You foolish Galatians! who has bewitched you . . .
For you are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for all are one in Christ Jesus. (St. Paul, Galatians 3: 1, 26, and 28)
And just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, “What do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!” And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!” And throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice, and came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” (Mark 1: 23 – 27)
Today, writing from Richmond, Virginia, it is a pleasure to present Owen Strachan’s 2021 book, Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement Is Hijacking the Gospel – and the Way to Stop it.
C and W is a book of theology that delivers on the title’s promise in only 210 pages. If identity politics is in your Christian pulpit and making you crazy and you want to get a handle on why, this book is for you. I give it two thumbs up and an extra thumb, yours, that I know you’ll raise, if you consider yourself an orthodox Christian. Thank you, Owen. (And thank you to the many people who backed him, as evident from the “praise” quotes and “acknowledgments.”)
At long last, Dr. Strachan explains what’s been so troubling about developments in the Protestant Mainline Churches (and select enclaves of the Catholic Church) for well over 40 years. I was raised a Presbyterian, became an Episcopalian eventually to join my wife’s church, then after over ten years transferred to the Baptist Church, then more than ten years later rejoined the Episcopal Church just in time for my daughter to get married there.
What the heck, the reason my wife and I have lived in this house for 28 years is that it’s right next to that beautiful Episcopal church.
Organizational charts and hierarchies aside, I’m probably more Evangelical Baptist Catholic than anything else. This will sound bad, but, like my golf courses, I love all my churches high or low the same. Each has wonderful positives and each has “issues,” but all are sincerely trying to represent some version of orthodoxy. After all, Christianity is a belief rather than performance religion. My problem with churches, however, is that they’re all filled with deeply flawed individuals like myself, especially at denominational headquarters. Do churches have a Swamp, too?
(As an aside, from what I can tell, the wokeness bug has not bitten the church I attend now. In fact, that might be why it’s grown at a remarkable rate for an Episcopal church for many years.)
As Dr. Robert George says in the video at top, woke ideology is a severe problem across America and the West in every public and private sector, going by various letters in various forms, such as IP (Identity Politics), T (Theory), CRT (Critical Race Theory), DEI (Diversity Equity and Inclusion), BLM (Black Lives Matter), ESG (Environmental Social and Governance), manifesting itself in LGBTQ+, the transgender issue obviously being the most critical issue we will face in the history of mankind. The Far Left tells us we will die if we don’t fix climate change and pay for every child’s sex change upon request.
But we can do this.
While these woke movements are not by any means all alike, they are related and have spawned and popularized a very long list of “ism’s,” including cultural Marxism, race Marxism, essentialism, ableism, presentism, historicism, and scientism. A comprehensive list would be too long for any Word program to handle.
I began studying the “Marxism has merged with postmodernism” or “ism-ism” issue well before the Summer of 2020. Over the last five years, I’ve reviewed carefully well over two dozen books and many more essays directly on point. This research includes reading from the other side, those important, “original” CRT works that tell us how to be antiracist.
- If you want a very short, clear book (187 pages) on how we got here, read Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activities Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution (2022) by Carl Truman.
- If you want an authoritative, longer book (240 pages) on what ails the West and America, read America Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time (2020) by Joshua Mitchell.
- If you want a technical book (288 pages) that explains the merger of Marxism into postmodernism creating the woke and related movements, that dissects each movement from a purely secular, logical, philosophical, and pragmatic perspective, and that renders each movement pure rubbish, read Race Marxism (2022) by James Lindsay.
But if you want a book to explain why wokeness is the opposite of Christianity and why no identity categories (race, sex, class, etc.) have any place when standing before God, Dr. Strachan’s Christianity and Wokeness does the job with compassion and clarity. It explains clearly why orthodoxy demands Christians reject IP (again, Identity Politics).
Not that there aren’t plenty of racists in America; most certainly there are. Not that all of our institutions and laws are perfect. These are entirely different issues.
My own take, however, after similar study of American “systemic racism” (and related claims) is it’s utterly bogus, with the opposite being true – America is laced with equal and fair opportunity.
In other words, racism in America is at very low levels among ordinary everyday people and within key American institutions relative to any other country or historical times. In fact, perhaps the only racism that remains in a major, truly systemic or cultural way is against whites and Asians. Identity politics has become its own secular religion and has currency only because it offers political and monetary value, while allowing prophets and followers to feel righteous.
