How The Woke Revolution Works In Practice

My husband and I co-founded a justice-oriented non-profit org 11 years ago. At the time, we knew nothing about Critical Social Justice or Critical Theory. Our motivation was to address disparities in mental health care. We’d learned that lay people (ppl without clinical training) made up the majority of trauma care providers around the world working with vulnerable populations (refugees, human trafficking survivors, etc). We wanted to help equip those lay people with good resources.

…Then a few years ago we noticed a tone shift among our program staff. They became hyper-critical of *everything.* As Executive Director, my husband felt he was always on trial. Every word and action was scrutinized. We couldn’t figure out where this was coming from. 4/

We noticed shared rhetoric among the staff. Terms we heard often:
“systems of power and oppression”
“hegemony”
“marginalized identities”
“intersections”
“centering”
“deconstruct”
“knowledges”
“normativity”

[We] Didn’t understand the ideology behind it, started doing some reading.

Then the open letters started. The letters always went to everyone in the org (from the graphic designer to the governing board), they always asserted vaguely that the organization was “causing harm,” and they always ended with demands. We were alarmed and confused.

…What also became apparent quickly was they didn’t want to resolve any real harm. They wanted control of the organization. They stated explicitly my husband was incapable of running an org that addresses trauma (an org he founded!) bc he’s straight, white, male, and Christian. Read more»

“Grace Is For You,” My Story (April 26, 2021)

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    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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16 comments

  1. Wow. Her response to the problem is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Not a fun thing to contemplate, but using woke tactics is effective. Might make you feel a bit dirty afterwards.

    • Hickok, I’m going to think out loud here for a second to try to (tentatively and experimentally and inviting correction) contextualize your response about using Woke tactics.

      In this story, the Woke Narrative is that the author (Grace?) was cis-hetero and so complicit with hegemonic cultural oppressive forces. Grace deconstructed the Woke Narrative assumption that heterosexual marriage means cis-hetero. She responded to critical theory with a critical theory. Part of the implication is that Grace may herself be a victim of a heterosexual system of power and oppression.

      Zoom in for background:
      There are (at least) two options for the Christian when he responds to a falsehood. One is to introduce external authority. This introduces faith and might look like this: “Yes I praise God to be cis-hetero in a marriage which is indeed one system of blessing and privilege. I thank God for his law so that we can not only repent in reliance on the Gospel but also by his grace know how to please him in obedience.”

      A different (but complimentary!) option is to demonstrate internal inconsistencies. This introduces reason and may look like this: “How can you undermine my authority to speak about people dislike me in certain ways, yet authorize others to speak about people dislike them in certain ways?”

      This is hard to do without seeming churlish, but the model is Jesus in the Gospels. Look at how in Luke 20: 1-4 Jesus doesn’t answer with an appeal to external authority (which he could have easily done by directly saying “I am God” or “I am the Christ”), but instead asks them a question that demonstrates their own internal fear & incoherence. Matthew 15 also has Jesus sidestepping a difficult question. If this seems at all odd just remember that the questions are actually polite accusations.

      Zoom out for application:
      Model 1 is introducing the right standard; model two is demonstrating falsehoods in a wrong standard. My guess is that what you are reacting to as “feeling a bit dirty” is Grace’s attempting to operate within a wrong standard. Her pretense or implication of perhaps being marginalized even though she’s married didn’t demonstrate a wrong standard; but instead pretended to achieve that wrong standard.

      My working theory is that as the Woke Narrative tactics relativize the majority/minority position, the Christian can zoom out to provide the response relative to the God/human position. They’re stuck in group identity politics, which can be themselves rightly relativized (marginalized, deconstructed) based on either common human identity or the individual personal identity. They don’t have a rock, a fixed point, so we have to provide one: 2 Corinthians 1:3

  2. Having read several books on this whole business of how post-modernism degenerated and fragmented into postcolonial Theory, queer Theory, critical race Theory, intersectional feminism, disability studies, fat studies, etc., the pieces of the puzzle are being to fall into place.

    – First of all, the author of this post talks about she and her husband starting an organization to deal with the inadequacies in mental health care “eleven years ago.” Bingo! That was half way through the first term of the Obama presidency.

    – By the end of the first decade of this century several developments in the telecom/personal computing industry had begun to take off at a prolific rate. These include wide availability and distribution of 4G “smart phones,” the rapid deployment of new cell phone antennas, the rise of various “social media” communications software platforms (FaceBook, Twitter, etc.).

