Responding to the New Religion of Wokeness
There is a new religion being born out there in the arson, looting, murder, human cancelation, kneeling and virtue signaling. Although currently unnamed, I will use “Wokeness” for the time being. Numerous compelling articles have recently appeared to examine this development, one of which is by Kyle Smith. The key definitional passage is:
Anti-racism is the most critical element of a broader new Woke Orthodoxy whose other elements include environmental apocalypticism, feminism, and a severing of sexual identity from genetic indicators. Settling on a term for the new religion will take some time. Wesley Yang’s suggestion (seconded by Ross Douthat) of “the Successor Ideology” is clunky, anodyne, and a bit euphemistic given the righteous, roiling fervor and unnerving credulousness that define the cult.
However, years ago Joseph Bottum saw this all coming down the pike in his 2014 essay titled “The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas.” Mr. Bottum ties the new religion to Christianity, but with eviscerating deviations from this source.
Our social and political life is awash in unconsciously held Christian ideas broken from the theology that gave them meaning, and it’s hungry for the identification of sinners—the better to prove the virtue of the accusers and, perhaps especially, to demonstrate the sociopolitical power of the accusers. … Twitter and Facebook may or may not be able to make someone famous, but they can certainly make someone infamous in the blink of an eye. And because sinners’ apologies never receive the same publicity as their sins, the Internet both casts its targets from the temple and leaves them out there, lost among the profanities. …
Mr. Bottum then delves into the apocalyptic idea inherent in “Wokeness” that is utterly disconnected from the purposes of a just, loving God.
But then, it’s always the fate of humanity that is at stake when the prophet calls us to repentance, and an apocalypse always provides to its diviners and their listeners a sharp and wonderful clarity. In this … believers in the Christian apocalypse, albeit without much Christianity. Armageddon comes to us these days as an idea, a powerful moral intuition, that has finally broken free from its old theological constraints to wander, isolated and alone. It is the last, the greatest, simplification of all the messiness of life. And who, at some level, doesn’t want that?
Building on these insights, Mr. Bottum has recently extended his analysis to address our current political/spiritual state in an interview with Providence Journal. His views are summarized in that venue as follows.
Bottum theorizes that Mainline Protestantism’s collapse left a spiritual vacuum in American culture that loosed myriad social demons. Post-Protestantism wants to wage war on social sins, but not personal sins. It identifies redemption with having politically correct opinions. And it finds sanctification in denouncing others who lack its spiritual and political insights.
Of course, the post-Protestant theory of salvation is not satisfying, which leads to despair and deconstruction. From its perspective, absent Providence and eschatology, there is no destination, which potentially leads to destruction and nihilism. Bottum warns that a society without a shared culture cannot measure progress or purpose and no longer believes in itself, causing it to see its history as a long list of crimes.
So, how do the Kumbaya Christians respond to this new religion? Well, while it’s priests swarm our streets looting, burning, pulling down statues, canceling human lives and murdering at will, they tut-tut at any even mild criticism. No, their primary purpose is to convince their followers that the latest pronouncements of Christ-hating, Marxist proto-totalitarians is precisely what Christ would support were He here to speak. They tell us that it is our Christian duty to kneel
before this new Baal and beg forgiveness for our existence. Then we can return to our homes sure in the knowledge that we have earned our place in the new salvation of identity-based self hatred and identity-based sainthood.
And what of Jesus Christ? He apparently will take a last bow and fondly wave goodbye as we achieve ever higher levels of narcissism, violence and pride, rising with this new Baal to the moral heights of Wokeness.