There’s a movement in churches happening across the country right now to go woke. We saw this first with churches, including in my own PCA denomination, to try to show our love of the sinner so much that some churches wanted a full-on embrace of the idea of gay Christianity. In St. Louis, a PCA church embraced Revoice, a conference that tried to make sexual sin and Christianity compatible, despite clear Biblical language. That finally got repudiated.
But then we saw it rear up as denominations were beginning to embrace the Nashville Statement, produced interdenominationally by evangelical leaders (disclosure: I was an initial signature on the statement) to provide a clear statement on the Bible and sexual orthodoxy. Scott Sauls, a prominent pastor within the PCA, was one of the opponents of the PCA General Assembly adopting the Nashville Statement as consistent with Christian creeds and doctrines. He wrote eloquently about why he opposed it and it gives you the sense of the problems we are dealing with:
We agree with most of the Nashville Statement’s content. But its matter-of-fact tone (We affirm…We deny…) strikes us as insufficient for pastoral care, evangelism, and mission. We believe it lacks the warmth and empathy required for navigating something as delicate and volatile as broken sexuality. It also lacks humble acknowledgment from the Church — including many of our churches — of how we have at times fumbled and even caused injury to sexually broken people and those who love them.
It is the tone of the truth that mattered. One can imagine a modern pastor transported back in time who would object to the definitive statement that Christ will judge the living and the dead. “Judging is just so judgmental and scripture says we aren’t to judge,” he’d say.
So many Christians have decided they have to muddy the faith and dance around hard truths to be liked by the world.
It does not matter. Look at the Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL. The church has been highly active in the Birmingham community providing healthcare for the poor, the first drive-thru COVID-19 testing center, etc. It has been engaged in the black community, the homeless community, and the poor communities of Birmingham. But the pastor had the audacity to like a tweet by Charlie Kirk — the pastor did not retweet it. He just liked it. Now the Birmingham school system has thrown the church out of its schools and the city government is severing all ties with the church.
The persecution will come. That does not mean we should egg it on, but it does mean we need to be careful when we try to avoid it. Some churches are so focused on empathizing with sinners they’re turning a blind eye to sin.
Empathy is great. It is a necessary human skill. Christ walked the earth and lived, was tempted, and died. He knows a thing or two about what it is like to be us. But he did not let his compassion and empathy draw him into sin. Some churches are walking away from bold calls for repentance because they are scared they won’t be seen as empathetic.
Which gets me to black lives mattering.
The statement is true. The organization that uses the statement as its name is progressively radical. J.D. Greer, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, noted a few weeks ago that black lives matter and Fox News ran a story Greer was embracing the organization. That was not true. Greer emphatically rejected the organization and Fox News misrepresentated that in its newscast. Some churches and pastors are trying to embrace it though and Greer deserves credit for speaking out telling pastors they cannot compatibly Christian and affiliated with the organization. These other pastors, sadly, want to embrace the wokeness. Just consider what Black Lives Matter says about itself.
We make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead.
We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.
We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered.
We practice empathy. We engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.
We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work.
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).
Some of that sounds fine. There is a whole lot that is incompatible with Christianity. Some churches will try to thread the needle and it will end badly. Take also the Movement for Black Lives.
We are Abolitionist:
We believe that prisons, police and all other institutions that inflict violence on Black people must be abolished and replaced by institutions that value and affirm the flourishing of Black lives.
We believe in centering the experiences and leadership of the most marginalized Black people, including but not limited to those who are trans and queer, women and femmes, currently and formerly incarcerated, immigrants, disabled, working class, and poor.
We believe in transformation and a radical realignment of power:
The current systems we live inside of need to be radically transformed, which includes a realignment of global power. We are creating a proactive, movement-based vision instead of a reactionary one.
We build kinship with one another:
We draw from political lessons, grow in our leadership, and expanding our base to build a stronger movement.
We are anti-capitalist:
We believe and understand that Black people will never achieve liberation under the current global racialized capitalist system.
This is not an organization seeking Heaven, but one seeking to make their own secular heaven on earth.
And therein lies the sin of wokeness. People talk of being “woke” and what they mean is to wake up to injustice. But the reality is that wokeness leads away from Jesus and into the world.
Scripture tells us there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. But wokeness demands we not only see each of those categories but that we elevate those perceived as having been oppressed to some level that transcends equality to make up for past sins. It demands that sinners repent not just of their sins, but for the sins of others and for the sins of prior generations. It substitutes your direct salvation for collective salvation. Wokness is not about redress of past wrongs. It is about correcting perceived power imbalances by rebalancing power not toward equality, but towards “equity,” which requires not equality before God and the law, but redistribution by force and subjugation of the less woke to the more woke.
To be sure, churches do have corporate responsibility — collective responsibility. But in true faith, my salvation is not dependent on your salvation. In wokeness, I cannot be truly saved so long as there are other people out there not saved, or to use the language, not woke.
Wokeness is not really about injustice. It is about power.
Churches going down the road of wokeness are going down from heaven to hell. Christianity compels us to love our neighbor, be color blind to race, to take care of the widows and orphans and poor and immigrants and refugees. Christianity also compels us to be bold in our faith, to love the sinner, and to reject the sin. Christians cannot elevate empathy to such a great height that we can only whisper repentance while we scream of injustice. We cannot preach wokeness and the gospel together.
I’m worried a lot of churches are going to try and they’ll split the baby gladly so long as the mob comes for them last.