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How to define “wokeness”

If you think that views like Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory, etc. are so obviously correct that no decent and well-informed person could possibly object to them, and find it at least difficult calmly and rationally to engage with anyone who thinks otherwise, you are woke.

(Image of eye: Kalea Jerielle/Unsplash.com; image of man and fire: Adam Wilson/Unsplash.com)

A common talking point among the woke is the claim that “woke” is just a term of abuse that has no clear meaning.  Whether many of them really believe this or are just obfuscating is not clear, but in any event it isn’t true.  I would suggest that what critics of wokeness have in mind is pretty obviously captured in the following definition: Wokeness is a paranoid delusional hyper-egalitarian mindset that tends to see oppression and injustice where they do not exist or greatly to exaggerate them where they do exist.

Examples would be: Characterizing as racist “microaggressions” behaviors that in fact are either perfectly innocuous or at worst just ordinary rudeness; condemning some economic outcome as a racist “inequity” despite there being no empirical evidence whatsoever that it is due to racism; condemning as “transphobic” recognition of the commonsense and scientific fact that sex is binary; condemning as “racist” the view that public policy should be color-blind and that racial discrimination is wrong whatever the race of the persons being discriminated against; condemning as “antigay” the view that it is not appropriate for grade schools to address matters of sexuality in the classroom without parental consent; and so on.

If you’re thinking “Wait, what’s wrong with any of that?,” you’re probably woke and should seek help, because these are deeply irrational attitudes.  My book All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory explains what is wrong with much that presents itself as “antiracist” but is in fact nothing of the kind.  (You will find much of the book useful even if you are not Catholic, because the argumentation is largely of a philosophical and social scientific nature rather than a theological nature.)

By characterizing wokeness as paranoid and delusional, I am not flinging terms of abuse but describing real psychological features of the woke attitude.  In their book The Coddling of the American Mind (which I say a bit about in my own book), Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt note that the frame of mind encouraged by woke ideas (Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory, “Social Justice Warrior” rhetoric and the like) is very similar to a mindset that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy identifies as a major cause of psychological disorders.

Features of this mindset include emotional reasoning, or letting our feelings determine how we interpret reality rather than letting reality determine whether our feelings are the appropriate ones; catastrophizing, or focusing obsessively on the imagined worst possible outcome rather than on what the evidence shows are more likely outcomes; overgeneralizing, or jumping to sweeping conclusions on the basis of one or a few incidents; dichotomous thinking, or seeing things in either-or terms when a more sober analysis would reveal more possibilities; mind reading, or jumping to conclusions about what other people are thinking; labeling, or slapping a simplistic description on some person or phenomenon that papers over its complexity; negative filtering and discounting positives, or looking only for confirming evidence for some pessimistic assumption while denying or downplaying confirming evidence that things are not in fact so bad; and blaming, or focusing on others as the sources of one’s negative feelings rather than taking responsibility for them oneself.

Obviously, the more thoroughly one is prone to these habits of thought, the more likely one is to see the world in excessively negative terms and to be miserable as a result.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy thus aims to help patients identify these bad mental habits and to counteract them.  But “wokeness” positively encourages all of these cognitive distortions.  For example, it teaches emotional reasoning insofar as it pits personal “narratives” of oppression against the ideals of rationality and objectivity, and insofar as it makes the subjective reactions of offended people the measure of whether they are victims of “microaggressions.”  It encourages blaming by treating accusations about microaggressions and other grievances as if they can never reasonably be regarded as stemming from oversensitivity or paranoia on the part of the person offended.  It indulges in negative filtering and discounting positives insofar as it arbitrarily defines terms like “racism,” “sexism,” “transphobia,” “homophobia,” and the like so broadly that anything can be made to count as racist, sexist, transphobic, or homophobic, even what would historically have been regarded as paradigmatically egalitarian policies (such as color-blind or race-neutral policies, and opposition to all racial discrimination).

In the same way, it engages in labeling, by ignoring all the complex causes of disparities and the different motives behind various actions and policies, and simply slapping descriptions like “racist,” “sexist,” etc. on them.  It promotes dichotomous thinking insofar as it insists that one either agrees with woke ideas or ought to be dismissed as “racist,” “transphobic,” etc.  It exhibits catastrophizing in that it insists that anything short of implementing the most extreme of woke policy recommendations will leave us with an unjust society that has made little if any real progress.  It encourages mind reading by imputing “racism,” “bigotry,” “hate,” “implicit bias,” “white fragility,” and other such attitudes to all critics, even in the absence of any objective evidence for these attributions.  It overgeneralizes by treating any particular case of a real or perceived injustice as if it amounted to confirmation of the entire woke worldview.

