Woke Culture and Our Fallen Nature

For the past years, the ‘woke’ culture has been popular around the world. It’s a movement that can be summed up into being socially aware of the issues around us: may it be racial injustice, anti-fascism, gender equality, or feminism.

But as a Christian, what would be our take on this? Does becoming the ‘salt and light’ of this world equates to becoming more socially aware? In this article, I will tackle the origin of woke culture and why Christians must not consider it as the right path in dealing with the problems in our society.

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

The Woke culture started during Mid 19th Century and was believed to have rooted from the Western people’s attempt to address the social issues particularly racism. It eventually evolved and addressed the other social issues such as gender equality and feminism during the early 20th Century. Its driving force has been political and indirectly excludes the faith differences to cater to the needs of everybody. The intention was ‘good’, but the result has created more division than unity.

Karl Marx’s Theory was one of the driving forces of this movement especially when it comes to addressing the socio-economic problems we are facing. Over the years, his ideology promised a solution to our problems concerning capitalism, corruption, inequality, or even poverty. However, some people applied his theories wrongly.

With the rise of social media (plus fueled with our anger), the urge of being heard comes with it. Many people used this platform to influence other people to be more aware of the social issues at hand. As a result, this ideology has infiltrated the churches around the western world since everybody was forced to take a stand. Some congregation grew angry towards their leaders for keeping silent.

Not so long ago, I saw how this issue greatly affected Christians. I have seen one conference wherein Church Leaders eventually argued because of their differences when it comes to addressing social injustice. Some want to be more vocal about it thinking that it is what being ‘salt and light’ means. On the other hand, some Church Leaders were firm to say that the problem is much bigger than that and we must focus on the core of the problem. This has created a division inside the church: those who want to be concerned with the social issues and those who said that the Gospel remains the solution.

BEING WOKE DURING A PANDEMIC

As the world face this pandemic, more people became vocal with their political criticisms. In my own country – the Philippines – Millennials and Centennials have given their opinions through their social media. Topics regarding our President and the Department of Health have been trending a lot on Twitter. People are taking sides and those who remained neutral were criticized as apathetic, selfish, and blind. I have seen my Facebook Friends becoming more and more vocal regarding social and political issues. They are certain that the only way for our society to change is when we start to use our voice to criticize the Government or our society. But as a body of Christ, is it really necessary for us to be more socially aware rather than be more concerned with the Gospel?

WAS JESUS A PROTESTER?

Days ago, I saw a Filipino Christian Celebrity who shared on her Facebook page an article regarding Jesus’ attitude at the Temple when He saw that people turned it into a market place.

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.”

– Matthew 21:12

The article argued that it was a sign of protest against those who were abusive thus justifying our anger and the need to raise our concerns on the streets to address any social or political issue. The problem with that interpretation is that it is not Biblical. Taking it by the context, Christ was angry because it was the temple of God they are abusing. On a more theological perspective, according to some Bible Scholars, the portion of the temple that was occupied for selling was the portion wherein Gentiles can pray to God since they are not allowed to be on the same area where the Jews pray, and we know that Christ also came for the Gentiles. With those things being said, justifying this event in Christ’s life for any propaganda is pointless.

IF THE LEADER IS IMMORAL, IS HE STILL WORTHY OF OUR RESPECT?

One issue among Filipino Christians that I’ve observed is that there are a lot of people who grew more concerned about our President’s conduct thus putting his credibility into question and thus disagreeing with the commands of the current administration. I was even asked if into which extent are we to submit to governing authorities, and my take has always been: if the command does not go against my faith and does not restrict my freedom to worship God then we follow the command in Romans:

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. “

 Romans 13:1

The command did not even come with a condition. It even stated the sovereignty of God over the governing authorities that were established. The thing that I have observed as well is that the Christians in my country have grown more concerned regarding the moral standards of our leaders without even criticizing their immoral actions. That reminds us of the constant rebuke of Jesus towards the Pharisees whom He considered to be outwardly religious but were spiritually dead.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.”

