The Dubious Diversity Rationale

It’s hard to date the beginning of the madness. Maybe you trace it to the death of George Floyd in May of 2020, the shooting of Michael Brown in August of 2014, the creation of Black Lives Matters in 2013, or the 1990s when Kimberlé Crenshaw invented the theory of intersectionality, or Herbert Marcuse’s 1965 essay “Repressive Tolerance,” or Rudi Dutschke’s “long march through the institutions,” or Marx and Engel’s The Communist Manifesto. Or maybe it began, as Whittaker Chambers suggested, back in the Garden of Eden when the Serpent said to Eve, “Ye shall be as God.”

Whenever it began, the Woke Revolution, i.e. Wokeism, has become for some evangelicals, the horizontal misty air that blinds their eyes and makes them unable to see that they are marching to the command of that mighty chief who imposed himself upon Eve at the Tree. In the late Spring of 2020, when mobs advanced along a horrid front of dreadful length in the guise of warriors—as John Milton once described Satan’s minions—Christian pastors offered a range of support in the name of “social justice.” Ever since it’s as if every nerve has been quickened. Some have doubled down on their support of the revolution. Some have recognized their mistake and are executing subtle rearguard action to walk things back. Still, for others, support for Wokeism never existed in the first place.

Since Trinity Reformed Church is firmly in the third category, and since we are now a couple of years removed from the Woke Revolution in evangelicalism, it’s time to refresh on why Christians should never have been duped.

Defining what is at the center of Wokeness is both simple and hard. It’s hard because of the abundance of new ideas attached to repurposed terminology—identity politics, social justice, equity, critical race theory, and more. It’s simple because all the new jargon, once stripped of the pretended nuance, amounts to the same thing, namely, the notion that those who’ve been treated badly in the past should get more while those who’ve benefited from past unfairness should get less. Peter Coclanis elaborates, “Politically motivated academics believe that racism and white supremacy constitute a central and uniquely egregious failing of the West. For activists in the U.S., transcending white supremacy means creating and implementing a robust reparations[1] program for African Americans.”[2]

Some Christians may be tempted to advocate for the polite tolerance of “justice.” But Christians must be immovably intolerant for the same reason we wouldn’t serve poison diluted with milk to our children. So deadly and toxic is the underlying thought, that Christians who have tasted the Bread and seen the Light ought to be too absorbed in faithful ministry to regard it. And when they are in the besieged hall and forced to weigh the scales, they ought to recoil. Christian confusion results from the false need to have a sense of proportion about devilish ideas.

Anthony Bradley is an example of a well-intentioned Christian who wishes to affirm the good and redeemable elements of Critical Race Theory. The Southern Baptist, Paul Morrison, is another example of someone who thinks Christians should apply to Critical Theory “the same framework with which we approach philosophy, logic, democracy, economics, or other non-revelatory secular tools.”[3] The problem with this notion is that philosophy is the study of wisdom, logic is the study of thinking, and economics is the study of the market. None of these things begin with an anti-Christian assumption. Critical Theory assumes false things in a way that philosophy and economics don’t. It assumes that whiteness is a sin,[4] privilege is unfair, the United States was founded on the desire to protect slavery,[5] and systemic racism is the normal state of affairs in the United States today.[6]

The architects of Wokeism could never advance directly in the teeth of a noble confessional Christianity. It began as an insidious debauching and drugging of the academic mind, an ideology of ingenious sophism,[7] which, when introduced into the church follows to the complete destruction of the gospel. The sophism calls for a “repressive tolerance”[8] disguised under a farcical pretense of “justice,” themselves to be the sole judge of its boundaries. This is an immediate problem for Christians. Whatever concerns a claim of justice should be confided to God alone. This is all there is—as far as Christians are concerned—of an original principle on the subject. Christians are bound by God’s defining.[9]

So, Critical Race Theory can never function as a mere secondary tool of analysis. It is not some little, trivial modification that unbinds the mystic cords of reality. It is not an incidental peccadillo that leaves the gospel or the church unaffected. It is like the Canada Thistle, that pest of the soil, which cannot be dug out by an army of men. The Woke Revolution doesn’t merely offer an analytical tool for cultural problems, it redefines reality in a way so as to perpetuate them. The nature of woke ideology is that it can’t be borrowed from bits and pieces. It is a totalizing explanation of reality that doesn’t have to be proven historically, philosophically, or theologically, because argument along these lines is proof of racism itself. Wokeness is that way of looking at life that makes grudge-holding look normal and forgiveness strange. The whole system envelops institutions and those who fill them, infusing the inner terrain with an impersonal and unchristian standpoint.