In short, woke ideas positively encourage paranoid habits of mind, which are analogous to those exhibited by people suffering from depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders.  Looking at the world through woke lenses leads one to see oppression and injustice even where they do not exist, to feel strongly aggrieved at this imagined oppression and injustice, and then to treat the narrative of grievance that results as if it were confirming evidence of the reality of the imagined oppression and injustice.

The psychological factors underlying wokeness account for two characteristics of the woke that are very familiar to anyone who has ever dealt with them, but might seem incongruous.  On the one hand, wokesters are extremely confident of their view of the world, thinking it so obviously correct that they cannot understand how anyone could possibly disagree with it.  Yet, at the same time, they seem almost constitutionally incapable of calm and rational engagement with critics.  They invariably attack the critic rather than the claims and arguments the critic raises.

Imagine a person suffering from the paranoid delusion that everyone is out to get him.  Because he massively over-interprets other people’s behavior – reading malign motivations into the most innocuous remarks and actions – he thinks that the evidence that everyone is out to get him is overwhelming, even though in fact it is extremely slight at best.  But, at the same time, precisely for that reason, he finds it impossible calmly and rationally to discuss the matter with anyone who disagrees with him.  “It’s so obvious!  If you can’t see it, you must be crazy!  In fact, you must be part of the conspiracy too!”  You might say that that such a paranoid delusional person thinks he’s become “woke” to the reality that everyone is out to get him, when in fact he’s lost in fantasy.  Think of Russell Crowe’s portrayal of John Nash in the movie A Beautiful Mind – seeing plots and conspirators everywhere, including even places where literally no one exists.

The difference between wokeness and other forms of delusional paranoia is that the wokester’s delusions and paranoia reflect what I referred to above as a hyper-egalitarian view of the world.  Notice that I am not saying that all forms of egalitarianism are bad.  On the contrary, as I argue in All One in Christ, because human beings of all races have the same nature, they have the same basic rights and dignity.  Hence it would, for example, be unjust for a government to protect the lives, liberties, and property rights of citizens of one race while not doing the same for citizens of other races.  This would be a clear case of an unjust inequity.

What I am calling hyper-egalitarian is the tendency to suspect all inequalities of being per se unjust – for example, to suppose that if 10% of the population of a country is of a certain race yet less than 10% of the stockbrokers in that country are of that race, this amounts to a “racist” inequity that cannot be given an innocent explanation and must somehow be eliminated by governmental policy.  (Think of Ibram X. Kendi’s famous remark: “When I see racial disparities, I see racism.”)  Again, imagine Russell Crowe’s performance in A Beautiful Mind, but suppose that instead of seeing hidden messages, Soviet plots, and fellow spies everywhere, he saw racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. everywhere and divided the world into the “bigots” who aimed to uphold this system of “intersectional” “oppression,” and the “allies” working together with him to subvert it.  The delusion seems frighteningly real, but in fact is held in place by circular reasoning and ad hominem attacks on anyone who tries to convince him otherwise.

To be sure, I am not saying that all wokesters are as insane as the Russell Crowe character.  Nor are all wokesters even as shrill as the stereotypical online Social Justice Warrior or Twitter mob.  Like other forms of delusional paranoia, wokeness comes in degrees.  But if you think that views like Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory, etc. are so obviously correct that no decent and well-informed person could possibly object to them, and find it at least difficult calmly and rationally to engage with anyone who thinks otherwise, you are woke.  And precisely because you find it difficult calmly and rationally to entertain the possibility that you are wrong, your attitude is paradigmatically irrational.

(Editor’s note: This essay originally appeared on Dr. Feser’s blog in a slightly different form and is reprinted here with the author’s kind permission.)

• Related at CWR: “Countering disinformation about Critical Race Theory” (Aug 22, 2022) by Edward Feser


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About Dr. Edward Feser 47 Articles
Edward Feser is the author of several books on philosophy and morality, including All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory (Ignatius Press, August 2022), and Five Proofs of the Existence of God and is co-author of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, both also published by Ignatius Press.

