By Cindy McGarvie
I must confess, after attending school [an international Christian boarding school in Africa] and then university [a private evangelical Christian university] and performing fairly extensive study into the Bible as well as the behaviour of the church I have decided for myself that Christianity isn’t something I want to be a part of anymore.
These were the opening words that twenty-two-year-old Lewie messaged me after I sent him the link to my last blog post “Is Silence Violence? The Uprising of the woke generation”.
I’ve known Lewie and his family for years and recently connected with him on Facebook. His parents served as missionaries in east Africa at the same time my husband and I did. Our families were very close and my children grew up with Lewie and his brother. The opening of this message though, was a surprise to me. I wasn’t aware he’d walked away from his Christian faith.
His message continued:
To follow the ideals that I believed in foundationally, of loving my neighbour as myself, I felt I had to leave behind the divisions that Christianity drew between me and the people who hadn’t chosen to accept God in their lives. There is a certain mindset propagated among most churches (and this is a tendency of any human community not just the Christian church) that any thinking outside of the church bubble is either completely false or to be treated with extreme suspicion.
This statement packs a punch. Lewie is suggesting that in order to hold true to his core values he felt he had to leave behind Christianity, as he knew it, even though the core value he mentions is birthed in Christianity.
Your article does quite the job painting folks like me as brainwashed woke kids…
Admittedly I wasn’t expecting this perspective when I had sent him my blog. I assumed he still held to the Christian faith as he wrestled with the current social unrest he was experiencing in his nation and I was interested to hear his feedback.
But I do think it’s important for Christians, especially older Christians, to hear the perspective of young people and to understand why they hold to the belief systems that they they do. So I asked Lewie if he would give me permission to share his critique of my article about the woke generation. He graciously agreed, so here it is, with a few minor edits for clarity.
Your article does quite the job painting folks like me as brainwashed woke kids that just weren’t prepared with the right arguments by their parents. The thought that there could be any individual thinking involved with a decision like that is thrown out along with any chance of listening to the alternative perspective.
I've met many Christians who outright reject education on the basis that it strays from their perspective of the truth. Isn’t it a little ironic when you think about it? Like even if you disagree with my beliefs, you gotta admit the church is pretty committed to teaching one truth, God's truth. And yet entering into secular society you are met with a near infinite number of perspectives (some more thought out than others) and you are left to develop you're own critical thinking to establish what is logically sound or helpful and what isn’t.
So isn’t it ironic that the church creates this narrative that there is this singular opposing force in the media, at universities and in non-Christian society trying to convince your children to believe in a singular truth? Especially when that admittedly scary theoretical method of a group attempting to target and convert new young recruits to a single truth is actually far more applicable to the methods of the church and other religious organizations. I mean it is the Great Commission after all.
One of the things I’ve been trying to do through my book and blog is to educate Christians to some of the prevalent and emerging worldviews that are shaping our young men, particularly through the education system and media. But I take Lewie’s point. While I do ultimately believe there is one singular opposing force to Christianity, in Satan, there are many differing views in the world. And, as I wrote in my article on Nihilism, truth is often considered subjective to each individual.
Because Christians want young people to put their faith in what we know as the Truth, Lewie is explaining how, to a non-Christian, this seems more controlling than my suggestion that critical theory is becoming a dominant worldview which is pushed onto our youth and shaping our culture. This makes sense, but Christianity is largely a known quantity that requires a conscious choice to follow. My point is that many of the ideologies taken up by young people, almost by default, are being strongly shaped by the current cultural climate and so it’s important to understand what is influencing the rise of some of these social movements and beliefs.
Lewie continued his critique by quoting from my article where I had written:
"In my book, Lost Boys, I explain the current spiritual battle and I emphasise that the church must intentionally train and disciple youth, both spiritually and intellectually to equip them to recognise various worldviews or ideologies and, discern or weigh them in light of Scripture."
The article seems to have a few biases and double standards.
But then again I don’t know how one could dismiss the problems people face by dismissing words like oppression, or privilege as catch phrases. They attribute these words and even the concept that people are oppressed to Karl Marx. As if communism has a monopoly on words like that. We do have systems of oppression in America, and in every country. No system is perfect but we can always be improving, and moving farther away from stereotypes and discrimination …
But seeing as that makes me part of the "wokism" community the article is targeted against, I suppose it isn’t surprising that I found it abrasive…
I really appreciated hearing Lewie’s honest perspective and I responded:
Thanks Lewie! I appreciate the time you took to give a considered response
I want to first apologise for sending you my article, I was not aware that you had drawn a line under the Christian faith, my article was written to Christians specifically. I can see why it must have been abrasive. That said, I'm really interested in your perspective and your experience and was wondering if I might be able to interview you to get your story...
