On Facebook, Michael Foster asked, "Why are so many grown children are going woke even though they came from healthy Christian homes?" I thought I'd try my hand at an answer. Below is a slightly edited version of what I put in the Facebooks comments section:
I get asked regularly why I address “woke” issues so much from the pulpit.
This is my answer - it’s especially for the sake of the kids, to inoculate them against the garbage that’s out there. But this will continue to be a problem no matter what we do - even if we preach on these things, get our kids in solid Christian educational environments, etc., it will still be a problem because in the church.
And that’s because wokeness is the spirit of the age.
And there will always be people who rebel against the truth because they’d rather fit in and go with the flow.
Worldliness is what it is, and some in the church will always be led astray.
Face it - to be woke is to be cool and virtuous in the eyes of the world.
To attack wokeness is always going to look mean, bigoted, and intolerant, no matter how sweet and winsome we try to be.
Wokeness has infiltrated most evangelical and Reformed denominations, most campus and parachurch ministries (including some we would have pointed our kids and congregants to just 5 years ago), just about every major educational institution, Hollywood, the major news networks, etc.
Plus it’s the dominant trend on social media.
You cannot escape it.
Culture moves faster than most parents can track, so it’s hard to even know what influences your kids are encountering.
Wokeness is like so many other trends and fads that have so fully swallowed up the culture, that they simply become the culture.
Wokeness is similar to the sexual revolution, only far more sinister because wokeness easily cloaks itself in biblical language and pious sounding phrases - like an angel of light, wokeness can look like its truly Christian. Thus, once it gets its hook in someone, it’s very hard to get it out.
I imagine parents today feel the same way about the woke revolution that parents in the 1960s felt (or should have felt, if they were paying attention) about the sexual and pop culture revolutions that were seducing their kids then.
Those parents were asking, “How do I keep my kids chaste? How do I keep them from being influenced by Mick Jagger and going to Woodstock?”
Today parents are asking, “How do I keep my kids from becoming critical race theorists? How do I keep them from reading Kendi and voting Democrat?”
My counsel: Trust God with your kid.
Parent by faith, claiming his covenant promises.
Pray covenantally for your kids.
Prioritize church and Christian community -- make sure you are in worship every Lord's Day and make fellowship with the saints a regular feature of family life.
Give them a Christian education and constantly vet the curriculum for woke influences.
Love your kids well so you will have a close and trusting relationship with them, discipline them consistently, teach them a work ethic and the value of a buck, have lots of dinner table conversations about the crazy events of each day, model compassion and hospitality for them so they don’t think caring for the poor is a liberal thing, and teach them the Scriptures comprehensively so they can apply the Bible to all of life.
One more thought, especially for parents of kids who have already gone woke:
Mark Twain is said to said, “If you are not a liberal at age 20, you don’t have a heart. If you are not a conservative at age 40, you don’t have a brain.” Or something like that.
I think Twain was on to something.
Wokeness is a fantasy, a kind of fairy tale, detached from reality. Wokeness asks, "Why can't we all just get along? Why not give free stuff to everybody?"
Wokeness is a pseudo-virtuous system. It appeals to a shallow sense of empathy. It appeals to those who want to be kind and compassionate but are clueless about the way the world actually works.
Wokeness takes advantage of the naïveté of the young and ignorant.
So one way to push back against wokeness in your kids is to show that actually its various manifestations hurt the very people it claims to be helping.
The LGBTQ movement actually hurts these folks because it furthers them in their sexual delusions. Feminism is bad for women and children.
CRT infantilizes blacks and makes real racial reconciliation impossible.
Defunding the police will actually make poor neighborhoods more dangerous.
Wokeness is like agreeing with an anorexic person who is about to starve to death, “Yes, you really are fat."
If you are a parent, and your 20 year old finds some things in the social justice movement appealing, I would tell you to not panic. It does not mean all is lost.
Many people have pulled back from this brink without apostatizing. What should you do?
Commit to having peaceful and slow moving conversations about the topics. If you have not taught your kids the real beauty of God’s sexual design, or how a biblically ordered economy works for the good of all, or how real racial harmony can be achieved, have those discussions. Show them the wisdom of God’s ways.
But getting angry at your “woke” 20 year old is just going to make things worse, as you fulfill all those stereotypes of what conservative parents are supposedly like (angry and harsh).
Again, I would tell a parent in this situation to recognize that wokeness’ deceptiveness may mean your kid has an instinct towards compassion that is good - it just needs to be directed into better channels. He (or more likely she in this case) is just naive and needs to learn more about how the works actually works.That can happen through age and experience, but you can (Lord willing) accelerate the process with good teaching.
In the end, wokeness cannot win because wokeness is at odds with the most fundamental realities of how God made the world.
As a parent, you have truth and reality on your side.
You just need to be patient and prayerful as you diligently fight back against the influence of the spirit of the age.
Another question was asked about getting churches (especially pastors in their sermons) more politically engaged. Why are pastors unwilling to address these issues from the pulpit. This is what I wrote:
The first thing is to figure out if the problem with these pastors is one of theology or guts.
Do they not understand how the Bible applies politically? Or are they just afraid to do it? Is the problem ignorance or cowardice?
American evangelical and Reformed churches tend to be very pietistic, and pietsts have a hard time applying the Bible to anything beyond one’s own heart. They tend to trap the Bible in the confines of personal experience.
But Scripture presents itself as a book of history and comes to as the word of the Cosmic Creator and Lord, so it makes claims about everything.
Faithful preaching has to make political claims or we have truncated the gospel. The true gospel is really the gospel of the kingdom! If we aren’t talking about a kingdom, we have muddled the message. The kingdom is not OF this world, but it certainly aims to transform this world. It intersects with this world. It claims this world. Too many preachers preach a Gnostic kingdom. In reality, the kingdom of God is this world, remade and transformed.
Also, while preaching/teaching is crucial, these political themes also need to be worked into the liturgy and public prayers of the church.
We should be praying for our civil leaders to rule in peace (1 Tim 2) but we also need to be regularly praying imprecations against the wickedness, especially wickedness in high places (Ps 2, 109, Isaiah 11, etc.).
It is much easier to pray this way in a congregation that regularly sings psalms from a good metrical psalter or (even better) chants them as God wrote them in a good translation.
The psalms are full of political claims and full of prayers for God to judge the wicked by either converting them or destroying them.
One reason we see so little change in our world is that we do not actually pray for the light to overcome the darkness because it might hurt the darkness’ feelings!
This Sunday, my congregation will pray a litany that includes (among many other things) this petition:
Against all who in wickedness lead your church astray with false teaching or immoral living; against those who corrupt our land by doing, approving, and promoting things that your Word calls abominations; against those who perpetuate injustice and oppression, using violence and vice to exploit the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the alien; against those who do murder and live by deceit; especially those in power in church and state who hate your truth and blaspheme your name; we ask that your Son would smash them with his rod of iron and slay them with the breath of his lips:
Lord hear our prayer.