47 Comments

  1. Yours truly encountered the risk of subterranean “implicit bias” when being screened over a three-day period for serious jury duty, three years ago. But, before I was the last to be dismissed on peremptory challenge, there was in the second row a well-dressed, mid-thirties, attractive and very professional-looking lady…

    Upon being asked if she might be influenced by deeply-embedded implicit bias–whether for or against a uniformed police office later testifying as a witness–she responded: “I understand all of this and I harbor no such bias. My husband is a police office in (a suburb) and the husband of my best friend is also a police office in (another suburb). Both of them on the force for at least ten years. So, I can see past the uniform [then a long pause]…but I can tell bullshit when I hear it!”

    Uproarious laughter from some fifty jury candidates in the chamber. The dialogical answer to university-level, woke, “intersectional” rhetoric is non-verbal: laughter. Likewise, the top Russian diplomat was met with laughter when he claimed that Ukraine had invaded Russia https://www.businessinsider.com/russia-diplomat-said-ukraine-war-launched-against-us-crowd-laughs-2023-3

    • I’ve heard that one of the questions posed to screen prospective jurors is what sort of bumper stickers they have on their vehicles. That tells attorneys quite a lot.
      I suppose if you wanted to be disqualified you could put a few extreme stickers on, at least temporarily.
      Asking if you have family or friends in law enforcement is pretty typical when police officers will give evidence. Even though I shared that my brother had been a policeman and my favorite program was Cops I still got selected.And we convicted the defendant.
      Sometimes the defense gets it wrong.

  2. Dr Feser’s initial definition of Wokeness is readily understood in a college professor’s allegation that a well ordered kitchen cabinet is racist [shown in a news clip]. Stretch the imagination and figure that out. Does order indicate the elite? What then the opposite?
    They see racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. everywhere. Embrace of disorder will do that to you. Disorder, the willful rejection of the good of order is definitive of sin. Anything that speaks favorably to order in nature, in moral behavior is evil for ‘wokers’. Egalitarianism becomes the equivalent of coerced compliance. Which is why this Administration, reflective of the Woke, its ranks filled with adherents is as oppressive as the worst dictatorship. Why pregnancy centers are irrationally alleged to be illegal opposition to abortion rights.
    Wokism is a form of psychosis, and more, because its driving force is the idolatry of all that is evil. This demon can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.

    • Your comment about wokism loathing “order” is on the mark. I do recall a Pope of recent memory suggesting that we should all create a “mess” in the Church.

  3. From my well-worn seat in the peanut gallery I read this piece and then reread it, searching desperately for one word that cries out desperately to be given life and yet is ignored –

    Stupid

    Shirley some room could have been found for it in a piece like this. Is that asking too much?

    • I think Feser says it very well when he states: “If you’re thinking ‘Wait, what’s wrong with any of that?,’ you’re probably woke and should seek help, because these are deeply irrational attitudes.”

      • So, someone who disagrees with the author is woke and needs help and they have irrational attitudes—–kind of a nasty comment Carl.

        • No, it wasn’t if one disagrees with the author, it was if one asks “what is wrong with these attitudes”? Big difference

      • I can only point to one use of the term “woke”. Since he is now on the campaign trail, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has weaponized “woke”. DeSantis, from his newly gained “bully pulpit”, flogs his Democrat opponents as wokes. Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ Communications Director said “woke” was a “slang term for activism…progressive activism” and a general belief in systemic injustices in the country. What injustices are they? I am a Republican and find this explanation lacking. How does activism manifest itself in society?
        Feser: “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy thus aims to help patients identify these BAD mental habits and to counteract them.”
        Being woke is a bad trait? If I dwell too much on sinful thoughts am I woke? If I honor my neighbor am I un-woke?

        • You sound like someone who either doesn’t know what woke really means or doesn’t realize that he is a wokester. Maybe a bit of both. Re-read the article a bit more deeply and thoughtfully. And no actual and thoughtful Republicans support woke ideology.

          • I found the use of WOKE in Webster’s Dictionary.

            “WOKE originated in African American English and gained more widespread use beginning in 2014 as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. By the end of that same decade it was also being applied by some as a general pejorative for anyone who is or appears to be politically left-leaning.”

            I now what WOKE means politically. WOKE = left-leaning. BAD!

