Dan Berry – February 14, 2023
As a follower of Jesus who is learning how to truly love all of my neighbors — not just the ones that are like me — sometimes I wonder why there is so much opposition from others who claim to follow Him. As much as I try to avoid misinformed commentary, it seems that I can’t seem to get away from it.
The other day I heard a news reporter refer to woke people as morons! Sadly, such references to the word ‘woke’ are demeaning and weaponized to intentionally oppress people like me who have chosen to acknowledge and resist systemic injustice.
A simple definition of ‘woke’ is
the quality of being alert to and concerned about social injustice and discrimination.
Just recently, I posted to be woke means,
To be awakened to the needs of others. To be well informed, thoughtful, compassionate, humble and kind — eager to make the world a better place for all people.
One of the comments I received in response to my post was that this person preferred to be “awake in the Lord” and that my definition was misguided! I know this mindset all too well (as I was once there myself)! His thought was that we only need to worry about people’s salvation and we don’t need to concern ourselves with all the other stuff that they may be going through. In some people’s minds, being woke has become a political ideology that is poisoning our country and is going to take it down.
I am amazed at and disturbed by the number of people who want to weaponize and even demonize the term ‘woke’ without even taking the time to learn where it came from and what it actually means.*
I am reminded…
When Jesus walked with us, He was asked about what was the most important commandment. His response was that the first commandment was that we love the Lord God with all your heart, soul and strength. But He didn’t stop there. He went on to say that the second commandment, which was equally as important as the first, was to love your neighbor as yourself, and that all the other laws hung on these two.
Could it be that as followers of Jesus, our ability to fulfill the first commandment is directly linked to us following the second?
To say that you love someone and not be concerned about the systemic and structural injustices that impact their lives is disingenuous. As quoted in the What LIES Between Us study guide,
To show compassion for an individual without showing concern for the structures of society that make him an object of compassion is to be sentimental rather than loving.William Sloane Coffin
What if we can’t fulfill the first commandment until we have begun to LIVE in the second. Given the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, I would rather be woke!
*Origins of the contemporary use of “woke”
The word “woke” originated in the African American community as a slang term that meant being aware of social justice issues and standing up against systemic oppression. It gained widespread recognition and usage in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and became a popular hashtag on social media. However, in recent years, the term has been hi-jacked and weaponized by a politically and socially conservative conglomerate, who uses it to criticize those who support progressive social and political causes, such as LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, and racial justice. They often use “woke” as a pejorative term to dismiss people and ideas that they disagree with, which is a distortion of the original meaning of the term. The use of “woke” in this context highlights the ongoing cultural and political divisions in society.
Dan Berry is the author of Navigating Diversity In Our Most Segregated Hour, a Certified Instructor for the What LIES Between Us and Confronting Whiteness courses, and advises individuals and organizations on how to take first steps toward racial healing through Bridge Building Solutions.
He has pastored for forty years in Iowa. After pastoring in predominantly white spaces for several years, he began to realize the need to bring about racial healing in the body of Christ. For the last 30 years he has worked to bridge ethnic and cultural divides, a work that has led him into confronting the churches complicity in upholding systems of racism.