The central preoccupation and conversation in our society today, in politics, in economics, and in religion and culture is centering around the idea of “Wokeness”. Many disciplines are claiming responsibility for introducing “woke” concepts into the worlds of law, business, academia, and our everyday social interactions. This idea did not just spring up “de novo” over the past several years. It is the result of “postmodern” philosophical theories that eventually led to totalitarian fascism and communism and gained a foothold in the Western academia after World War II.
The Catholic social justice movement that started with the Encyclical Rerum Novarum—The Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, and numerous writings of Pope Pius X who followed him in 1903, were known for vigorously opposing most modernist secular philosophies especially theories of Descartes that radicalized “theories of self”—I think therefore I am or try Kant and I paraphrase— I do not look to the acts of the world or a moral standard to what is right or wrong…but rather to my own will that determines moral rectitude. This idea of self before God is consistent with the ancient gnostic humanistic traditions and is the antithesis of Classical, Judeo-Christian, Enlightenment Natural Law Philosophy.
It is and has been since antiquity the justification for totalitarian empire and the subjugation of the individual. When man becomes his own “god” he can determine his own form and his own wills. The Popes mentioned above pushed back vigorously against Marxism, Communism, Socialized Nationalism. Their writing foreshadowed the evils that these political and economic philosophies were to bring into the modern world. Many Protestant Church leaders wrote about the evils of fascism and socialism prior to and during World War II. Many paid with their lives like Dietrich Bonhoffer.
The Christian ideal that we are made by God in His image, that we are body and soul, is the antithesis of postmodern existentialist theory that was defined by John-Paul Sartre as “existence proceeding essence (soul) “. There is no moral standard and no connection between God and His greatest creation man. Man becomes his own “god” and can take on any form he wants. There are no moral predicates and there is no moral accountability. Can we now see how the progressive liberal secularist can justify transgenderism and abortion? Can we see how any “Woke” promulgation of principle that has no moral predicate is subject only to the whim of the “woker”? And because there is no moral predicate—even though there could be, only the coercive force of those in power can enforce wokeness. All laws must ultimately have a moral predicate. Laws without such a foundation end up in chaos. Think the final solution, Pol Pot or even the Tuskegee experiment. All actions taken by governments under the cover of “Law”, and even with advocates in the medical professions, and all lacking a moral—and might I add a Biblical predicate.
Opposing the “postmodern secularist” point of view is the Classical and Biblical ideal that the true self is both body and soul. The marriage of these disciplines can be found in the work of St. Thomas. “Free Will” is God’s great gift to each of us and it can be used for good or evil purposes. It is the basis of the Enlightenment concepts of liberty. “Free Will” and liberty are not given to us by governments or even given to each individual by themselves. They are gifts from God that require the duty of fidelity to God. His promise to us is conditional on our faithfulness to Him. Not to another person, or a political philosophy, or heaven forbid an egotistical thought—to ourselves.
“Wokeism, like all the communal socialisms, unlike Republicanism, is grounded in conflict instead of cooperation. Both Marx and Hagel opined that the world has always been divided between the oppressors and the oppressed. Economic oppression and political oppression, master-slave, worker-capitalist, man-woman, black-white-red, are used as a basis for conflict and revolution. Never mind that history shows us that the materialism of the “isms” always and without exception ends up in the death of millions—maybe 700 million people in the 20th century “postmodern” era.
Christianity and our political and economic systems are grounded in cooperation. “love your neighbor as yourself”. “Do unto others…” “What you do unto the least of my brethren…” The marketplace cannot function without the good will of the buyer toward the seller and vice versa. The City Council or Congress or the PTA or HOA cannot function unless adversaries approach each other with “good will” All other economic and political systems based on coercive enforcements of policies have never lived beyond two generations. How many French Republics have there been? How many “Great Roads Forward”. Critical theory which is the bases of “wokeness” requires coercion and subjugation and for those reasons alone it will never be the basis for a thriving and happy society.
Finally, I must state, and maybe I should have done this up front, that I am not a “religious” or an apologetic. I was hoping that a person far more qualified than myself could have written this article, and someone with more moral authority and more experienced in teaching would have done much better. But despite what we are hearing in the media and from our leaders our fight today is not a cultural fight, but rather a spiritual battle. Whether the issue is environmentalism, or “wokeness”, or abortion or gender identity, our side has allowed the liberal progressive post-modern existentialists to define the argument. I only hope I have helped define the argument for our side, better as we move forward, and I call on those more knowledgeable than me to join the fight.
I say again we need a MODERN-DAY GREAT AWAKENING—very soon.