        • Hello morgan,
          It goes back to the CRT discussion. On the one hand it’s important to be respectful of each other & charitable. But on the other hand, “tolerance, inclusion, & diversity” depts. can become a way to control others & dictate what can be tolerated & which sorts of diversity are valued & which are not. And that’s not any kind of real progress. Nor is obsessing about race because race is a social construct, not a scientific one. Many of us have varying amounts of European, African, Middle Eastern Asian, American tribal, etc DNA. In former colonies like the US few folks are 100% one ethnicity.
          If “woke” was a simple matter of being kind & acting like Christians to our neighbors, whatever ethnicity, I’d be 100% behind it. But it’s not.

      • Meiron;

        YOU GET IT!!

        Without a sense of humor, yea verily an appreciation of irony (liberals have a severe irony deficiency!!) we’ll NEVER get through this.

        Recommended reading – ‘The Amazing Hat Mystery’ by P. G.Wodehouse. I’ve been reading him since I was 13 – at my father’s insistence!! – and I can report happily that the older I get (don’t ask!!) the funnier he gets.

        And I STILL say that the word STUPID should have found a home in this article.

        • Right, Ho, Terence. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Jeeves, but it was a very long while ago. I don’t remember the title but it was about a wedding or engagement or dinner (or all three?) made memorable by many inanely ridiculous mishaps.

          Shirley! I don’t understand STUPID as it’s too far above me paygrade, but Feser, smart philosophy professor that he is, ought to know the meaning of the word, how and where to use it.
          Shirley! 😁😀😂

        • Justice goes to show you never can kowtow the strongly ironed shirtspiece worn by men at Wikipedia stitching nine anemic wines together. Here’s Wiki quoting Bertie on nuclear fission:

          “I was reading in the paper the other day about those birds who are trying to split the atom, the nub being that they haven’t the foggiest as to what will happen if they do. It may be all right. On the other hand, it may not be all right. And pretty silly a chap would feel, no doubt, if having split the atom he suddenly found the house going up in smoke and himself being torn limb from limb.”

          😀

          • ‘The Amazing Hat Mystery’ is not a Bertie and Jeeves story – the master had many other memorable characters. As I said – the older I get the funnier he gets, so you have a treat to look forward to WHEN you return.

            It is written that in the summer of 1938 the summer reading of (then) Princess Elizabeth consisted entirely of the work of P.G. Wodehouse – that must have been an enjoyable summer for the future queen, and that was the year of ‘Code of the Woosters’. My personal favorite is ‘Brinkley Manor’, aka ‘Right Ho Jeeves’, from 1934. Gussie Fink-Nottle, the French cook Anatole and Aunt Dahlia are prominent in this saga. Gussie’s speech at the Market-Snodsbury graduation is one to savor.

            One more thing – Once upon a time I lived in Indiana and I read the Chicago Tribune faithfully. Both Ann Landers and Dear Abby had columns in the Tribune, and I would read them. At one point one of the readers said something that was about as dumb as one could ask for, and one of the sisters – I can’t remember which – replied with what I still think of as one of the all-time classic comebacks – “You have a point, but if you keep your hat on, maybe no one will notice.”

            Such a remark is pertinent when one speaks of woke.

  4. Similar to many Christians’ (especially of the Evangelical type) misuse and abuse of the adjective “Anti-Christ,” going beyond its original biblical referent to be thrown and tag at just anybody who is one’s enemy, “Woke” has lately become similar such term especially among those perpetrators of injustices with which the original advocates of “Wokeism” and the “Woke” were the victims. Dr. Feser here in this article and presumably in his book is an example of one whose perspective is that of the perpetrators of injustices (though personally he may not be one). His location in life obviously makes him blinded in this regard. His anti-wokeism has taken the form of the rationalization, denigration and rebuttal of wokeism as a defense mechanism of the perpetrators of injustices.
    Feser’s thought goes against the main thrust of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) which in its character is essentially woke. To be awake to injustice of any kind, but particularly social injustice, is deeply rooted in the Catholic faith. The tradition and long line of social encyclicals which apply the example of Jesus and biblical principles for Catholic engagement in the socio-political and economic spheres started by Pope Leo XII with Rerum Novarum (1891) up to the latest by Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti (2020), are rightly woke in its call to be aware and conscious of social injustices so as to act accordingly in and by one’s Catholic faith. Rather than Feser’s self-serving definition, CST reflects the more balanced and authoritative Merriam-Webster (2017) definition of “Woke,” to mean as being “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).”
    Grounded in the principle of the life and dignity of the human person, CST obliges Catholics to protect and defend all human life at all stages — including the infant in the womb and the elderly person on his or her deathbed — by calling Catholics to see the inherent dignity of each human person created in the image and likeness of God, regardless of race or any other defining characteristic. CST calls on Catholics to participate in our society and to work to strengthen the family, so greatly under attack today. It clarifies that each person has a right to life and the responsibility to fulfill our duties to our family, neighbors and society. It demands that we treat the poor and most vulnerable with special attention and compassion, putting their needs first. It dictates the protection of the dignity of work and the respect of the basic rights of workers. It calls us to solidarity as one human family, pursuing peace and justice for all people. And it calls us to respect the interconnectedness of all living things through caring for God’s creation.

