Below is a guest post from a friend who has exposed the multiple traits characterised by those who have willingly or unwittingly bought into the ideology of what is now called Wokism. Woke culture is a much used term these days and for good reason. It derives from the neo-Marxist left of the political spectrum and seeks multiple ways of redress in culture and politics by force, coercian and an a-historical approach to the present. This is typified in ‘Cancel Culture’ and the power of ‘Big Tech’ to over-reach and close down chanels and platforms that do not conform to theirway of seeing the world.
(a) the “sovereign citizen” trait – an absolutist belief in oneself as a centre of authority that should not be challenged;
(b) the “masquerading as an angel of light” trait – a projected image of “deeds before men” designed to assert that one is ‘the helper’, presupposing the drama triangle of ‘rescuers, victims, and persecutors’;
(c) the ‘poor victim’ trait – a projected image of being the one who has suffered injustice and who should as a result receive attention and respect;
I’m afraid I’ve never visited your incredible country, but I do love your people, your food and much of your history.
I’m only writing to say I’ve noticed that everyday for two months, “China” has visited my blog, and I am very grateful. I apologise I do not know how to write Chinese and dialects thereof, I wish I did, because then it might be better for you. I suggest though, that your ability at English is probably better than mine!! Sigh.
I don’t know why there has been a China spike in blog hits. I’m very grateful though and want to say once again, you are very welcome.
I don’t think I’ve criticised the Communist State on this blog, but I do support and highlight the Persecuted Church. Maybe it is fellow Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ and if it is, you are welcome and hope you find nourishment and encouragement. And I and many others continue to pray for you.
If it’s not my brothers and sisters in Christ, then who could it be and why? I won’t write anything here that may endanger anyone, because we know the Communist State is quite cross about churches a Christians. But it must understand, when any authoritarian state is quite cross at the church, it never ends well for the state.
G. K. Chesterton, an eccentric English Journalist from the 20th century said, “Five times it looked as though the Church had gone to the dogs; and every time it was the dog that died.” Leave the Church to flourish, and You, Dear China, will flourish too.
Normally, I just pop a short review on whatever websites when I’ve read a good book that should be widely read (in my view at least). Sometimes I write something about a book in more detail on this blog – normally theology or some such. ‘Cynical Theories – How Universities Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody’ is one of those books that although is not theology, is excellent at charting our cultural waters, and evaluating and assessing various trends over the decades and centuries.
Here’s a taster of what is proving to be a very important book. In articulating the morph from “original postmodern’ thought to the new Theorists, we read,
One of the best cultural critics I know has once again done what great cultural analysis does best: Expose the little man behind the curtain (Wizard of Oz) pulling all the strings and presenting a certain reality (fake news) that many people absorb and assume to be the norm. What follows is a masterclass from my friend, who remains anonymous at this point because the Woke Militia are really a terrible bunch of virtue-signalers and it is my duty and joy to protect him and share it here.
“Part of the woke problem is premature self-ascription of prophetic authority by people who suppress the true prophets. I think we are allowed to point that out.”
Yes we are. And we must. Whether in the Church or in the World, a kind of prophetic mantle is presumed and then acted upon with all sorts of illegitimate authority, by the religious and the non-religious. Woke culture displays classic religious traits of cultic and cultural authoritarianism on a par with Nazism and Communism: Left and Right in an inter-play of 1984 meets the Gulag Archipelago. Any non-echo chamber YouTube search will plentifully prove my point.
“The Social Justice Warrior (SJW) movement known now as ‘Woke’ is a cultural, intellectual and theological dead-end. It is ignorance, projected self-righteousness and illegitimate rage on steroids.”
“That’s Not Right” Luke 13:1-5 (and 12:54-56; 13:6-9)
My first two years of Secondary School were at a Boys Boarding School. It was also in the days when kids had milk at school. We had those 1/3 pint bottles. But sometimes the bottles arrived early and so were left outside. In the summer, this is not a good thing.
I remember, during a break time, we were rebelling: The milk had turned – lumpy! There was no way I was going to drink it. And as I stood right by the crate, in what we called the ‘Milk Rebellion’ of ‘82 The Headmaster appeared. Proper Old School. Made Genghis Khan look like a fairy! Hard as nails. Dipped in starch. Hair parted like the Red Sea and socks pulled tight up to his knees! We’ll call him Donald.
