Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement is Hijacking the Gospel and the Way to Stop it
By Owen Strachan
In the year 2021, it’s likely you’ve encountered the terms, “woke” or “wokeness,” or perhaps you’ve heard the phrases, “silence is violence,” “white people should be less white,” and “no justice, no peace.”
But what does this all mean and how should a follower of Christ respond?
Enter, Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement is Hijacking the Gospel and the Way to Stop it by theologian Owen Strachan.
An unfortunate truth is that many evangelicals have been led astray by wokeness and have joined the crusade of social justice. Whether it was an intentional decision or occurred subconsciously, it is easy to understand the enticement of this ideology – it employs biblical vocabulary and concepts and packages them under the appealing wrapping of “compassion.” Yet, through its methods wokeness preaches a gospel contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The fruit it produces does not come from the Vine (John 15:4) but rather, is detached and far removed. Strachan understands the necessity of the American Church to “wake up” and respond to cultural wokeness before it becomes a culprit in cultivating and growing bad fruit.
There is much sustenance to consume throughout this book, but first, allow me to generically define what wokeness is.
Broadly speaking, this could refer to advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, radical feminism (“f*** the patriarchy!”), reproductive freedom (“my body, my choice!”), and racial justice (i.e. Black Lives Matter), amongst other movements and topics of cultural or societal concern.
While wokeness is distinct from intersectionality and critical race theory (CRT), wokeness can be used as a blanket term that covers the somewhat interchangeable themes, ideas and frameworks seen throughout these mindsets, belief systems, principles, and coalitions. For example, a commonality found within these three ideologies is rooted in cultural Marxism and the “oppressor versus oppressed” mentality. These ideologies work under the guideline of opposing the white, heteronormative, evangelical, supremacist order that is viewed as creating a disadvantage and unequal distribution of power amongst underprivileged minority groups such as women, people of color, gender non-conforming individuals and [culturally-deemed] marginalized people groups.
The foreword, written by John MacArthur, along with the book’s introduction describes wokeness as a lens in which one views the world while sounding the alarm to its anti-gospel messaging of undermining the Holy Spirit’s ability to unify and restore the most shattered souls of humanity. These beginning pages set the table for the multi-course meal that lies in the chapters ahead.
These chapters will feed you with the following substance:
- Chapter 1: This chapter reveals how wokeness entered American culture while linking wokeness directly to CRT, the topic of systemic racism, intersectionality, cultural Marxism, white privilege and “whiteness,” and the social justice movement. The author suggests that the enemy of wokeness is color-blindness and the way to defeat “whiteness” (according to wokeness) is by doing the relentless work of “anti-racism.” Anti-racism, accredited to Ibram X. Kendi, is the commitment to a personal and social revolution of reimagining and restructuring America into a new social order that is founded on equity. The problem with this framework, however, is one is never free of racism or free from being viewed as a racist. There is no grace, forgiveness, or end goal for the one who pursues anti-racism because the act of being “white” or simply having white skin is thought to be something that can never be removed or redeemed but instead should be continually repented of.
- Chapter 2: This chapter exposes how wokeness is entering the Church. Since a significant percentage of evangelicals racially identify as “white,” it is easy for “whites” to feel guilty (i.e. “white guilt”) for their “privilege” or for the past slavery of blacks. Naturally, this “white guilt” leads the woke to repent of “white supremacy” and/or become an “anti-racist” even if the individual has never consciously harbored racist thoughts or actions (i.e. color-blindness is the active enemy and it is assumed everyone possesses a bias). Chapter 2 also breaks down five influential woke Christian books that have been highlighted or recommended by evangelical voices or media outlets as well as the four different responses of evangelicals to wokeness – non-woke, confused or undecided, engaged yet cautious (leaning woke), and the committed pro-woke. Additionally, this chapter calls for Christians to hold their church members and leaders accountable to biblical teaching and authority rather than complying to cultural norms.
- Chapter 3: This chapter dives into the specifics as to why wokeness is an ungodly system pertaining specifically to theological issues. This involves wokeness losing sight of the doctrine of humanity (i.e. Imago Dei; all humans made in God’s image), the problematic grouping/defining/stereotyping/messaging of “whiteness” while also addressing how “whiteness” as a race should not be considered a monolithic concept, the manner in which wokeness encourages the sin of racism even though wokeness claims to be against racism, the division wokeness creates by placing people into the categories of oppressor or oppressed based solely on one’s skin color and power dynamics (instead of one’s moral character), why wokeness perpetuates an endless cycle of anger, grievances and victimhood, how wokeness rejects God’s design for the sexes, and how wokeness overturns the gospel’s “no condemnation in Christ” promise by unapologetically condemning individuals for their immutable characteristics.This chapter provides scriptural reference and biblical context throughout to prove that wokeness is in fact against God’s gospel.
