in the form of rules. (As an aside I think this is simply fundamental to the universe/our existence.) We can't fly a plane, do the dishes, or even eat without having rules attached to it, so it should not surprise us that serving God must come with fixed rules as well. Everything else has a process attached to it that can be written down and understood, so why should serving God be any different? Eating food raw can make you sick, so cook it. Cook beef at W degrees for X minutes gives a more flavorful result than cooking at Y temperature for Z minutes. Well that's really no different than, "thou shalt not covet" or "if you love me you will keep my commandments." Even those who would say "Christianity is not a religion it's a relationship" can't get away from the fact that relationships have rules as well. Omit the rules of time, presence, or faithfulness, and you'll lose your relationship.

I'm told the word religion comes from the Latin word religare, meaning 'to bind', so that 'religion' is a short-hand word to speak of the number and type of rules we've bound ourselves to. That has the ring of truth, and it seems to obvious that I don't need to add any more to it. Now hold that thought, because I want to circle back to it after a brief interlude. Now that we got the flour in the pot it's time to add the eggs.


The previous 30 years of contemporary American civic religion was more or less Oprah's brand of telegenic Moral Therapeutic Deism. It was psychology and soft-soap, and to a large extent it permeated and change the thinking patterns of the visible church herself. I don't want to talk about what characterizes Moral Therapeutic Deism, but instead I only want to briefly show how it set the bounds for our evangelism, then our parachurch work, then our church work. 

I take it as self-evident that Christianity more or less got rid of talking about hell and instead talked about the positive benefits of accepting Jesus into your hearts. We moved away from judgment and toward affirmation and discussion about how much God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives. We comforted, we didn't confront. We soothed, we didn't sting. We had a message of therapy better than those other therapists because we had the genuine cure, since "our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God." We were mothers, and not fathers, and we largely passed on those hard truths that make us squirm or feel uncomfortable. Things like sacrifice, and doing what's right even if there is no reward in it, or being willing to tell someone to be quiet and sit down. We had less to say about holiness (if anything) and had much to say about love. God is love, but He's also a consuming fire, and is as the four living creatures constantly remind us, Holy Holy Holy, so any theology that is only half the truth is headed for a crash. 

Not that what we said was wrong per se, or that the church was generally unfaithful (I wouldn't say that either). Don't hear me say that we gave up being obnoxious and pugilistic and I'm lamenting about how that's bad. Because that's not bad, that's good. What I mean is, we generally overemphasized certain truths because we judged the culture would be more receptive to them, and we could get them to consider the whole of Christianity if they could find a point of relation to us. But we also got comfortable, or lazy, and stopped catechizing our kids with knowledge of the Scriptures and the catechisms and instead armed them to talk about their testimony and how Jesus makes them feel good. Pietism with the help of culture won the war for our evangelism strategy. And that was ruinous, because now the culture has changed and we've spent the last 30 years building up our infrastructure to exploit what we thought were good inroads, and poof, just like that the time we spent specializing in penetrating a culture is worthless because that culture no longer exists. In fairness, Jesus warned us ahead of time that if we built the church with wood hay or straw He would test it with fire, so we should have taken Him at His word ahead of time. 

To their credit the American civic religion has at last remembered that that things like duty, honor, courage, resilience, pain, are all good things too. The old virtues that make boys into men are back. But the pendulum has swung away and now there's no motherly aspect in the new civic values as well. It will fight, it will not reconcile. It will attack, it will not submit. It demands sacrifice and change toward perfection, it will not accept you for what you are or for where you are. 

Now that we've got the eggs and the flour it's time to add the sweet sugar and mix everything together.