I would be interested in talking … No need to apologize, I'm glad you sent me a good representation of your beliefs, it gives me something to reply to …
I've had some not so pleasant experiences trying to discuss my beliefs within the Christian community
That’s great Lewie, really appreciate it! I was thinking to just ask you questions about your journey away from the faith you were raised with and why. You really don’t need to spend hours of research as I want to hear your heart on this first and not facts and figures. There are many parents out there that I speak to who just cannot understand and who never get to hear first-hand ... I like how you mentioned loving your neighbour, it really was a glimpse into your soul as a person who cares deeply for people ... Do you identify yourself as woke?
I see, I wasn’t seeing your intention clearly … I'm sorry I was getting ready to take such a defensive stance. I've had some not so pleasant experiences trying to discuss my beliefs within the Christian community and I was probably too quick to judge. I was afraid that I would be defending myself … from someone quick to dismiss beliefs and opinions by slapping a label on the person speaking.
I don’t really know how connected I feel to the concept of woke culture. By the article’s definition of someone who believes there exists oppressors and oppressed I would be considered a part of it. But personally, I'm not sure whether I would consider myself a part of it. I believe there are systematic flaws in most countries, I believe that people groups like women, racial minorities and members of the LGBTQ and more (but these are just the first example that spring to mind) face severe oppression daily in many countries if not a majority of the global community. But I also feel it’s self-aggrandizing to claim that now you are "awake" to all the world's problems just because you recognize a few issues in the world. It creates a similar divide that I struggled with in Christianity, where you had Christians and non-Christians, only now it's the woke and the unenlightened.
But in either case there is a discouragement of listening to or embracing others outside of your way of thinking, unless they are willing to convert. So, I'm not sure if I identify as part of woke culture. I think I identify with many of its values, but I also see that many take the title ‘woke’ because it makes them feel superior (similar to when a fellow takes the title Christian in order to flaunt their moral superiority).
Once one identifies with a religious belief, there is the danger of ‘virtue signalling’ or ‘flaunting moral superiority.’
That’s an interesting point. Once one identifies with a religious belief, there is the danger of ‘virtue signalling’ or ‘flaunting moral superiority.’ It appears that the pharisaic spirit is not just within Christianity. Christ spoke out strongly about this attitude calling the pharisees ‘white-washed tombs’ appearing clean or virtuous outwardly and yet unreformed on the inside. Hypocrisy seems to be predominantly and I would say unfairly associated with Christianity, which might be because the Judeo-Christian worldview holds to absolute truth.
The article pointed out some of the buzzwords of woke culture, like oppression, liberation or ‘silence is violence’ (although the one I hear more commonly is ‘silence is compliance’) and made it out like this was the extent of the thinking behind progressives fighting for change. I don’t feel this is fair, as every group has its buzzwords, every religion has its general population that hasn’t done in depth study into their scriptures.
If you think about how there are verses and theological concepts that are basically broken down into buzzwords by popular Christian culture at large or even how psychology and eastern traditions are frequently broken down into easy to repeat mantras, you begin to see that from the outside, every group looks like it consists mostly of shallow hashtags or rallying cries.
But that says nothing for the greater thinking behind the ideologies, and the deeper meaning behind the phrases. People are always just people, and if you listen long enough, you can generally find a deeper reason why they hold something to be true. (Not saying there isn’t anyone just jumping on a trend or following group think, but I would argue that's more of an issue of an individual's goals than the ideology itself). Sorry for the long rambling response. I hope it came out coherent enough to understand.
Lewie is right. I deliberately used buzzwords like “silence is violence” and “woke” to connect to an audience. One of the main purposes of my article was to help inform Christians of some of the deeper ideologies undergirding these buzzwords and hashtags. But it’s worth noting that, not every person joining a social movement does so for the same reasons or with the same understandings. In the same way that too many Christian’s post cliché statements and bible verses to make their point rather then engaging others with humility and love.
I guess it should be a simple answer if I identify as woke, but it feels kind of complicated to me. I see the merits and values of the group, but after having just left one group I'm not sure I'm ready to start identifying with another even if I find their beliefs to be agreeable for the most part.
Lewie’s statement about leaving one group (Christianity) for another (perhaps wokism) reminded my of what I discussed in a previous article:
A person’s belief system (whether a religion, a worldview such as humanism, secularism, statism or any other ism) acts as a protective structure for people, providing purpose, meaning and principles for life. But often they don’t have the strength to sustain any serious challenge. And when they collapse, as Jordan Peterson explains in one of his classes, you have two choices.
You can jump from one protective structure to another and some will do this multiple times …
Or eventually, Peterson says, you reach a point where you believe that, “protective structures themselves are not to be trusted. Bang! You’re in chaos. How the hell are you going to get out of that?”
“That’s the path to nihilism.”
I’m so grateful to Lewie for being willing to share frankly in order to help us understand a perspective that might be different from our own. I’m keen to hear more about his journey out of the Christian faith and what he now embraces as a framework for navigating life.
While every individual’s story is different it’s important to hear first hand examples of how the current cultural landscape, along with our expressions of Christianity is shaping the beliefs of our youth.
I hope to share my discussion with Lewie on Christianity in one of my upcoming articles. So stay tuned!