– Matthew 23:25-26

No one among us is perfect and our good deeds do not make us more morally upright than the rest of the people in this world if we consider the standards laid by God. All of our good deeds are filthy rags in His eyes (Isaiah 64:6), thus nullifying the conditions we want to have regarding His commands. The morality of a leader is not the basis for our obedience to God. As long as he does not restrict our faith (which is worth dying for in times of tribulation and persecution), then we stick to God’s commands regardless of what we feel.

WHY BEING WOKE IS NOT THE ANSWER

The problem with woke culture is not its growing awareness of the problems in our society. Even nature groans for redemption as stated in Romans 8. The problem is that: As they groan for redemption, instead of running towards God for the answers, they relied on their ways and depended on what they can do to change themselves and our society. It’s like blind people guiding another blind, thinking that they already saw the light. What difference does it have with the religions that tell us our good works can save us?

The Bible tells us that the problem has always been the sin that affected the human race. A fallen man will seek redemption and will try to find the answers on his own just like how Adam and Eve covered themselves right away when they knew they were naked, but the heart remained a heart of stone. The Law given by God was there to show us our inability to change ourselves. Only Christ was able to perfectly fulfill it for us to realize that the answers to our problems are not within our own doing but what God can do.

I saw a picture online of an African American woman from 50s or 60s raising a sign urging us to end racism and the one who posted captioned it with something like: “I can’t believe we are still taking this issue on the streets.” The truth is, there is no end for the social injustice that we have apart from seeing that the problem is not what our society is but who we are. To change a single human being is to change his whole being – that includes his principles or his mindset or even the way he was raised. That is tantamount to saying that we must be born again (change our whole being) to fulfill that change – which will point us to what Christ said to Nicodemus in John 3.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

– John 3:3

To change a society is to change the people in that society. And let’s face the reality that we cannot change every single person in this world. Even changing our laws to fix society won’t stop people from doing wrong things. In the lens of Christianity, that is our fallen nature shouting at us that we can never fully change through our means. Apart from God, it is impossible to permanently change a single human being. How much more in mending a fallen world and its fallen society?

THE ‘WOKES’ AND THEIR HETERONOMOUS AGENDA

If we take this on a philosophical/sociological lens, the problem with the woke culture is its tendencies to be heteronomous. They display themselves to be a group of people yearning for equality yet they get angry when they meet people who oppose their views. They might say that they desire to have an autonomous society – a society that is self-governing and not dictated by anybody regarding on what they want to do, but they are the ones who insult people with a different view and mock their beliefs just because they have a different take on the issue.

For example, in our country, those who admit they are a part of this ‘woke’ culture, would say that those who are supporting the current administration are ‘blind’ from the truth when in reality, those who support the government are just simply having a different view of the issue, but that does not mean they are wrong. They share their insights and expect people to agree with them and worse, impose their views on people and treat their views to be the absolute truth.

FROM THE INSIDE OUT

It is an aimless chase to find answers in a fallen world. These issues we are facing right now will still be the same issue that the next generations will deal with. Maybe you will say that being more socially aware has abolished slavery from the face of the world. Not absolutely; because humans have fallen into different kinds of ‘slavery’ and that is the bigger problem that we must address.

As Christians, it is more necessary to approach social issues in the lens of our spiritual issues. Dancing with the skeptics in the mud of social awareness is not the answer. Being ‘woke’ is not becoming salt and light. Pointing them to Christ is.

When Queen Esther and the other Jews were faced with a problem, they neither took their concerns to the streets nor tried to kill the King. They fasted and prayed that the King will have mercy on them. If God is sovereign, why would we try to find solutions on our own rather than rely on Him? Why will you consider a protest to have more sense than sharing the Gospel? After being changed spiritually, do you still find solving social problems to be the solution when you know there is a bigger problem than that?

When the world tells us to stand up and rely on what we can do, remember that we must trust God and not to rely on our understanding (Proverbs 5:5-6). When we want to be heard and become a part of those who are on the good side of history, know that being on God’s side for eternity is more important than being known as someone who stood up for the social injustices.

Only God can change this fallen world, and though we might see it to its decay, may we learn not to fix our eyes on the raging storm and waves that we battle in our society. Social injustice will always be the tip of the iceberg. May we learn not to fix our eyes on it. May we learn to fix our eyes on Christ who is the Author and Perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Soli Deo Gloria

(Credits to Kara Muse for the Featured Image (Taken from Pexels)

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