Wokeism (I can't think of a better name, although Church of the Holy Wokeness is pretty accurate) is at this moment the dominant civic religion, with a unique set of binding rules and popular civic values. But the more I look the more I see wokeism as both a continuation of Moral Thereputic Diesm and a derivation from Christianity. Just like Islam, Unitarianism, Jehovas Witness, Mormonism, or Liberalism is an offshot of Christianity, so too is Wokeism. The amount of overlap is really astonishing. Consider the parallelism:

Original Sin
Christianity - Adam's breaking of God's command resulted in sin being passed to each person. It is an inescapable propensity to rebel against God and sin. It colors everything we do.
Wokeism - Racism is the original sin. At the founding of our country, at the beginning of Western Civilization, we created iron clad oppressive preferences and institutions that endure to this day. They form the warp and woof of the fabric of our society.  

Christianity - Jesus paid the equivalent punishment of an eternity in hell to a holy God. His payment on our behalf as a true man was accepted and this is shown in His resurrection.
Wokeism - Man is purified and put into a right relationship with the community by being an ally 

Unforgivable sin
Christianity - Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, typically understood as a lifelong committed rejection of Christ.
Wokeism - Racism or racist ideas. Typically understood as an embracing of "right wing" politicians and being unwilling to vote left. 

Christianity - Telling others about the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and how by Faith in Him we can live with Him forever, but the rejection of Him brings eternal damnation.
Wokeism - Telling others about how they need to repent or suffer the consequences.  

Being Born Again
Christianity - Becoming aware of your indwelling sin and need for a savior. Your eyes are opened to the truths of God. Where you once were blind, now you have a new heart and spirit from God. You must be born again to be saved.
Wokeism - Awakening to the truths you were blind to before. Your eyes are open to the truths of oppression/oppresor power dynamic. You must be born again to be saved.

Public Confession 
Christianity - reciting together the ancient confessions of faith that define the boundaries of historic orthodox.
Wokeism - reciting in public gathering the need to be an ally and do better about racism.

Christianity - Not everyone is among the elect. Only a special number is chosen for eternal life, the rest are passed over and reprobated.
Wokeism - The chosen few who reach enlightenment are among the elect. The remainder are not saved, but are deplorable and passed over forever lacking the necessary righteousness. 

Christianity - because Christ lived a sinless life and atoned for our sins by His death, we can have forgiveness with God when we have faith in Him
Wokeism - None. However, the parallel with Penance in Catholicism is almost identical. 

There are other doctrines that parallel each other of course, this is just the list that strikes me personally as noteworthy. 


So Wokeism is a religion that binds its adherents to a life of suffering and servitude. It offers no forgiveness for being born on the wrong side of the class war, but if you come to grips with your part in being oppressive and renounce your privilege, it allows you to live on in the outskirts of the community. It rejects not only the Christianity that permeates American thinking, but in particular the gentle, overly polite winsome form of Christianity championed by Focus on the Family. 
Notice that in every case of doctrine the interesting difference amounts to the person of Christ being absent from the thought patterns. Further, the very idea of an individual personhood is absent from the confessions and thinking in Wokeism. That is, Wokeism uses a pantheistic system where God is everywhere and in everything, and is not a person, and likewise the individual adherent has no real meaning. People are cells in a larger body, and matter only in so far as they can be consumed to further a greater goal. Racism isn't nearly as important as systematic racism.

There's more to say of course, but this has run on long enough and it's time to bake and think though some more.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Orthodoxy Chapter 5 - The Flag of the World

So it’s beyond question that our world is a fairy tale, but there’s also no denying that something is seriously wrong with it as well, because in the fairy tale the giant doesn’t eat Jack. Nature is beautiful, but she’s also red in tooth and claw, and there's a reason BBC Earth isn't showing a lion pride ripping off the flesh of the antelope. Closer to home, those honey making needle insects have a propensity to stab and swarm, and while bears may look cute and cuddly, they maul when pestered.