Christians should care when people redefine reality. Untrue presuppositions are the essential features of the Woke Revolution, which is framed by a narrative of blame that declares white America guilty for the plight of blacks.[10] Gospel deception is the fiber of Wokeism because it entrenches a frantic internal experience of guilt beyond the reach of forgiveness. There is no way out for whites when it comes to race. For example, Derrick Bell says racism has permanence in the American system. But, blaming the abstract “system” with no hope of forgiveness is decidedly opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. What is now occurring in woke churches is a set of substitutes—resentment for mercy; animosity for love—that has a lethal effect on the gospel. In the good news of Christ, reconciliation happens through individual confession, repentance, and forgiveness. The parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35) teaches that the gospel pattern of forgiveness should be carried out in our daily lives. The point of the parable is that if we claim to be forgiven by Jesus, yet still have an unforgiving spirit, then that proves that we have never tasted the forgiveness of Jesus in the first place. Reconciliation is impossible when repentant individuals are denied forgiveness and kept forever on the hamster wheel of guilt.

Embracing the Woke Revolution, in part or whole, sends the message that Christianity must be strained through the sieve of Ivy League ideology. So we must remember there is no badge of faithfulness or practical advantage for being on easy terms with the world’s foolishness. Rather than endorsing all the new ideas about justice, gender, and race, the church needs to heterodoxmatize—that is, have an opinion different from the one now held. When evangelicals simply acquiesce to the cultural fashion of the moment, it forgets that the church cannot move forward without an anchor fastened to Christ and the Spirit’s compass to navigate the latest idea.

Jason Cherry is an elder at Trinity Reformed Church in Huntsville, Alabama, as well as a teacher and lecturer of literature, American history, and economics at Providence Classical School in Huntsville. He graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary with an MA in Religion and is the author of the book The Culture of Conversionism and the History of the Altar Call, now available on Amazon.




[4] For example, Princeton historian Nell Irvin Painter describes whiteness as “a toggle between nothingness and awfulness.” The depravity of being white, so the theory goes, stems from chattel slavery that came from European colonialism.

[5] The 1619 Project was launched by the New York Times in August 2019. It claims that one primary reason the Americans decided to declare independence from Great Britain in 1776 was to protect the institution of slavery. Their argument points to the November 1775 proclamation of Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, which proposed freedom to enslaved persons fleeing to the British army. They reference historian Jill Lepore who wrote, “Not the taxes and the tea, not the shots at Lexington and Concord, not the siege of Boston, rather, it was this act, Dunmore’s offer of freedom to slaves, that tipped the scales in favor of American independence.” What are we to say to this revisionist history? Mary Beth Norton’s book 1774: The Long Year of Revolution thoroughly refutes the argument. Her account of the long year 1774, from the Boston Tea Party in December 1773 to the outbreak of hostilities in April 1775, shows conclusively that the scales tipped in favor of independence before Dunmore’s proclamation.

The primary source evidence also undermines the claims of the 1619 project. A nation founded on slavery would never have allowed the Northwest Ordinance (1787), which forbid slavery. As Abraham Lincoln said, slavery is “hid away in the constitution, just as an afflicted man hides away a wen or a cancer, which he dares not cut out at once, lest he bleed to death; with the promise, nevertheless, that the cutting may begin at the end of the given time.” Slavery is permitted in “the narrowest limits of necessity” needed to achieve the union of states. In 1794 congress prohibited the out-going slave-trade. In 1798, they prohibited the bringing of slaves from Africa into the Mississippi Territory. In 1800 they prohibited American citizens from trading slaves between foreign countries. In 1803 they passed more laws restraining the internal slave trade. In 1808 they outlawed the slave trade. In 1820 they made the slave trade a capital crime. In other words, the unmistakable spirit of the founders was hostility to the very principle of slavery (Lincoln, “Speech on Kansas-Nebraska Act”).

[6] This argument (coming from Brittney Cooper and Michael Harriot) claims American culture, including American prosperity, rests upon the institution of slavery. The problem with this claim is apparent when you compare the United States to Brazil. Over ten times more African slaves were taken to (what we now call) Brazil. The slave trade lasted longer in Brazil than American and Brazil didn’t abolish slavery until 1888. So, if prosperity is predicated on slavery, Brazil should be many times wealthier than the United States.

[7] See the book by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody.

[8] The realigning of tolerance can be traced to Herbert Marcuse’s writings in the 1960s where he talks about repressive tolerance as intolerance and the suppression of dissenting opinions, especially Christianity. Marcuse distinguished between bad (or false) tolerance and “liberating tolerance.” The first is the sort of tolerance that undergirds free society. The second he defines as “intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.”

[9] See Douglas Wilson’s book, A Justice Primer for a biblical study of the principles of justice.

[10] For a critique of this notion see Thomas Sowell’s book, Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality.