On Monday night, Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute hosted a lecture by theologian Owen Strachan, who addressed a number of themes in his recent book, “Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement is Hijacking the Gospel – and the Way to Stop It,” in which he argues that modern social justice movements are antithetical to Christianity.
Strachan opened his lecture by discussing the uprisings that took place across the country following George Floyd’s murder in the summer of 2020.
“The West has just gone through a kind of socialist cleansing… And America, by and large, was the epicenter of this uprising,” Strachan said. “What we experienced one year ago, and in different ways continue to experience now, is a later socialist revolution. An attempted one, that is, that continues to play out presently.”
Strachan elaborated: “It was just one summer ago that riots broke out all across America in the name of equity, fairness, and social justice. America was put to the torch.”
Strachan held that “wokeness,” which he called “socialism with a software update,” was responsible for the property damage caused during those uprisings.
In the lecture, Strachan defined wokeness as follows: “Wokeness involves becoming awake to the nature of systemic racial discrimination in a society, one like ours. It means, for Americans, that you see now, once you wake up, that America is not a just and righteous public order in any sense. America is actually racially unjust from roots to branches. And once you go woke, you not only understand this, but you resolve to fight the existing order.”
“[Woke ideology holds that] the key perpetrator of oppression, of racial injustice, is the social construct of whiteness,” Strachan goes on to say. “This is a construct that is created when there is a majority of white people [air quotes] in a society like ours. And that construct is used to create racial disparities that pop up in all sorts of statistical categories.”
While Strachan is not exactly wrong that whiteness is a social construct, he misses several key points addressed by others who’ve addressed this issue: specifically, how it is formed, and how it affects society.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture writes on its website, “Whiteness and white racialized identity refer to the way that white people, their customs, culture, and beliefs operate as the standard by which all other groups of people are compared.”
Since whiteness is enforced as the default way of life, non-white people are disadvantaged as a result of being seen as “inferior or abnormal.”
Furthermore, the Museum explains, “Since white people in America hold most of the political, institutional, and economic power, they receive advantages that nonwhite groups do not.”
“I Don’t Believe in Separate Races”
The main body of Strachan’s lecture concerned what he called the “Seven Key Affirmations of Wokeness.” During this segment, he attempted to boil wokeness down into what he believes are its most essential ideological components.
“We’re trying to be fair to wokeness,” Strachan said. “We’re not trying to catch them out in a quick moment and get a soundbite. We want to understand this system. As Christians, if you can’t understand a system, you are not equipped … to respond to it.”
As part of this, Strachan drew in key texts of Critical Race Theory, which he framed as part of the greater woke ideology. He cited the book “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction” early on, to talk about how it states that “Racism is ordinary, not aberrational.”
Strachan stated that “I don’t believe in separate races … We’re one human race. That’s what I think the Bible teaches.”
Strachan argued that wokeness teaches people of different races to not see one another equally.
“[Wokeness is] a way of seeing the world anew. Once you thought that the world was fair, and at least somewhat just,” Strachan said. “Now, when you embrace this ideology, when you embrace these books, when you consult these voices, you come out with a totally different paradigm. And you no longer are going to treat people with different races or different skin colors as if you have a lot of commonality with them.”
While it is true that racial categories are created and enforced in large part by white supremacy, saying that people should be treated the same regardless of race neglects the physical and social consequences those categories have created, experts say.
In The Atlantic, sociology professor Adia Harvey Wingfield writes that “There are more than a few members of the academic left who argue that color blindness is problematic precisely because it offers a way to avoid addressing social problems.” Essentially, refusal to see race creates an inability to see the patterns created by systemic racism: “police brutality, housing discrimination, voter disenfranchisement, and others,” as Wingfield writes.
Ultimately, for Strachan and others, color blindness manifests as a refusal to acknowledge that systemic racism exists at all.
“People who would argue for systemic racism would be confessing that racism is ordinary,” Strachan said. “It’s the normal experience in a society like ours.”
Strachan also argued that another tenet of wokeness is that “all white people are racists.”
“In wokeness, and in Critical Race Theory, and in intersectionality, again, racism is structural,” Strachan said. “… If you’re white, you belong to the power group in America. … And the power group is going to abuse the minority group.”
Robin DiAngelo — writer of the book “White Fragility,” whom Strachan cited as a source throughout the lecture — writes that racism is “a system of structured relations into which we are all socialized.”
“Negative messages about people of color circulate all around us,” DiAngelo continues. Because of this socialization, white people — and even many people of color — unconsciously internalize negative attitudes towards other races.
Strachan did acknowledge that racism exists, and that America has a deeply racist history to reckon with: “In the American past, there are real racial sins. There are terrible aspects of our legacy with regard to slavery and Jim Crow and even individual personal acts of racism. We don’t think that racism vanished with the civil rights movement.”