In fact, what I’ve noticed since entering the work force in the early 1980’s is that America has strived to reverse discriminate, and I doubt impartiality will get a whole lot better in the future. In fact, it began reversing itself about ten years ago.
Human nature simply cannot accommodate perfection. Today, diminishing returns and unintended consequences are setting in. How we can improve on what racism remains in America is simply a matter of improving on personal virtue at the grassroots level.
In any case, welcome to today and Dr. Strachan’s marvelous book. At least those who care have a ready resource to begin getting their heads and religion squared away with the sacred.
The Author and His Thesis
I did not know anything about Dr. Strachan before reading C and W. He is Provost (presumably that means “faculty boss”) and Research Professor of Theology at Grace Bible Theological Seminary in Conway, Arkansas and a senior fellow with the Family Research Council.
I can tell you this from just reading his words, however: He is a kind man and probably perfect to write on the subject. He is well-educated, young, a family man, and a dedicated evangelical. What the Bible says means everything to him. His presentation is consistently respectful of all humanity and worthy of the faith to which he’s dedicating his life.
CRT is basically neo-Marxism on postmodernist steroids – a deeply uncongenial point of view cynically weaponized for the deconstruction and dismantling of social structures . . . It is in fact a dangerous worldview that is incompatible with Christianity at the most fundamental level. (pages xix and xxi)
My own thinking is at least Owen is from Maine and went to Bowdoin College located in Maine. We history buffs from the South know that Maine and Bowdoin were in this life the home of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the great Union soldier who helped save the second day at Gettysburg (July 2, 1863) from Little Round Top near the Devil’s Den, after running completely out of ammo, with his 20th Maine’s bayonet charge and who just under two years later accepted the surrender of the immortal Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, Virginia, as supervised by the Rebels’ great soldier, John B. Gordon, who was an officer in Lee’s army that had attacked Chamberlain on Little Round Top in the first place. Chamberlain and Gordon were legendary soldiers and officers who only via Providence could made it through that murderous war all the way to the finish.
That Civil War and Surrender at Appomattox were truly one of the magnificent moments in American and even world history, regardless of one’s affiliation, sentiments, or race; besides, aren’t Yankees practically perfect in every way, especially those from Maine?
Yes, even today Virginians are reluctant to mess with Mainers when they focus on running down a moral (power, or monetary) issue.
Fortunately for Virginians, however, Dr. Strachan relies throughout C and W almost solely on the Gospel, with added emphasis from St. Paul’s commentary, consistently and beautifully applied.
His argument, in sum? Wokeness violates the key Christian principle of imago Dei, first appearing in Genesis 1:27 and then expanded upon throughout in the rest of the Bible. Obviously, this essential aspect of human nature makes race irrelevant in God’s eyes. Most famously, perhaps, Paul makes this point in the quote from Galatians at top. Clearly, Christianity cannot be in agreement with any ideology making race, sex, class, or ethnic identity absolutely primary or in seeing any person other than as a unique child of God.
Still, IP, CRT, and Race Marxism are complicated subjects deserving one’s full attention; if it were that simple to dismiss racist, Marxist postmodernism, it would be stillborn . . . remaining dead after all these years, since bursting forth about 30 yers ago.
C and W presents a fourteen-point critique of wokeness, seven in Chapter 3 concerning theology and seven in Chapter 4 concerning culture and society. While his argument is primarily biblical, Owen does offer observations from such noted secular authors as African-American John McWhorter (Woke Racism, 2021) and from an array of established social science. (Of course, African-Americans as a category are just as diverse as white Americans, and a growing number are dead set against the woke movement.)
To give you a feel for the richness of what to expect from Dr. Strachan, I offer next a summary of his arguments presented in Chapter 3, “Why is Wokeness an Ungodly System? Part One: Theological Issues,” presented in the first half of the book.
The Primary Argument
To introduce the chapter, Owen states clearly, “Christianity and wokeness are not compatible. Christianity is the truth of God found in the Word of God. Wokeness, as we are at pains to say, is a different religion all together.” (page 56) His seven points in Chapter 3 are listed here. Each is fully developed, and his development is necessary to understand the whole field of battle:
- First, wokeness tweaks the doctrine of humanity, losing sight of imago Dei as our constituent identity.
- Second, wokeness unhelpfully groups people according to “whiteness,” a deeply problematic concept.
