This week, Denny Burk wrote an excellent response to a Christianity Today essay by Esau McCaulley. Granted McCaulley threw Burk a fat, slow softball. The CT essay was a tendentious bit of vilification of those who oppose the infiltration of Critical Race Theory into the church. This from McCaulley stood out in that regard:
These sick parts of the body of Christ told us to “just preach the gospel.” There are very few things more harmful for Christian cooperation than the weaponization of the gospel against Black and brown cries for justice.
Trust that Burk was more restrained in his response that I could be. I heartily recommend reading it all. I do want to note one passage. Burk writes that the dangers of Critical Race Theory in church and society affect…
The People in the Pews. Ordinary Christians are the ones struggling most acutely with fallout from CRT. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in pastoral ministry understands that they are ministering to people who have workplaces or schools that are force-feeding them this ideology. Their day-to-day experience involves HR departments mandating “woke” propaganda sessions disguised as “diversity” or “racial sensitivity” training. Many of our people are trying to figure out how to be faithful to Christ in a work environment that seems to be hostile to their faith.
I am a pastor, and dear congregants in my own church are coming to me with these stories and asking for help. I have asked in the past for permission to write about their stories while keeping their identities anonymous, but they do not feel it is safe even to share anonymously because of the possibility of their being found out. These people aren’t racists. They are just trying to figure out how to be faithful to Christ without losing their jobs. Some of them are coming to the sad realization that they may at some point have to choose between keeping their job and following Christ. These brothers and sisters need their pastors not to ignore this ideology, but to help them understand what it is, where the dangers are, and how to avoid them.
Now imagine – and, sadly, probably some readers have not just imagined it but have experienced it – that such a person struggling to deal with the effects of CRT in the workplace, struggling in trying to educate well their children instead of allowing them to be indoctrinated, or who are just disgusted with how wokeness is being used to divide and oppress, imagine such a person coming into church for refuge and support only to find church leaders also pushing CRT and other wokeness.
Such a normal person is likely to walk out, and for good reason, never to return. I have been told stories by such people who thankfully have not given up on the church as a whole, but refuse to endure a woke church. And why should they? Church should be a place where the pure Gospel is preached not mixed with false secular ideological gospels. Church should be a place where people are refreshed and strengthened to live in a society assailed by false and oppressive gospels, not be another promoter of those false and oppressive gospels.
Church leaders who think they are being “winsome” by being woke may mean well, but are only fooling themselves. They are being losesome (if I may make up a word). They are losing their faithfulness to the Tradition rather than to trendiness, losing their saltiness, and losing their ability to minister to people assailed by wokeness. And, yes, they are losing those people.
Now they may attract for a time that exotic species, the woke Christian or seeker – and when it is the real Christ such are seeking, we do not want to discourage them in so doing. But when wokeness is no longer cool – and it is already becoming more and more a joke and a byword – what will a woke church do then? Sooner or later, likely sooner, a Church of What’s Happening Now will become a rather silly has-been. Remember the “Emerging Church”?
Anglicans already know that being based on the first five centuries of the church is to be preferred over being based on the last five minutes of society. Or at least they should know that.
Sadly, the Church of England appears to be learning this the hard way, if they will ever learn. The Civitas report Rotting from the Head: Radical progressive activism and the Church of England documents in withering detail how most of the institutional Church of England is giving itself over to progressive ideologies. Towards the end, the writers warn:
The problem … is that the closer the Church is to these momentary issues and campaigns, the more likely it is to rise and fall – as such campaigns inevitably do. It is then left in the awkward position of being forced to defend those who are only temporarily interested in supporting it with just a personal interest in faith – and treating as enemies those who still cherish it. These people may appear at first sight to be ‘white, male and stale’, but they are usually the very people who donate and give up their time the most for their church to flourish. By associating itself with these knee-jerk protests or campaigns – which are always short lived – the Church risks being kicked out of the lives of people it relies on the most.
In the end, becoming a woke church or some other society driven Church of What’s Happening Now is not winsome, but instead is asking to lose those most attracted and wedded to Christ rather than to the ideological fashions of the world. Those striving to prevent their churches from going down such losing paths should be aided and supported not vilified or demeaned.