But for him, the racism that still exists today is apparently not widespread enough to justify the uprisings of last summer.
“Our society, our civilization, burned for much of a summer — again, because of an ideology like this,” he said. “Ideas have consequences.”
Strachan continued: “When you saw news footage, videos on social media, last summer … of people throwing flaming alcoholic bottles through store windows in order to burn them to ash, you were seeing social justice in action.”
It is true that last year’s protests caused extensive property damage. According to the Denver Post, damage to city property in Denver was estimated at just over $1 million, with even more damage to private property. However, many activists have been quick to respond by noting that the damage done to Black communities by systemic racism has been all but immeasurable.
“People are not objects; broken windows and burnt cars are simply not commensurate with the violence of state-sanctioned murder or the structural violence of poverty that has placed people of color at a disproportionate risk of dying of Covid-19,” R. H. Lossin wrote in The Nation. “Plateglass windows don’t bleed. They don’t die and leave loved ones grieving. They don’t contribute to the collective trauma and terror experienced by their communities. They just break, and then, at some point, they are replaced by identical sheets of glass.”
Social justice was not the only paradigm of so-called wokeness that Strachan mentioned. He also spoke on toxic masculinity, and the dangers he thinks are inherent in that term.
“Our society is emphasizing inherently that men are toxic. That men are predisposed in a special way to toxicity,” Strachan said. “Note the therapeutic nature of the term. You’ve gotta watch that therapeutic language, don’t you? That will creep up on you, and it will, if you’re not careful, take over the theological language of, I don’t know, the word of God. And it will hijack it. And it will replace it. And nobody will even know it happened.”
“We Train Our Girls To Be Nurturers”
Strachan stood in stalwart defense of traditional Christian family values, saying, “We train our boys to be leaders, protectors, and providers. We train our girls to be nurturers, wives, and those who submit to a godly man. We train our boys and girls in these patterns because the word of God holds them out as beautiful and good for us.”
As his lecture wound down, Strachan concluded with seven counterpoints he said should be followed by Christians in order to combat wokeness:
- “We must recognize where wokeness is exploiting us and give an answer.”
“Friends, our children and grandchildren are being trained to despise America … in many cases by people who are doing great here,” Strachan said. “Who are making a mint here. Who are making tens of thousands of dollars in America, the country with the greatest free market the world has ever known.”
- “We need to promote a true vision of humanity. Imago Dei — fallen, bearing dignity nonetheless, redeemable.”
“We are all made in God’s image,” Strachan said. “Some of us are not more human than others. A child in the womb is not less a human than a fully developed adult. A child in the womb does not deserve to be aborted — that is an abominable moral evil.”
- “In Pauline terms, as I said a minute ago, we destroy wokeness. We destroy the stronghold. We show what it is. We need pastors who will teach their people what this ideology is.” [Emphasis added.]
Here, Strachan referenced Corinthians 10:3-5, in which the Apostle Paul calls on his followers towards the “pulling down of strong holds; / Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
- “We need a theology of the public square.”
“Wokeness has come in through the neither-left-nor-right back door in evangelicalism,” Strachan said. “So many churches have ranked and labeled political issues as jumpball conscience issues, as if the church has nothing to say on them.”
He continued: “If you think that leftism, in 2021, aligns with the biblical worldview, then I would encourage you, with fullness of spirit and heart, to reconsider the Bible. If you think abortion on demand, to the tune of 65 million babies aborted — if you think that sexual paganism — if you think that transgenderism — if you think that the erosion of religious liberty — on and on I can go, is a mere ‘I can take it or leave it’ set of issues, I think you need to rethink how you will understand biblical morality.”
“Leftism is poison,” he concluded.
- “We must strive to be salt and light, working to be a witness.”
“We need to run for office beyond this,” Strachan elaborated. “We need to support good governance. We need to be on the school board.”
Strachan is a senior fellow with the Family Research Council, an organization which has hosted national “School Board Boot Camps,” with the goal of training people to run for local school boards.
- “We need to promote biblical justice. Distinguish it from social justice.”
7. “We must never stop preaching the gospel as our plan of unity. As the means of justice. As the gateway to hope.”
Strachan concluded the lecture by quoting one of Winston Churchill’s famous speeches: “These are not dark days; these are great days — the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”
“Was not Churchill right?” Strachan said. “Was not that Britain’s finest hour? … Because the days were evil, seen from a Christian, biblical perspective. But even greater than the evil is the grace of God.”
This is the most recent event in the Centennial Institute’s Distinguished Lecture series. Previously, the series hosted antisemitic conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, as well as author Abigail Hunt, who has advocated for the use of conversion therapy on transgender children.