Some people (for lack of a better word let’s call them optimists) want to maintain a sunny outlook by pretending none of these evils exist. You see this frequently from online totalitarian apologists, but you also see it from general do-gooders who haven’t thought things through. They begin by closing their eyes to the way the universe really is, and end by fully supporting Cuban communist regimes because, "they really helped the literacy problem there." As Chesterton says, “[Defending] the honour of this world, [the optimist] will defend the indefensible… he will not wash the world, but whitewash the world.” I happen to think the impulse to close your eyes and pretend away the problem is extremely strong in our culture at the moment, and I do wish Chesterton had said more about it in this chapter. When the modernistic idea that we have unlimited and boundless control over our universe fell apart around the 1960s the post-modern idea that the only distinctions that matter are in our minds took its place. But for post-modernism to work we have to all agree that there is no such thing as evil. Thus the world is full of optimists who are lawyers for the devil. Or in Chesterton's terms they're advancing the idea that it’s better to be mentally deranged than sane. It’s the prison of reason again in a slightly brighter package.

Others look at the fallen state of things with acceptance to the point of passivity. In contrast to the optimist, the pessimist pretends he’s not a part of the show, but above it, somehow able to transcend it. He’s the candid friend who is not really candid. He takes “gloomy pleasure in saying unpleasant things. He has a secret desire to hurt, not merely to help.” The pessimist is no less trying to escape the world than the optimist, he’s just doing it in a different way, which makes him even more of a traitor. “The assumption is that a man criticizes this world as if he were house-hunting, as if he were being shown over a new suite of apartments. If a man came to this world from some other world in full possession of his powers he might discuss whether the advantage of midsummer woods made up for the disadvantage of mad dogs, just as a man looking for lodging might balance the presence of a telephone against the absence of a sea view. But no man is in that position. A man belongs to this world before he begins to ask if it is nice to belong to it… he has loyalty long before he has any admiration.

It’s beyond question then that we need to help our world move toward the book fairy tales and away from our dark reality, but what are the changes exactly and who shall make them? The pessimist who deep down wants things to stay bad, or the optimist who doesn’t believe things are bad at all? Well… neither. The only person we should trust is the one who loves with a transcendent, holy love. Only that person is qualified to offer solutions.

And that's because only divine love transforms. I don’t mean to say something imprecise like God's love is the fuel of our universe, or the warp and woof of its weaving, but… it’s pretty much that. Without His love working through us change is flatly impossible. Take a mundane example like loving the city you live in: “Let us suppose we are confronted with a desperate thing—say [Detroit]… it is not enough for a man to disapprove of [Detroit]: in that case he will merely cut this throat or move to [Charleston]. Nor certainly, is it enough for a man to approve of [Detroit]: for then it will remain [Detroit], which would be awful. The only way out of it seems to be for somebody to love [Detroit]: to love it with a transcendental tie and without any earthly reason. If there arose a man who loved [Detroit] then [Detroit] would rise into ivory towers and golden pinnacles… A mother does not give her child a blue bow because he is so ugly without it. A lover does not give a girl a necklace to hide her neck.” We need to be willing to look at the world, as ugly as it can be, and love it like a woman standing by her man, because that’s how existence works. We need to love without reason if we are to see improvement in it.

‘But wait a moment,’ you say, ‘the problem with Detroit is a lack of love? Isn’t the problem that they lack a robust educational system and suffer from dwindling tax revenue base resulting in numerous disadvantaged economic zones? What does love have to do with that? Why, we could put an expert in charge of sorting this all out, follow their recommendations, and be home by lunch.’ No. That doesn't work. It's never worked. And besides, reason apart from love is the thing that builds the prisons and traps us in the first place, remember? We like the lie of the experts because it’s familiar, and because we’ve been told the lie so often it’s comforting to us, but it’s just not true. “If only we had a little bit of urban planning and a gentrification roadmap we could save Detroit” is the spirit of the age and the advice of the experts, and it’s wrong. What matters in saving Detroit is the principle that if we aim for the greater we’ll get the lesser for free, but if we aim at the lesser we’ll get neither. Ask for love and get change for free, ask for change and get stagnation. When we are committed to a higher idea than reforming (that idea being love) we will get the reforming for free. “Some readers will say that this is a mere fantasy. I answer that this is the actual history of mankind. This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great. Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find them knotted round some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honour to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her… Morality did not begin by one man saying to another, ‘I will not hit you if you do not hit me”; There is no trace of such a transaction. There is a trace of both men having said, “we must not hit each other in the holy place.” They gained their morality by guarding their religion. They did not cultivate courage. They fought for the shrine and found they had become courageous. They did not cultivate cleanliness. They purified themselves for the altar, and found that they were clean… and only when they made a holy day for God did they find they had made a holiday for men.

