February 13th, 2020
“Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
One of my favourite contemporary religious writers is a fella by the name of Tex Sample. (And yes, I understand he is actually from, you guessed it…) In 2006, he published a fascinating work entitled “Blue Collar Resistance and the Politics of Jesus: Doing Ministry with Working Class Whites.” Notwithstanding its rather longwinded title, it is an absolutely challenging, provocative, incendiary, and “naughty” work that asks a really brutal and frank question: “why does the contemporary Church have such a tough time “pitching tent” especially among blue collar, working class folks?
Now because this is my social background, I find this work incredibly interesting especially in light of this contemporary social phenomena gripping our society called “woke culture.” A cursory glance from wikipedia roughly, (and very roughly) defines woke culture as a political term of African American origin that’s got something to do with a perceived awareness and concern for social justice.
Now where Tex Sample comes into the picture in this blog is that he is, in my humble estimate, a reasonably intelligent, liberal minded thinker whom nonetheless, fearlessly wades into the murky waters of our “cultural wars,” by “throwing the knife down on the proverbial table,” in declaring:
“if you are on the left of the church, you can get a lot of status and prestige be being “for” certain kinds of things. One of the reasons why some folks hate liberals is that they sense that we care more about our own prestige for being “enlightened” and “progressive” than we care about the issues, and especially the people, on which we have “positions.” (Tex Sample, p.11)
Yes, this is a bold claim! I think about these words a lot. And in my ministry in this “lovely neck of the woods” of our diocese, I humbly confess, I run into this challenge quite a lot from lots of ordinary working-class folks whom I talk to in pubs, grocery stores, coffee shops, Legions, etc. There seems to be this incredible suspicion that if you’re not of the same gender, social class, ethnicity, etc., then you have little credibility with your capacity to either sincerely imagine, emphasize, and/or care about their challenges.
Now this drives me up the wall because I keep hearing from so many people that this is woke culture, is just some kind of contemporary “fad.” – Something only privileged “wasps” feeling guilty with a sense of shame do… So for anyone being labelled as belonging to this woke culture, they tend to get quickly written off as being likely disingenuous and inauthentic, or just plain crazy!
But you see my big problem is that as a Christian, never mind that I’m also an Anglican priest, but as a Christian, when I made my baptismal vows to “seek and serve Christ in all persons,” I was darn serious! I wasn’t fooling around when I got baptized as an adult and when I said those words, I said them before God. Because at the end of the day, and no matter how much I have witnessed Galatians 3.28 get spun by far cleverer people than me, I believe sincerely that those who have “clothed themselves with Christ,” that: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3.28)
Call me naive, but I believe the idea that we ought to care for one another fully and devoutly is not some kind of contemporary fad; but in fact, as Christians, we are moved and empowered by the Holy Spirit from the beginning as St. Paul contends. Hence, as the author of the letter to the Ephesians implores us, we are to be awake! And as a “new creation in Christ,” (2 Corinthians 5.17), we are to be “ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5.20)
Now, of course, I realize that woke culture, is a very complex and complicated and nuanced subject that no blog will certainly exhaust comment upon, but I do contend that it is a good thing to be truly awake! For the opposite is to be asleep. And that where people are genuinely concerned for each other, this is never a bad thing! Perhaps if Jesus was writing a blog in response to being asked to explain woke culture in relation to all the laws of Moses, he would simply respond with the words of Hear, O Israel:
Hear, O Israel,
the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
This is the first and the great commandment.
The second is like it:
Love your neighbour as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than these
Rev. Jeff Kischak