“The revolution is not born from a stable society of whole persons. It comes from a divided society that is populated by a wounded citizenry who see revolution as their righteous solution.”
This is one of many quote-worthy statements in the book Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology by Noelle Mering.
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Most people find the whole “woke” movement baffling. Not since the sixties has any revolutionary movement attempted so much cultural change. The woke crowd finds fault with every aspect of life. They see oppression in everything from apple pie to mathematics to nuclear arms. Woke ideas allow any “oppressed” person to commit a forbidden act—no matter how reprehensible.
Awake, Not Woke is a guidebook to the woke worldview. Mrs. Mering tells us what it is and how some came to espouse it. She reveals its flaws and indicates the road back to sanity.
The Three Dogmas of Wokeness
In a nutshell, the tenets of wokeness can be summarized in this manner: “The first of the three ruling woke dogmas is the primacy of the group over the person; second is an emphasis on will at the expense of reason or nature; and the third is the elevation of human power in rejection of higher authority.”
Both Christianity and American culture carry a strong sense of the individual. Free will is both a religious and a secular doctrine that has its consequence in the lives of individuals. Christianity teaches that individuals will have to account for their actions at their judgments. Those who respond well to God’s Grace will attain paradise; those who reject God will earn eternal torment. Likewise, the State exercises justice through its legal and police systems. It examines an individual’s acts. When convicted of a crime, the person is then judged to be guilty or not guilty. Guilt carries punishment. Those who are innocent are free to live and act in society.
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The woke reject individual responsibility. Membership in a group determines one’s judgment. The old-fashioned Marxist defines the groups by economic class—the oppressed poor and the rich oppressors. The woke shift the focus to race and identity.
Therefore, the woke only tolerate white people who take radical anti-racist stands. Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and all indigenous peoples are automatically virtuous.
A Doctrine Based on Selfishness
According to Mrs. Mering, the development of a woke worldview develops from two questions, both of which focus on selfish motives.
The first question is, “What do I want?” Personal desires are all important. No legitimate limits exist, especially in the realm of sexual restraint. This ideology holds that the oppressive dominant culture holds down all others. It creates all differences between men and women, which is seen as a matter of personal preference. This focus on sexual pleasure also diminishes the role of the family, which oppresses women and children.
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The second question is, “How have I been hurt?” Christianity teaches us to accept our sufferings and transcend them by doing good to others. The woke strive to hold someone or some group responsible for individual misfortunes. This seedbed of grievance becomes the root of desiring power. One then uses that power to punish the oppressor(s). Where the desire question focuses on sexuality, the grievance question concentrates on race. Unlike sexual “social constructs,” which are changeable, the woke emphasize racial differences that are not changeable.
The woke believe any relationship between a white person and one of another race is an oppressive white attempt to retain power and authority. There is little the person can do about even when following a strict anti-racist code.
A Deeply Flawed Worldview
The summer of 2020 provided abundant evidence of how woke ideas destroyed social order. The $2 billion of destruction in the nation’s cities is a product of the disintegration of individual responsibility. Focusing on desire and grievance deprives people of any higher ideals. Overt sexuality makes them animalistic, and resentment makes them angry. Soon, the once-human being becomes the angry animal.
“[H]istory shows us that human beings are capable of previously unimaginable evils, especially if, hungry for meaning, they are given someone to hate and the conviction of righteousness in their hatred.”
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Mrs. Mering compares the woke movement with the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Mao set himself up as a godlike figure. Mao’s followers carried a little red book of his quotations, which they considered revealed truth. Many quotations inspired hatred against any tradition but especially focused on the “landlord” class. The landlords lost every shred of human dignity in public “struggle sessions.” Simultaneously, their accusers increasingly resembled feral cats fighting over a piece of fish.
Such a society ends in chaos. Only then comes the coup de grâce. The central government uses its authority and troops to end the mayhem, setting up a regime more oppressive than anything that came before it.
How Can Society Recover?
Many social commentators decry the woke culture but fail to see that it is a product of a decadent liberal society. It takes individualism to an extreme by allowing the person to define “gender,” identity and right or wrong. Woke culture turns freedom into license to do whatever one wants. It destroys all the structures that give purpose and meaning to life. Above all, the woke world does not consider God or the influence of the Church.
For Mrs. Mering, the only social institution that can repair the damage is the family. She speaks from experience as a mother of six.
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“Each of the three distorted dogmas of the woke—diminution of the person, rejection of reason, and contempt of authority—is restored through the engine of a healthy family.”
She makes the case that the traditional family, as we know it, is a product of Catholicism. The Church, she argues, extended the family—limited by the pagan Romans primarily to Patricians— “to every class, even to the slaves.”
The family can repair society because it has three strengths that other social institutions lack. “Firstly, the family is deeply personal.” The family is an outgrowth of natural law and only buckles under immense force. Each family functions in different ways, although the nature of the family is fixed.
Secondly, the family transmits virtue that fosters order and reason. Christian parents teach traditions, morality and the Faith to the next generation. The third strength is that the family introduces children to “rightful authority, not through control or domination, but with the care and wisdom to maintain boundaries and nurture a love for the good.”
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A Basis for Understanding the Ideology
The book explains the intellectual currents that led to woke-ism. Especially noteworthy is the author’s description of the impact of “Frankfurt School” upon the movement.
Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology by Noelle Mering is a tremendously valuable resource. It is not an easy or quick read. The difficulty is not due to philosophical jargon but rather the book’s invitation to ponder what has happened to the nation.
Read this book slowly and reflected upon it.