    • “Dr. Feser here in this article and presumably in his book is an example of one whose perspective is that of the perpetrators of injustices (though personally he may not be one).”

      I always enjoy the passive-aggressive approach of ideologues, especially those who try to co-opt Catholic Social Doctrine for their own ends. It gives the game away those who pay attention, but it certainly appeals to those driven by emotion and a deep but largely unprincipled desire to address “injustice”. As Feser notes, there is indeed a “woke” spectrum. But the most insidious and forceful forms are not just ideological, they set up a system of “thought” that is essentially religious (but very anti-Christian) in nature, as scholars such as Joshua Mitchell (author of American Awakening) have cogently argued. The ugliness of much “wokeness” is especially evident it the realm of matters sexual. That is also the area in which the vast chasm between Catholic moral teaching and the various “woke” streams can be most easily perceived. Again, for those who prefer truth over propaganda.

      • Just to be clear: The “I” in “AI” is not an “l”. I don’t compliment Mr. Aldous. I compliment the message from the AI bot.

        • I must admit that, at my age, all this controversy of who believes what and the labeling and judging is overwhelming to say the least. Woke or un-woke!? What’s next? Will I be labeled for speaking out against an injustice or showing sympathy for someone struggling with sexual identity. Rodney King said it best “Can’t we all just get along?” Let us Pray.

      • That’s why CST is often called “the Church’s best kept secret!” Many simply do not know it. Many others resist knowing it. Many more do not want it known by Catholics lest their power and privileges get threatened and they can no longer continue the status quo of oppressing and displacing others. Today CST is thrown the tag “Woke” by these powers that be and their culture warriors to scare and mislead Catholics. If only Catholics read, study, pray over, and live out the social encyclicals of and from Pope Leo XIII to Pope Francis which take the example of Jesus and biblical principles, they’d realize that “wokeness” – that is being aware and conscious of social issues, especially (in the U.S.) of social and racial injustices – is essentially a mark of being Catholic.

        • People cannot be authentically Catholic and woke any more than they can claim to be Christians and think like Nazis or Bolsheviks. The systems are fundamentally opposed and incompatible. There is only one option of the two. Choose wisely.

          • Athanasius: Correction: You are absolutely mistaken in equating being woke with nazism and bolshevikism. Woke which originated with the growth of awareness about racial injustices, and given a slang word to describe being awake and alert to these injustices and passionate to address these has none of the totalitarianism and godlessness of these ideologies. Today wokeness is not only about racial but also about other forms of social injustices. You have been co-opted and mislead by those who perpetrate and perpetuate these injustices and move you to blindness and inaction and even unknowingly endorse the continued injustices they inflict by tarnishing those who are addressing these. CST is the application of christological and christological principles to and engagement with today’s socio-economic and political issues, like in connection to wokeness, to racial and social injustices. CST teaches that it’s not only okay but even imperative for Catholics to be woke just as Jesus was.

  5. When my son was in high school the sociology teacher had them do a review of Disney characters from way back (my era). THis exercise was to identify racism– i think. One of the characters in The Jungle Book was an orangutang ‘King Louie’ and his monkey gang. They ‘performed’ a jazzy song and the teacher kinda assummed it had racial undertones do to the ‘monkeys’ singing like maybe a racial minority. Well the voice of King Louie was Louie Prima, an Italian!!!
    As one of italian heritage I havent stopped laughing.