- Chapter 4: This chapter picks up where Chapter 4 left off by addressing the ways wokeness is an ungodly system for tackling cultural issues. Strachan shows how wokeness corrupts true justice by making it distributive and not retributive (for more on this, see my review of the book, Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice), how wokeness complicates interracial adoption, friendship, and marriage by dividing loved ones against one another, how wokeness destabilizes absolute truth to elevate individual narrative-driven perspectives (i.e. “my truth” or “lived experience”), how wokeness considers all societal disparities as injustices, how wokeness omits many nuances and counter-truths by singularly seeing the world through the lens of the mainstream or dominant narrative, and how wokeness is tied to utopian judicial paganism through its sexual ethics, anthropology, ritualism, postmodern Darwinism, and mystic selfism.
- Chapter 5: This chapter was perhaps the most beneficial to me as it covers an in-depth overview of what the Bible says about identity and ethnicity. Some key ideas in this chapter include the shared identity in Christ uniting the Church together despite physical, ethnic, or geographical differences as well as the idea of “whiteness” or “race” being a social construct. Spoiler: “race” is not a biblically defined reality but rather is used to describe humanity as a whole; one human race made in the image of God. Instead, the Bible refers to ethnicity (i.e. tribes of every nation and tongue).
- Chapter 6: This chapter picks up where Chapter 5 left off and continues the discussion on identity and ethnicity but focuses primarily on what is said in the New Testament. Takeaway truths found in this chapter include all people on Earth being alienated by sin (Ephesians 2:11-12), people being united in Christ and therefore eliminating the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:13-18), the universal Church as a multiethnic household of God (Ephesians 2:19-22), the Church as one family made up of unique and diverse members that are united in Christ, and the promise that all nations will together praise the one and only King in eternity.
- Chapter 7: This final chapter explores some challenging questions relating to American history and other controversial cultural topics. This includes slavery, specifically, does the Bible endorse American race-based slavery and were all Christian Churches previously pro-slavery? This chapter also challenges Christians in their response to the social justice movement and American patriotism as well as how to pursue unity and diversity within the Church without compromising Christian orthodoxy, along with other thought-provoking hot-button subjects.
While Christianity and Wokeness directly diagnoses wokeness as a cancer that is rapidly spreading throughout the American Church, it is important to note that Strachan also recognizes what wokeness is not.
Wokeness is not:
- Wanting societal harmony with those who are different than you
- Desiring peace in contentious settings where a history of ethnic tension may still exist
- Acknowledging America’s failures and imperfect past
- Feeling troubled or embarrassed by Christians’ complicity with racism in America’s past
- Adopting children with different skin colors or from different ethnicities or countries of origin; similarly, having an interracial marriage
- Grieving the needless and unfortunate deaths of human beings made in the image of God and who bear God-given dignity and purpose regardless of circumstance (ex. George Floyd)
- Doing everything you can to build bonds with those who are different than you
- Enjoying global and ethnic cultures
- Knowing Jesus Christ was a Middle Eastern Jew and not a white American
- Praying for greater diversity within your local Church or community through the saving of fellow sinners
- Desiring greater justice within a world that is deeply broken and full of hostility, pain, and injustice
- Recognizing yourself to have the sinful potential of consciously or subconsciously being partial or biased to one’s own skin color, ethnicity, country of origin or other background
- Celebrating the Gospel fellowship of believers around the world
After reading Christianity and Wokeness, it is crystal clear that wokeness has evolved into its own religion and that religion is of the world rather than founded on God’s Word.
In my opinion, this is a book every follower of Christ can benefit from in knowledge, understanding and encouragement. Moreover, I felt Strachan was thorough, non-judgmental, and deeply theological in his defense of traditional, biblical Christianity. As well, he was not afraid to call out faux doctrine or potent principles that are polarizing to the character of God, the hope of the gospel and the stability of truth found in God’s Word.
It’s also important to note that Strachan extends grace and love towards Christians who have accepted wokeness. He believes it is most likely that Christians who repent of “whiteness,” pursue the work of anti-racism, and seek social justice do so with good intentions and a well-meaning heart. The message here is to treat these individuals with love and respect, without judgment, while continuing to shine a light on biblical Truth by sharing the gospel at all costs. God does not favor one people group above another and does not support partiality – it contradicts the very nature of God (in contrast to the oppressor versus oppressed mentality seen throughout wokeness; Exodus 23:3, Leviticus 19:15, James 2:1-9).
There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter, recommended reading sources in the back of the book as well as a glossary of commonly used terms. Furthermore, there is a multitude of resources cited throughout this book that I highly recommend the reader review for personal research.
If Christianity and Wokeness sounds of interest to you, be sure to check out my reviews of the following books:
*I personally purchased this book. Any opinions, considerations or endorsements are my own.
**I come to this position after encountering individuals who have been repeatedly filling their cups with “woke juice.” Individuals I know who have embraced wokeness are persistently bitter, angry, judgmental, unwelcoming and unaccepting of those who do not agree with them.