    – The coming of age of the Millennial Generation, the members of which began to enter the work force after having graduated from college. Millennials, by the way, are cited as the “most educated generation” in U.S. history (this does not mean that they learned anything worthwhile, just that more of them per age group graduated from college).

    It was a perfect storm. All of the above fed into the hands of the Marxist/post modernist/now Critical Theory types in the universities and elsewhere in order to destabilize the existing order in American culture. Fortunately, this young lady, having realized what was going on early in the game, learned what to do in order to counteract these attacks. Most people don’t.

  3. Two important words that are missing:

    JOB, as in get a job before you get replaced by a robot.

    ASSIMILATE. If you actually work for a living, assimilate into the United States of America and leave the fantasy world of “woke.” As in every socialist utopia, if you’re not on top of the pyramid, you will end up broke.

    The next true recession will wipe out this “woke” nonsense. Americans have a lot less patience with bigmouths when they worry about putting food on the table — something the woke crowd should spend more time thinking about doing.

    • You may want to reconsider that in light of history. Socialist and even communist revolutions, led by incendiary revolutionaries with beliefs based on radical left-wing ideology, have historically gone quite well during times of economic chaos and even economic uncertainty.

      The “woke” stuff could end up riding the next major economic downturn to serious political power.

    • Adding to DTM’s comments, the revolution has already begun in the form of Antifa. The government has not been able to put it down. Since all successful insurgencies have the backing of states, it’s reasonable to conclude that Antifa has the backing of 3-letter agencies. This also explains the lack of interest in prosecuting Antifa combatants by federal law enforcement. Antifa is rapidly spreading down the “Free and Easy” (I-5/405 freeways) that connect Canada to Mexico.

      I see no ideological righting-moment to defeat Wokeness at this time since our society has abandoned Christianity in favor of neo-Marxist Frankfurt School ideologies and neo-pagan religions.

  4. Darrell:

    In light of history? Western history? Economic history?

    The United States is not Cuba, Vietnam, China or North Korea. A socialist or anarchist revolution in this country would be a lesson to end all lessons.

    I live in central Indiana. Come visit, we’ll drive 25 miles outside of the city into the rural areas where there are good old boys chomping at the bit. They’ll disabuse you or your historical ideas. I kid you not.

    PG

    • Paul, I get what you’re saying about rural central Indiana and how rural people don’t think like city people.

      I live in the Ozarks. Think of the Winters Bone movie and you have a good idea of the bad size of Ozark life. Or think of Appalachia and West Virginia. The Ozark and Appalachian cultures are very similar in both good and bad ways. Let’s just say not all rural areas are the same. This is **NOT** rural Iowa or rural Indiana, and the rural Ozarks have a history dating back well into the early 1800s of anger and antagonism toward the urban centers of our state — a history that long predates modern liberalism.

      While it’s true that I grew up in Grand Rapids and have lived in a number of larger cities, including New York City, I live in the Ozarks for a reason. My county is the largest of Missouri’s rural counties (we call rural counties “third class counties” in our state, which means we have some structural differences from how larger counties are governed), but at roughly 52,000 people, we’re still a small place.

      I think I might know a bit about what rural people think of the “woke” radicals.

      The problem is not in rural America but rather in our major cities and universities — and in too many of our states, those voices are setting the agenda for the entire state, and very often are not only setting the agenda but winning the fights they pick.

      I know that’s not all of America.

      I don’t know Indiana government in detail but I think it’s fair to say that the Missouri state legislature has taken a hard turn to the hard right, and today we are probably much more conservative on a statewide basis than most states. That’s a huge change, and a recent one. Missouri had been known for a century as a bellwether “swing” state in presidential politics as well as in our legislative chambers. We no longer are, and the major reason for the change is that the conservative rural Democrats of our rural areas have mostly if not entirely turned into conservative Republicans who are not only conservative but SERIOUSLY angry at their former party. In my county, in just the last two decades, we’ve gone from being a place where it was all but impossible for Republicans to get elected to being a county where the Democrats don’t even bother to run candidates anymore for most offices, and except for two long-term incumbents, a popular county court clerk and a popular county judge, Democrats lose by large margins in most cases when they do run.