  6. I thought this was an excellent summary of the wokeness insanity. Missing however, was a plea that non-woke, rational people, stand firm when they challenge wokeness or are attacked for being non-woke. I have seen far too many TV and news reports about someone who makes an innocuous comment and is roundly attacked by the woke media,etc. Politicians, school principals, corporate heads, etc. They are attacked for saying something entirely true and normal and then they go on a broadcasted apology tour saying they are at fault and are sorry. Caving to their demands for apology, change and recognition onlh emboldens them and makes them stronger. It is a mistake. I do get that some people are afraid to lose their jobs, but that is NOT a good reason to comply with the demands of those who are flat out nut jobs, or are activists looking for power and a big payday by spouting what can only be described as delusional nonsense. They are crazy, period, or willfully abusive of the truth. In fact, the old children’s fable ” The Emperor’s New Clothes ” comes to mind. You can keep mouthing what is not true, but that doesnt change reality. Corporate cash being thrown at “woke” activists which strengthens them. There is genuine harm being done to our children in schools and ordinary folks at work. I suggest you are committing a significant sin by “going along” with the demands of the irrational crowd who want to tell you that up is down, and black is white, and men are women, and all sorts of other insanities. Today I told a pizza store owner I appreciated his not selling Coke, as it is a woke company who forced CRT training upon their workers. Their actions are offensive. The ONLY solution is to NOT play along. Boycott woke companies like Coke and M&M’s. Big or small effort, what matters is that you RESIST. Tell your friends. And smarten up and VOTE like your life depends upon it, because it does. Elect non-woke candidates. Truth is on OUR side. Be not afraid.

    • LJ;

      Yours is a good point well made.

      For me it brings to mind William F. Buckley Jr. – he would have cut the woke to ribbons, slowly and unmercifully, until they withdrew never to be seen again. I believe that one thing sorely needed is humor – laced with irony, which these people dread.

    • LJ,
      Sadly, the more you research it, the more you learn that “Wokeness” permeates virtually every corporation these days & to boycott it all would leave few alternatives for shopping, groceries, or most anything else. If you google the Human Rights campaign website & look at their corporate ratings scale it makes that pretty clear. Practically everybody in big business is represented there.
      I know I’m preaching to the choir about this. Sorry.
      I try to not do business with the worst offenders when at all possible. Some companies have jumped on the woke bandwagon out of social pressure but aren’t actual zealots. Some companies actually believe in & enforce woke policy. I had to switch my employment a few years ago because of that. It became unbearable & to the point I couldn’t remain on in good conscience.

  7. For those who are interested, James Lindsay’s site New Discourses has a considerable library of podcasts outlining, unpacking, and critiquing Critical Race Theory. His perspective is secular, but I have found the depth and detail of his analyses to be helpful in understanding and then challenging CRT. Calvin Robinson, an Anglican cleric who was cancelled, also does a good job evaluating CRT from a Christian perspective.

  8. I never voted not 1 time in my life.I never protested in the streets.I never gave orders to nobody to carry out.I am not a races 40% of my relatives on my dad side white and black.I barely follow people on social media,but I love writing my thoughts down of what I read and seeked.i don’t hide what I found online that was already public.The digital world don’t portrait my real world life.i like the sleep etc.i could go on and on but basically you get the picture.im not woke or a leftist because nobody calls my phone.

  9. What Feser has done here is not correctly defining “wokeness,” but redefining and misrepresenting what being “woke” is with the aim of gaslighting or pushing back on those who are “woke.” This is done by those who are usually threatened by the “woke” and “wokeness.” Originally a slang for being “awake,” “woke” means being alert and well-informed about social injustices and passionate in addressing it. The pushback against “wokeness” on the part of Catholics is made by those, like Feser here, who try to gaslight and say that being “woke” is incompatible with the faith by red-tagging and falsely identifying it as marxist or socialist, or progressive liberalism. Feser here in the process perpetuates the injustices by muddying the concept. To be Catholic is also to be “woke” as exemplified in the life and message of the saint whose feast is celebrated today: St. Oscar Romero.

    • You say so, but unlike Feser you provide no argument, facts, etc.

      “This is done by those who are usually threatened by the “woke” and “wokeness. … Feser here in the process perpetuates the injustices by muddying the concept….”

      As Feser notes, this is a form of dichotomous thinking.

      Funny how being “woke” immediately grants knowledge of critic’s thoughts and motives, even while valid criticisms of public statement/actions from wokedom are dismissed or disparaged.

      In many (if not most) instances, wokeness is simply a form of politicized neo-gnosticism (“We know you are inherently racist, unjust, etc.!”) and also rather cultish.