But there is a danger in this loving approach to fixing things too, and it’s the same danger as before. So while we need someone who loves the world to change it we also don’t want to grab the nearest hedonist and put them in charge. We need someone who loves the ideal we’re trying to achieve as well. It’s not enough to realize we are called to love first and change second, we must love God transcendently, and nothing else. To love anything else as the ideal is to love what we see of ourselves in something else, which ultimately amounts to loving ourselves. “Of all the horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within… That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon… cats or crocodiles… but not the god within… All the same, it will be as well if Jones does not worship the sun and moon. If he does, there is a tendency for him to imitate them; to say, that because the sun burns insects alive, he may burn insects alive… nature worship is natural enough while the society is young, or, in other words, Pantheism is all right as long as it is the worship of Pan. But nature has another side which experience and sin are not slow in finding out, and it is no flippancy to say of the god Pan that he soon showed the cloven hoof. The only objection to Natural Religion is that somehow it always becomes unnatural. A man loves Nature in the morning for her innocence and amiability, and at nightfall, if he is loving her still, it is for her darkness and her cruelty.” It is only a love for the transcendent and Holy God that results in a transcendent love—all other objects result in the love being pulled down to Earth and becoming corrupted. Thus, we must have a God outside the system, who created the system, if we are to understand the world.

In accepting this idea Chesterton found his sanity. “I was like one who had advanced into a hostile country to take one high fortress. And when that fort had fallen the whole country surrendered and turned solid behind me… All those blind fancies of boyhood which in the fourth chapter I have tried in vain to trace on the darkness, became suddenly transparent and sane. I was right when I felt that roses were red by some sort of choice: it was the divine choice. I was right when I felt that I would almost rather say that grass was the wrong colour than say it must by necessity have been any other. My sense that happiness hung on a crazy thread of a condition did mean something when all was said: it mean the whole doctrine of the fall.” Chesterton now could make sense of it all. “The optimism of the age had been false and disheartening for this reason, that it had always been trying to prove that we fit into the world. The Christian optimism is based on the fact that we do not fit into the world… the modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy… I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant, and why I could feel homesick at home.

In fact the pagan conception of optimist collapses because any worldview working from a closed system eventually collapses. Optimist, pessimist, blend, whatever, it can’t hold together given all the pressure from the outside that God is continually shovling onto it. And while this chapter is the personal reflection of Chesterton while he was trying to figure out reality, it’s really no different than what he discussed earlier in the second and third chapters. Rationalism must always end in failure because of our inherent sinfulness.

Beyond the eternal implications of heaven or hell, this chapter has some very practical implications for everyday life. Does your marriage need improvement? You won’t get it without being all in for a sacrificial love that holds nothing back. And why not? Because unless you love transcendently you won’t commit. Do you want to see better fruit from evangelism? You need to love your friend (or neighbor) wholly first. Jesus didn’t come after men became loveable, He loved them and then by that made them loveable. Do you find yourself short with your kids and feeling guilty about it; and even though they’re your whole world you find them barely tolerable sometimes? Set your transcendent love on God. The love must be put in the right place, and you must be reminded that to love God is the first of our duties, and only after we get it right can we move onto loving our fellow man.

Read Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton here.

Next: Chapter 6 - The Paradoxes of Christianity

The Heretical Religion of Wokeism

"And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served tha...