      The problem is that while our red states and red rural areas are becoming much more conservative, our “woke” left wingers in blue states and blue urban areas are becoming much more liberal. In too many states, they set the agenda for the whole state and run roughshod over conservative rural concerns. By contrast, here in Missouri, our legislature is regularly passing laws to prevent St. Louis, Kansas City, and other liberal bastions from abusing their residents on issues such as gun rights.

      It’s not just gun issues but also social issues. Our state got national attention for being one of the very few places where “woke” leftists at not just one but two of our state universities picked the wrong battles and got shown the door. Problems are far from over at those two universities, but there aren’t a lot of places where the “wokeistas” have lost battles in universities, and they lost big time in both fights.

      Bottom line, Paul — I agree with you that rural America is NOT going to take the “woke” agenda lying down. I’ve seen the angry response in our own county elections.

      The problem is that rural America is no longer anywhere near as influential as it once was, and in too many of our states, not only rural voices but also suburban conservative voices have been rendered irrelevant by the growth of major cities with leaders promoting radical agendas.

      The battle has been won in Missouri, at least for now.

      It’s not at all clear that the battle will be won in a lot of other places, and some are moving in the wrong direction.

  5. Darrell:

    I think the news media and very weak politicians (those in Portland, OR) for example, amplify the influence of Antifa and other radical, greatly. It is entirely out of proportion. Further, I don’t think this country is remotely close to embracing any of the far left values . . . and they keep getting worse. Today, Vogue Magazine asked, “Is having a baby environmental vandalism.”

    I used my rural example because I know for a fact that when BLM was protesting (not rioting), and threatened to take it into a small town, Knightstown, IN, a whole lot of people showed up to welcome the visitors. The visitors never showed.

    At the same time, the Indianapolis Metro Police are very unhappy about the coddling of rioters in downtown Indianapolis last summer. Officers are not going out on patrol proactively. They are taking a reactive posture because of the threat from the local prosecutor. Hancock County, IN Sheriff Dept. is not happy about the situation either. These are just the people that I’ve spoken to first hand.

    When the economic downturn arrives (usually about every 7 years although last year was due to the virus so the cycle may be off a bit), the first thing that will happen is the Biden Administration will be out. People typically vote their wallet and the troublemakers collecting unemployment are not adding to anybody’s standard of living. It is certainly possible that the left wing radicals will try to assume power but I think it is highly improbable. The anarchist nonsense out west (and in Minnesota) will eventually stop because people don’t to live in fear.

    My guess is the western states that are out of control will elect people that will perform a sweep over a few weekends and the chaos stops. It takes will to push back from the cancel culture and
    will from the politicians. It looks like the ones in power lack the will.

    • On a national level, I probably agree with you. I wish I could agree with you about our out-of-control deep blue states.

      Ask Dr. Clark how well things are going for conservatives in California, whether in the rural parts of the state or the suburbs of Orange County or even the medium-sized cities in relatively conservative parts of the state. Escondido and Oceanside are not San Francisco, but they are forced to deal with state laws produced by a legislature that is dominated by the Bay Area and by metro Los Angeles. The Missouri legislature can and does stop St. Louis and Kansas City from doing horrible things, but the reverse is true in California where the legislature and statewide elected officials are overwhelmingly Democrat. They can pass pretty much whatever laws they want, and conservative cities and counties can do very little about it.

      I see no sign that California is headed toward any sort of “red tide” sweeping out its liberals. Maybe angry conservative Korean and Vietnamese businesspeople in Orange County can elect more people like Congresswoman Young Kim and Michelle Steel, and maybe there are places where conservative Hispanics can win in districts that have become predominantly Hispanic. But at least for the short term, it seems obvious that California is going to remain not just blue but deep blue, and is likely to get a lot worse before it gets better.

      In a free republic, given enough time, the voters get the government they want — or the government they deserve.

      California has made its choices and is living with the consequences.

      Missouri has made its choices.

      Same for many other states which are becoming deeper and deeper shades of either red or blue, and where the legislatures and governors are setting policies which attract likeminded people and businesses while deterring others from coming or pushing out those that are out of step with the political and economic realities of their states.

    • The path forward is nullification. If the state passes an onerous law, the counties should nullify it, refuse to enforce it, and expel state enforcers of it. The Left has done this for decades. This will only work so far though. The Left has captured every other institution and all media/propaganda organs. The only possible righting moment is a massive Reformation. Also, it’s time to get our kids out of the public schools and take away their “smart” phones.