  10. Nonsense. This is all old style fascism wrapped in new fangled semantics. Poneros, the biblical Greek for evil, is defined as using God to advance personal prestige power wealth and control over people, and harming them in the process. This whole premise is based in hate and vilification of others. Precisely the opposite of Christian ethos. Christ did not come to start a political party or national government based on some protectionist “otherism” and by projection, the writer puts words in the mouth of Jesus, which is blasphemy. Defaming and lying about others is more a sin than fornication in Christ’s eyes. Using the church to oppress the people and make money doing so got Jesus as mad as we ever see him, taking a knotted rope to the likes of Copeland and Graham and the luddite writer of this piece.

  11. My prior comment didn’t ultimately get posted so I will try again. Is it “woke” when Christians in America claim they are under attack and being “replaced?” Is it “woke” when white men complain it is harder to succeed competing against more women and people of color? Is it “woke” to complain that an election was “stolen” by non-existent fraud (especially if verified by over 60 judges, over half of whom are Republican and several appointed by the candidate himself)? I think the definition is becoming clearer.

    • John,
      The only thing replacing Christians in some parts of the US is secularism. Secularists have fewer children than believers so eventually it will be the secularists being replaced.
      Of course Christians come in all varieties of complexion and ethnicity. Just as secularists do.

  12. In a number of separate passages our Lord indicates not to be blunt instruments. There are many graces that would go with this. The practical Christian has to intuit according to the circumstances what is evoking the Christian calling and what in the calling seeks to meet with this. From there we won’t be doing anything unjust.

    Inside the broader woke tide are strivings for truth, freedom, opportunity, clarity, identity, hope, stability, individuality, community, even religion, etc., which are all satisfied in the call from Christ.

    But if you run trends as paranoia and fanaticism, that are fatal – well, what’s the good.

    Socialized patterns may seem formidable. They have to be dissected. In the first place we are going to be meeting regular individuals -we’re not all leading into mass political movements. We can’t suppose that, for anything to make sense, they must be totally put down on the one hand, nor, on the other, that there must always first be a grand scheme to tackle everything whole.

  13. Hi everyone. I admit i’m not educated in this area and I just came here to this article as a believer to try and understand what “wokeness” means as it’s all over the news these days. It seems to be a very polarizing word and a lot of emotions attached from both sides.

    While there are a lot of deep philosophical discussions, what I take from the article is that the author seems to suggest wokeness is founded on CRT and wokeness is an extreme case of paranoid delusion, as characterized by Russell Crowe portrayal of Dr. John Nash. But as this is an extreme case i’d like a more simple and pragmatic answer to my questions for cases that are not so extreme.

    So that I can navigate my daily life around this concept, my 2 simple questions are:

    1. Is the concept of EDI/DEI/Black Lives Matter “wokeness”?
    2. Are corporations “woke” when they have pro-EDI statements or policies? A good example is the recent Budweiser commercial.
    3. Are indigenous land acknowledgements “wokeness”
    4. Can there be degrees of “wokeness” where some degrees are acceptable, or is the definition of wokeness black and white (you are either woke or not and you can’t be partially woke)

    I don’t expect any answers will end this understanding for me but hopefully your wisdom will help me make the right decisions in Christ.

    Thank you in advance.

      • Thank you for your response, Athanasius.

        For question 4, do you mean “yes, there are degrees of wokeness” in that one can be very woke (which is not acceptable as the author argues) or mildly woke (which is acceptable), or “yes, wokeness is black and white” in that you are either woke or you are not. To me this is a key question when it comes to defining wokeness.

      • I re-read the article and found that the author suggests there are degrees of wokeness. He is mostly talking about the extreme kinds that are delusional, but he seems to say one can be woke and calm at the same time.

        So going back to my other 3 questions using examples, Athanasius, you agree all those are “woke” examples. Specifically on question #2, if corporations have pro-EDI statements, but are not really marketing the fact, are they slightly woke, ow that we agree wokeness comes in degrees? And should I be drinking their beer? I am hearing others in the comments say we need to stay away from all degrees of wokeness, which in that case should only purchase from businesses that do not have an EDI statement. But this makes life complicated and not so convenient if I have to do the research every time I buy something. Maybe doing this research is the modern cross we have to bear?

        Furthermore, my company has a pro-EDI statement but is not very actively vocal about it, but this may change soon as the executives are developing an EDI strategy. Am I ok to stay working there or should I find another job? Basically, what degree of wokeness is ok? Where is the line before we cross over to sin?

7 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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