- Third, wokeness actually foments the very sin it presumes to critique: “racism.”
- Fourth, wokeness treats people as “oppressors” and “oppressed” due to skin color and power dynamics.
- Fifth, wokeness traps us in a cycle of anger and victimhood.
- Sixth, wokeness gives approval to evil – both in the public square and in rejecting God’s design for the sexes.
- Seventh, wokeness overturns the Gospel’s “no condemnation in Christ” promise.
I leave the rest to you, and simply note that Owen does examine what the Bible teaches about identity and ethnicity, the hard questions of American history, and potential solutions to the country’s cultural war centered today on racism. Readers who are particularly sensitive to Paul’s views toward marriage and sexuality might need to harden their safe-space shells, but there’s nothing in C and W that wasn’t vanilla “Protestantism or Catholicism” right up though the end of the 20th Century – and for good reason based on the prior 2-3,000 years of applied human and then Christian experience.
My only criticism of C and W involves two points that Dr. Strachan could do nothing about, absent a longer book or without being older. First, he doesn’t offer quite the volume of outrageous quotations from fairly recent CRT authors, such as Crenshaw, DiAngelo, Appelbaum, Sullivan, Kendi, Coates, and Hannah-Jones, that we find in more extensive secular exposes, like Race Marxism.
Second, he doesn’t recognize as summarily as he should the extensive progress America has made on racism since the end of World War II. America has absolutely nothing to apologize for to the world. Perhaps only those born into the era of segregation in the 1950’s (we dreaded Boomers) can see what remarkable progress the United States has made. Maybe one has to have lived then to understand how falsely the decades right after World War II are commonly characterized today by those who weren’t alive then. Though no rose garden, those decades produced a continuous thaw of segregation and prejudice, and a corresponding increase of equal treatment. No one was surprised with Civil Rights in the 1960’s, and most even in the South believed it was long overdue.
Since 1776 American progress on race has been truly a miracle, especially during the 20th Century.
Our progress is attributable to many factors, including the grace of God, and all races doing their part as best they could within the constraints of their time. Americans should celebrate success today that was far more earned by minorities than given by whites, rather than make up so much nonsense.
From first memory, I was taught in the late 1950’s to address every human being as equal in the eyes of God, focus on the individual’s character and merit rather than “identity” characteristics, and to leave the idea of race aside, except in any positive, loving, or humorous sense, particularly when laughing at oneself and one’s own race. And of course this goes for sex identity, as well.
In my educational experience, we didn’t skirt the hard and deeply sad facts of history like slavery, discrimination, torture, murder, and war in any way. Instead, we learned the detail of our mistakes and were led to understand the answers beyond education are understanding, wisdom, mercy, forgiveness, and the opportunity for redemption. Again, see the Surrender at Appomattox mentioned above as just one example. That was no accident inside a Christian society, however flawed and in development.
We are all Americans first and foremost, and in this life we live freely together, with God’s help.
IMHO, this is what’s behind Mr. Freeman’s famous video clip shown below about Black History Month. You know, he’s 100% right, and Mike Wallace knew it. Many thoughtful African-Americans agree with Mr. Freeman today. In fact, I would be pushing for a my own month if it wasn’t for Mr. Freeman.
Is Preaching Wokeness Preaching Evil?
Dr. Strachan never makes the claim that wokeness is evil. He takes evil very seriously and is precise with his words. Everyone recognizes that most who consider themselves “woke” want the best for groups who have disadvantages, and they are often working hard to help them in ways they think will make a difference. Such behavior is extremely admirable and a terrific example for all, when it’s productive.
But I want to raise the situational possibility that once wokeness moves beyond theory into action following its own words and into the institutions of society, it can become terribly evil. A very serious problem leading to much violence in the long run is that too many considering themselves woke have moved beyond advocating for contained, personal issues to eliminating free speech in the public square with the intent to destroy the foundations of Western Civilization. That means destroying religion, family, and nation in that logical order. See Strange New World pages 117 – 123 mentioned above or this PC video.
Many woke “social justice warriors” are quite explicit about this.
Near the end of C and W, Owen does say clearly that racism is evil. Racism is a more specific and always bad core strand of woke ideology. Dr. Strachan makes this brave claim late in the book after walking the reader through a short history of slavery, Social Darwinism, Jim Crow, Naziism, the master race concept, the Holocaust, and eugenics.
