By Dr. Stephen Phinney
This past week, I was asked, yet again, “What is woke?"

The best way to hide the motive behind most movements is to camouflage it with a term unfamiliar to the masses, particularly with Christians. Since few want to present themselves as ignorant, most allow a "fly-by" of cultural terms. It's a shame, though. It is in the objective of the "fly-by" that grants the movement momentum to dominate. Such was the case with the "woke" movement.

Most associate the term with social justice. In reality, there is a much darker side to the history of this word. As with most of our present-day cultural iconic labels, the word is rooted in the African-American community. Even though the history of "woke" is dated as far back as the 1860s, today, it’s the primary buzzword used by the Black Lives Matter group to propagate their label for vigilance and activism concerning racial inequalities – with the twist of advancing their beliefs in a racists modality. 

Why the term "woke?"

Back in the day, the African-American English (vernacular) language was being formed; woke was used in place of woken or wake. The word led to the replacement or equivalent to awake. While it is true, the African-Americans began popularizing the term in the 1940s, the phrase wide awake became the expression of those who supported Abraham Lincoln – for those who opposed the spread of slavery. Through the blending of the African-American English and the early usage of the anti-slavery supporters, the term woke was cemented within the black culture – primarily by their youth.    

By the 20th century, woke meant well informed or aware. As the term entered the 21st century, it became political and cultural rhetoric. In 2014, the Black Lives Matter group resurfaced the term as their motto to expel white supremacy. By early 2020, BLM organized its efforts by establishing a plan that included violence to send its anti-white message. Claiming the same kind of violence used on their forefathers is the same kind of violence needed to remove white supremacy from modern culture.    

One of their primary issues, if not the main issue, became the removal of all police. When looking into the rearview mirror of black history, local police were primarily members of the KKK. While we need to be careful with such generalized labeling, overall, in the south, where slavery was dominant, this association is true. This activated their passion for removing all monuments, American history, and police brutality related to their heritage associated with the confederate south. So…when the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014 occurred, the phrase, stay woke became their motto for standing against police abuse. Thus, their country-wide riots and political rhetoric took the front seat of cultural ideologies.
When did 'woke' become a 'meme?'

First, we need to understand what 'meme' stands for. A meme is an internet movement that cements the ideologies, behavior, and style of individuals who propagate social justice issues/platforms. Furthermore, the meme platform is based on macro images and catchphrases that reinterpret the image posted. Within a short period, the meme phenomenon became a broad stroke of viral sensations, forming itself as the internet culture – all starting with emojis.   

The phrase stay woke became a meme shortly after activist DeRay Mckesson, a social-justice activist, formed the non-profit He was popularized after being arrested in the Baton Rouge protest, wearing a teeshirt emblazoned with #StayWoke. Through DeRay's podcast and writings, the phrase became a meme. Through this change of events, Woke Vote soon became the Millennial's political face of the woke movement. As they say, the rest is history.  
Now the backlash.

Now woke has become an insult to the BLM group. It no longer communicates their original mission. The term presently describes the Millennial group in general. The cause of the BLM has been washed out, being replaced by the social-justice group. Their method of combating this overriding movement is through more riots, which seems to put them in the spotlight once again, which, sadly, reinforces their mission of fighting racism with racism. Since most supporters/members of the woke movement are white millennials, their original mission continues to create a backlash to their inequality mission.  

The woke movement and Christianity.

Is there anything about the woke movement that is remotely Christian? Absolutely not. Anyone who claims to be a Christian and is a part of this movement is nothing short of being a Progressive Christian. Meaning, they follow the principles of Christ that support social justice, if there are any while couching their mission in worldly secondary issues. My experience is, most Progressive Christians are unable to explain authentic Christianity or the process/steps of becoming indwelt by Jesus. Each is quick to talk about the importance of social reform but appears to be clueless about the organic mission imparted to us to go into the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ. The result is an impotent Gospel, which is what formed the now popular Social Gospel.    

Statistics are revealing to us that woke Christians are refuting their faith in Christ by the droves. Daily we read stories about “Christian leaders" renouncing their beliefs in Jesus. Why? Because they realize that Jesus and His teachings do not support their woke beliefs. Instead of renouncing their trendy movement, they renounce their beliefs in Christ, which is a confession that they were not truly indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Christ's Life) to start with. I must admit, it is a great way for Jesus to separate the goats from the sheep.  

The internet has become the primary source of friendships for many. Humanity tends to choose friendships over absolute Truth. That is a fact. So…the choice becomes, when forced to choose between absolute Truth & friendships, relationships win almost every time, which is nothing short of a confession that the individual does not have a relationship with the indwelling Spirit.

When we review the idealism of woke in 2021, the term mainly describes liberals and conservatives alike to denote progressive politics and religious thought that emphasizes race and identity – including gender identity. Some are claiming that the woke generation are victims of cancel culture. In reality, it is the woke generation that perpetrated our new cancel culture craze. The results of the endless war between whites, blacks, and Jews are now Democrats vs. Republicans, liberals vs. conservatives, and worst yet – the church vs. pluralism. When will this war be over? My prediction, it won’t. Since the final war will be between the three sons of Noah, Shem (Jews), Japheth (whites), and Ham (blacks), the issue of racism will remain until the world’s final days.

Hate is a powerful tool. As long as hate resides in humanity, the authentic Gospel of Jesus is needed. Biblical John stated God is love. The only healing agent for those who hate is the real God – in the transcendent form of Jesus. Humanity has no power to love without the indwelling Life of Jesus. And, viewing this topic through the mind of Christ, He will only release His Father’s love through His indwelling.

If you're woke and a self-proclaimed Christian, you need to wake up. Jesus did not come to change the world but rather to save people from it. In the end, He torches the world, its movements, politics, and those who support the plurality of religious freedom. He has one mission. To save the lost from a lost world, usher them into Heaven and gift each with the up and coming New Earth, which by the way, will host one race – the race of the Living God.