Waking up to Wokeness

People around the globe are talking about ‘wokeness’. There is much discussion surrounding whether people are ‘woke’ or not. For those who need clarification, to be ‘woke’ is ‘to be alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice’ (Oxford English Dictionary). In many ways it’s an awakening and a movement that seems to be penetrating many corners of our public life.

Defining precisely what ‘being woke’ or ‘wokeness’ means is complex. Lacking a founder figure, a manifesto or a governing body, and varying greatly from country to country, wokeness is fluid and can mean different things to different people. Equally, there are shades of wokeness; some people are merely ‘woke-tinged’ while others are so deeply woke that it penetrates every aspect of life.

So that said, let me make some observations about wokeness.

First, there are significant positive aspects of the woke movement. ‘Stay Woke’ has been a watchword for African-Americans encouraging others to stay awake to the deceptions and dangers of this world. Being alert or awake to threat could make the difference between life or death in the struggle for racial justice. At the heart of wokeness lies a genuine concern about things that I’m deeply committed to as a follower of Jesus: namely justice and dignity for all human beings. Jesus, the visible God on earth, ushered in his kingdom principles of justice for all people which were diametrically opposed to the unjust rulers of the day.

Jesus began his ministry with a direct commitment to justice. Jesus’ first speech was this:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)

There’s a lot of Christian ‘moral DNA’ in wokeness. Christian leaders, such as William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King Jr, rooted their struggle against racism in the teachings of Jesus.

I support the heart of wokeness’ dedication to justice and also its speaking out against celebrating individuals in history who were racists. Racism is a grievous sin that cont