In a surprisingly sensitive yet most targeted way, Owen states that people of every race have fallen prey to the “evil sin of partiality along ‘racial’ or ethnic lines . . . when Christians fell prey to ‘racism,’ they were only thinking in a worldly way, not a scriptural way . . . Western culture, but also every culture, may easily be influenced by partiality . . . ‘racism’ is a Satanic ideology, not a cultural one . . . ‘Racism’ is not Christian; it is demonic.” (page 187) In many places Dr. Strachan presents beautiful prose describing what is really going on in society today and how Christians can best see our times.
On the same page 187, Owen says, “A society that opposes racism is achievable; a society that ends all racism is a utopian fiction. Racism is one form of human partiality, a sinful condition of a fallen heart.” Christians can own the problems they face and fix the wokeness disease together. Christianity demands a positive attitude and benefit of the doubt toward every human being.
But you get the point about evil. Dr. Strachan hits home. Most ordinary people know real evil from personal experience. It’s no stranger to anyone.
Many woke leaders across America engaging in “whiteness studies” in universities and implementing Identity Politics across our public and private sectors believe that white racial awareness is always negative and that there is no such thing as positive white identity. Clearly, the imposition of a negative racial identity on any group of people is systemic racism. (Race Marxism, page 84) Today, many whites and blacks are committing the same sin toward whites that resulted in the lynching of blacks years ago. As little children used to say when reminded by adults, “two wrongs do not make a right.”
Owen’s logic is this: (1) Racism isn’t Christian: It’s un-Godly, dangerous, and evil. (2) Orthodox wokeness can be racist. (3) Therefore, preaching or practicing wokeness can be and often is evil. In Geometry class we called this logic the transitive property of equality. In a sense, the logos renders a guilty verdict toward human doctrine ironically intended to remove discrimination and inequality (Owen’s point #3 of 7 listed above.)
Of course, to Christians, reason and truth are real. Christ not only speaks the truth, he is the truth.
If preaching wokeness, you are preaching a different religion than Christianity. If you are preaching or doing some form of acronymed ideology, there’s even a chance you are endorsing evil itself, the essence of the dark lord.
Such a guilty verdict concerns me deeply because books like Praxis Circle’s October Book of the Month, The War Against the West, have warned that the Church of England and the Episcopal Church (“Woke Episcopalianism,” pages 188 – 191) and certain Catholic priests (“Catholicism,” pages 191 – 192) have fully adopted or succumbed to wokeness.
One can draw a line between where I live in the west-end of Richmond inside the beltway that would measure increasing wokeness in the pulpit as one moves east approaching the heart of downtown. As expected, there is little wokeness in Virginia’s rural pulpits outside a few Mainline churches. This is probably true across America.
Since forever, elites have congregated in metro areas, seeing them as progressive and rural areas as regressive. But no area today has a monopoly on political opinion and no profession has a monopoly on knowledge training or information – even trained seminarians on orthodoxy. As increasingly recognized, “progressive” solutions have failed us. Most of the Left’s ideas are spent, if not dead based on the evidence.
Sadly, what we are seeing today in many Mainlines is yet another round of congregations splintering and members bailing out of woke churches in favor of more orthodox and evangelical churches. The Episcopal Church itself has declined from 3.6 million in the 1960’s to 1.5 million today, while total American population has increased approximately 86% over the last 60 years (1962 – 2022). The Church now expects annual declines. Some pastors even revel in the destruction, seeing it as a badge of honor.
This makes me ill. I hate to see this happen; it would be terrible to see any decline at my own church after many have worked so hard over its 130 year history, particularly in the last 40 years. Yet churches have no one to blame but their pastors and the congregants who follow or lead them.
What I see in America and across the world is this: Religion isn’t losing steam, it’s blossoming. But only in the Christian space where evangelical orthodoxy and spiritual discipline are present, as PC Contributor Rodney Stark, a leading national sociologist with a specialty in religion, suggests.
Sound like us misbehaving today?
One wonders how so many smart and caring Mainline and Catholic pastors, priests, elders, deacons, and vestry persons could be so blind. When does a denomination become just a cult? When does “the times they are a changin” become self-satisfied mirror gazing? Too many aren’t in touch with truth and reality or don’t care.
It’s one thing to have an open heart and empty head, but what about evil that intentionally indicts newborn white children (especially males), like your adult children and grandkids?