  6. Darrell:

    I don’t know how soon California will change (they may get a new Governor) but even liberals don’t like to see their personal property, in many cases their greatest asset, burned to the ground in a riot. Further, Insurance companies don’t like to pay for riot damage.

    My comments are specific to the BLM and ANTIFA criminal behavior. It will be stopped, one way or the other. God is long suffering but most people are not.

    Dr. Herbert Titus once commented on the phrase, “The Great Governor of the Universe.” Titus contends that the Founders believed that if man would not enforce God’s law, God would enforce it himself.

    Regarding the fate of the Republic, things change. If it is for the worst, people that read this blog will still figure out how to get ahead. I’m not yet convinced that our nation’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah” is irrevocable. The books of Esther and Daniel both illustrate the concept of “peripety,” a sudden change of events. In the meantime, I’m with the author of Dr. Clark’s post: the cultural thugs need to receive pushback. And the lawbreakers need to be punished.
    Eventually they will overstep, the Ozark Mountain Boys will retaliate and the cops will . . . well, they’ll just sit that one out.

  7. (Thanks to Paul and Darrell for their helpful and enlightening discussion. Bryce as well.)

  8. Perhaps a better approach would have been for this woman and her husband to have drawn a hard line early. In many companies criticism of one’s employer, open letters with demands, and the like would be a short ticket to the unemployment line, and would be named and punished as the insubordination and undermining of management that they are. They would have perhaps had an easier time if they had taken such am approach.

    • I don’t completely disagree, but much depends upon state laws. In some states, the approaches you describe should only be done after consultation with an attorney who specializes in labor law.

      There are so many details, and they differ so much from state to state, that it’s impossible to say very much here that would be useful, but here are some examples of the problems.

      The author says she and her husband founded a “justice-oriented non-profit org 11 years ago” and their “motivation was to address disparities in mental health care.”

      That means the group has been in existence for some time, it probably engages in public advocacy work, and it operates under nonprofit law, which means there is a corporate board of directors who are independent of the paid staff and management, and it’s not a sole proprietorship or a corporation in which the founders own most or all of the stock and therefore as owners make the decisions.

      There are all kinds of red flags if a nonprofit corporation, particularly one engaged in public advocacy, creates and starts to enforce a policy against criticism of its management by paid staff. Has comparable criticism been allowed in the past? If so, what makes the new criticism different, and what makes it rise to a level that allows the management to stop that criticism, let alone terminate paid staff?

      Even in at-will employment states, many employers, particularly in the nonprofit sector, have created employee handbooks or policies that have the effect of forcing the employer to prove that the employee was terminated for good cause. Since the issue of sexual orientation was brought up by the author of this article, it needs to be noted that if an employee claims to have been fired for reasons related to sexual orientation, at minimum, that employee is going to have grounds for a lawsuit and may well win. Note that the “woke” employee backed off very quickly when the author of this article noted that just because she’s married to a man doesn’t necessarily mean she’s heterosexual. (Think, for example, of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife, who has openly said for years that she was involved in same-sex relationships but happened to marry a man because that’s who she fell in love with.) That employee likely knew the legal consequences in today’s environment of touching the “third rail” of sexual orientation in a workplace environment.

      There are things that a small family owned business can do with an employee that a nonprofit organization should not — or at least shouldn’t do without a long talk in advance with a lawyer who specializes in such matters. Furthermore, even when the laws on the books are formally similar, there is a vast difference between how our more conservative states enforce those laws and how our more liberal states and more liberal state and local bureaucrats enforce them. Lawyers know that a jury in San Francisco is not going to see the case the same way as a jury in rural area where “your home is your castle” is generally understood by juries to mean that small business owners can do what they want with their own business, and that means enforcement personnel are going to be much more aggressive in some jurisdictions than others, even in the same state.

      Bottom line — we no longer live in a world where owners can do what they want with their companies. That goes double for nonprofit organizations where the founders are **NOT** the owners, but rather are paid management staff who report to an independent board of directors. And if the nonprofit public advocacy organization is in a liberal jurisdiction and relies on liberal donors for any significant portion of its funding … well, let’s just say treading carefully before clamping down on employee criticism may be the only way to avoid a huge lawsuit.

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