Friday, April 09, 2021

In the world, but not of it.

In the world, but not of it.

 You may be puzzled by references in the media to what is referred to as the ‘woke’ position in cultural matters (in a wide sense). Currently, this attitude aims in securing power over of one group in society over other groups. This might involve  the ‘cancellation’ of a book, or the arguing for ‘equity’ between individuals or groups, to secure similar outcomes for one group to another, or more choice of kinds of  gender. Each of these is described by their advocates as advances and achievements in building their ‘personal identity’. universities, colleges, retailers (such as Amazon), leisure centres and charities, are all positioning themselves to  further ‘woke’ values.  

 This post has two aims, first to note the direction of the trends of the various woke sensibilities, and then what the attitude of Christian believers ought to be.

First, a word about what is meant by ‘personal identity’ by such woke advocates. This is not bearing the social class that a person occupies, as in the ‘working class’, or the ‘ruling class’ or ‘the elite’. Woke activity is not part of the ding and dong between  Left and Right as they seek more votes, but as engaging in what George Orwell called ‘the capture of power’.  It is not a change in the strength of a social class nor is it a matter of metaphysics, an inquiry into what makes for the identity and the changes of an individual person. In the make up of the woke a person’s goals may be so strong that they come to be is intrinsic to the identity of that person, hence the phrase ’person identity’. 

Interestingly, Christians will be familiar with the woke use of ‘personal identity’. For becoming a Christian has to do with the acquiring of a new nature, with new goals and ambitions, and repudiating others.  Christianity begins with the new birth, the new creation, a transition between the ‘old man’, and the possession of the ‘new man’. This is not identity acquired  by by the pressure of either political or social power, nor even by legislation. Such a transition is solely due to the grace of God in the soul. ‘Adoption’ is another New Testament way of charactering this all-important transition. 

        'For all who are led by the Spirit are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of                slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom         we cry ‘Abba! Father! The Spirit himself bears witness to with our spirit that we are children       of God’. (Romans 8 15-16) 

Not slaves, but sons and daughters. This is not the everyday adoption of a young person, which involves a mere a civil transaction. Life as a spiritually adopted child is not immediately perfect. For  the new nature fights the old, remaining nature. The Christian has the promise of a new destiny, where and ‘when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is’ .  and that alone will suffice for such to have a completely new identity,  when he sees Christ as he is. (I Peter 3.2) Paul wrote

You can see that‘ woke’ behaviour and its character is rather different from Paul’s recipe for personal change as a Christian. For though the language is war-like, and the Apostle to the Gentiles has a deadly enemy,  Paul’s weapons are spiritual. He goes on in this passage, v.15f. ’our hope is that as your faith increases,  our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged’.

 Christian standards and the woke

 In this matter of the pressure that ‘wokeism’  exerts we need to contrast it with  the standards of the New Testament.   For Christians, as when Paul taught that food that has been offered to idols may be eaten by believers with a good conscience. Why? 

    'I wrote to you in my letter  not to associate with sexually immoral people -  not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy or swindlers, or idolators, since then you would need to go out of the world.'(I Cor. 5.10)

As he went on to say,

    'Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit te kingdom of God. Do not be deceived, neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers nor men who practises homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy , nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will   inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you, But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the `Lord Jesus Christ and by the SpIrit of our God'. (1 Cor. 6.9-11)

Rubbing shoulders with such immoral people is inevitable it we are to live in the world, and it is desirable that we be in their company in order that they may hear of the gospel. This is an attitude of toleration to people who were not Christians . The NT church lived and worked among queers, some of which were converted to Christ (‘such were some of you’) .The Church may have to bear the charge of ‘bigotry’, but such talk is not to be fostered.

 In this matter of co-existing with the ‘woke’ is something that true Christians have to bear, a part of their pilgrimage. However Christian parents need to make the Kingdom and those of this world, for they must learn of the difference.

Christians support toleration in society. In I Corinthians 5 Paul discussed a difference who are ‘insiders’, professing Christians and the crowd we outsiders which we have to mix with. The question here was , could Christians dine off food that had been dedicated to an idol. In the course of discussing Christian behaviour  in the world the Apostle Paul stated  that Christians are free to buy and eat it. He clarified earlier advice about the company the Christians should keep. 

So much for toleration. In the account of Paul’s preaching at Athens in Acts 17, Luke’s narrative shows that his message was not forced on his hearers. When his preaching involved references to the resurrection of the dead, he was prepared to hear some who mocked, and he did not press  any hearers for an immediate response. (See Acts 17. 32-4) And with the Corinthians he wrote ‘we refuse to  practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s consciences in the sight of God’. (2 Cor. 4.2)  Another instance of his tolerance. ‘We  are afflicted  in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not  driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed’ (2 Cor.4. 8,9) No intimidation.

The woke have no compunction in forcing,  on for example, on Amazon, in ‘cancelling’ (that is withdrawing) titles that express a Christian view. No discussion. Besides these, woke attempt to force the Police to provide single women to accompany as they walk home across London in the evening with the protection by as they choose to walk.  These cases, such as countering ‘racism’, or fostering gender changes, or the confiscation of books , or the right to be accompanied by police. Such behaviour  lessens  the historic practices of Christianity, marriage between a man and a woman, the 'nuclear'family. 

 For the woke, in contrast to the toleration of Christians,  they make changes in underhand ways. So the purpose of the creating floral displays following the dreadful murder of Sarah Everard is (at the time of  writing), unclear what the motivation is, but we may be sure that the (mainly) young ladies who gathered bearing flowers were not bent on organising a weekly prayer meeting. Their attention to the support of Sarah’s mourning family does not seem to have been a centrepiece of the activities. The question of why the crowd collected as it did is a bit of a mystery, but no doubt we shall discover later. 

Christians must be advocates of toleration in defending the practices they wish to support.As they have been historically until Christianity was allowed to the state.  This is a course that the woke don’t follow. In their activities there is no evidence of them taking account of the government, rather of secretive behaviour. More likely they use force, or through their use of political-style lobbying as a prelude to gaining a change in the law.   

God’s kingdom, (mentioned by Paul) which transcends all other organisations, the members of which worship Christ her king,  need  ‘room’ in order to flourish 'in the present evil age'(Gal.1.4), agencies in education, literature and society. The growth of such a kingdom, God’s kingdom, creates effects in society, as you would expect, but not of a worldly, political character.  Politics should not enter the life of Christ’s kingdom, which is not of this world. As our Saviour said ' render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God’s'. (Mark 12.17)