The question is: When will such cultural suicide stop? Church leaders hide behind the veil of authority and compassion just as they did on indulgences, etc. prior to Martin Luther’s unintended revolution. As often said, ultimately, the world can’t scotch stupidity, pride, self-righteousness, envy, greed, or lust.
A week ago in Raleigh, North Carolina I attended a large, enthusiastic, and fun prayer group meeting at a relatively new Anglican Church downtown. It’s the only brand new church to be built there in recent decades, and it is growing. We read much of Mark 1 verses 14 to 28, verses 23 – 27 quoted here at top.
Earlier in that first chapter Jesus had been baptized by John, yes, the Baptist, had faced Satan for forty days in the wilderness, had begun his preaching in Galilee, and had recruited his first four disciples, Simon, Andrew, James, and John. And right when Jesus had begun establishing his authority in the synagogue by the seashore, he encountered his first demon, a man possessed.
Today the demon might say, “What’s up, Jesus? We know who you are!”
Of course, the Raleigh prayer group recognized that most today view “demons talk” as myth or metaphor. After all, we live in a therapeutic, expressive, individualistic, well-educated, and thoroughly modern society. Evil and demons are so regressive, so yesterday.
On the other hand, it was fascinating how many meeting at the Anglican Church, some Mainline congregants and some former, did believe in demon possession and could cite various examples from their own experiences and travels around the world. The historical record up until now is chocked full of demon testimonies.
Christians believe the Bible is true. Since ancient times their understanding of myth and metaphor has only enhanced this belief. Ancient people understood the difference between fantasy and reality as well as we do. The unseen world is real and can be as problematic as this one.
The Bible has withstood critical examination little different from that of PC Contributor Bart Ehrman for centuries. “Historical Jesus”-like criticism is ancient but began in full force right after the Reformation. And yet, the Bible remains our best source for the truth of life, reflecting reality. Truth doesn’t change. It absorbs everything it touches.
Furthermore, many well-educated people outside the West believe that we “elite” Americans and Europeans are flat wrong about Satan, the liar, the deceiver, the accuser. And, yes, he has plenty of helpers.
Well, Dr. Charles Mathewes is our resident Praxis Circle scholar on evil in the world, and a choice video appears above on just that subject. Most certainly, things are getting testy in the American political world with Cancel Culture and false ideological and historical narratives gaining play. Tuesday’s election proves America is no closer to any resolution.
Let’s face it: While demons will be demons, as Dr. Mathewes suggests, there’s no comfort in his observation that evil seems to be all about human agency, free will, and desire. Does that sound familiar . . . again, like all of us? Dr. Strachan early in his talk in the video at top quotes a woke woman who says all whites are evil; indeed, she says we are demons.
(More specifically, see for starters Dr. Strachan’s quotation from Paul followed by quotations of BLM leader Ashleigh Shackelford early in the “Christianity & Wokeness” video 0:00 to 1:40. It is representative of woke racism. If you want to be better informed about what is going on in churches nationally, skip your next woke church service and watch the whole 1:03:12 video.)
In the end here as in past posts, I suggest that you, the reader, make your own decision on wokeness.
Fear the Lord; order your Christianity and Wokeness.
But don’t wait until it’s too late. “The kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mark: 1:14)
As I’m sure Dr. Strachan would agree: Do not trifle with the Day of the Lord. Each human life experiences its own end time or Day of the Lord, anticipating Revelation. Every Day can bring the thief in the night. We have been warned:
For it is written: “He commands unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
I add this last video about the narrative destruction at President James Madison’s Montpelier near Orange, Virginia as a related bonus. The video describes how woke ideology has subverted historical narrative, even as the 1619 Project has been thoroughly discredited. Governor Youngkin must fix this problem. To be a politician worthy of national attention, Governor Youngkin must get involved not only in protecting the parental right to control the education of one’s child, a right prior to that of any state or the federal government, but also in presenting an accurate and balanced educational narrative in our classrooms and at our state’s incomparable historical sites. This would include protecting memorials themselves and the names of public buildings and institutions. Education involves recognizing all of history, not protecting us from discomfort derived from free speech, truth, power manipulation, or lack of knowledge. We owe it to the world to preserve America’s priceless historical truth, where the revolutionary story of goodness and justice somehow miraculously surfaced. We know our faults past and present. The United States is one national example of hope to all humankind.