He heard our squeaking and wailing and said passive-aggressively: “Is there a problem?” He stood there, picked up a bottle, punched the foil away, and gulped down the milk. We all looked on in astonishment. He wiped the lumpy bits from around his mouth and chin. And said, “Delicious, nothing wrong with that!” And walked away, like a victorious king!
My thoughts were not quite suitable for a Sunday morning in church.
One of my favourite places to go to is St. Fagans in Cardiff. When my three children were children in the 1990’s, my wife and I virtually lived there – I mean, we took the children there a lot, not that we went there to escape them!
We went back a year ago with our adopted fourth child, and just loved it; especially to see what had changed and what had delightfully stayed the same. One of the additions to the Museum, was what looked like, at first glance (or even a long stare), was a plain looking, church-like, chapel kind of building. It was new to the museum and us, but old in the sense of centuries. It is St Teilo’s, and it looked very plain and unassuming:
This was a Catholic Church built around the time of the great Thomas Aquinas (late 12th or 13th century), so is very old. It was now restored and had been relocated to St Fagans, just outside Cardiff. Inside, it was breathtaking. A blaze of colour and images telling biblical stories. All the pictures had been restored – not because they had faded over time, no, no, no. But because at the 16th century Reformation, the “Reformers” decided that they had had enough of colour and art and imagination, and so, whitewashed the walls (that’s why many Protestant churches and chapels are plain, oh so plain)!!
I was irked and very annoyed to be a Protestant at that time. It was quite something to experience – and, to sooth my ontological angst, the member of staff on duty was excellent and up-to-speed on her Reformation-Catholic knowledge, which helped, so well done St Fagans!
Having said all that, another favourite place of mine was visiting the Reformation Wall at Geneva, built between 1909 and 1917, during my 2017 Sabbatical from pastoral ministry, What a place and what a city (very expensive cheese – but so worth the inevitable cheese-sweat)!
In the city, I found the magnificent Wall, Calvin’s church (near Purgatory Street); the Reformation Museum and even Calvin’s grave:
Below is a picture of me at the Wall taken by my daughter (above):
It was a very special time, and although I’m a (UK) Baptist, I’m certainly not a card carrying Calvinist, as my tradition would suggest. But, to be in that place was wonderful. So, what’s the connection?
Three years ago I published a post as I reflected on British politics in light of the Brexit phenomena; how words are a power-play and how extreme caution and wisdom is needed to avoid what it turns out, we have not avoided – a fractured country and an advanced political system that doesn’t know what to do.
As I write this, the UK is holding European elections, elections we never thought we’d have to partake, in light of the Brexit referendum. I’m not interested in saying this or that about Brexit – good and true arguments can be made by both sides, but no-one is really listening to each other anymore, at least not in any substantive way.
What I am interested in, is not so much the specific thing that is a situational political event that our lives are living through, but a much wider fact of what it means to be a human being in a community/society like this:
I recently read these words of Jurgen Moltmann in his book ‘Man’ (p.96-97) where I was reminded that any human politics (Brexit included) form part of the much wider and deeper matrix and fabric of humanity:
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COME ALONG to learn more about Investing for Peace, taking part in real activism, take part in campaign actions and meet like-minded people.
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was formed in 2017 as a result of the merger of Friends of Sabeel UK and Kairos Britain.
Kairos Britain A network of individuals, organisations and faith communities seeking a just and lasting peace in the region based on the realisation of full human and political rights for all.Friends of Sabeel UK Supports the Sabeel Theology Centre in Jerusalem in its work for the promotion of religion for the benefit of the community. Supports and encourages the Christian community in the Holy Land (Israel and the Palestinian areas of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem) in their life and witness. Raises awareness in the United Kingdom concerning Christians in the Holy Land and promotes links with them.
From the second chapter entitled ‘On the Negative Spirit’ of G. K. Chesterton’s book Heretics, he majestically dismantles the secualrized notion of “progress”, an idea that on the surface of things sounds mature but as Chesterton shows, is actually devoid of a telos, a true goal that most of human history (until the modern age) has been concerned with. In other words, modern secularism is self-referential to the point of madness and absurdity, “It has no perfection to point to” hence,
“All I venture to point out, with an increased firmness, is that this omission (the absence of an enduring and positive ideal [or] absence of a permanent key to virtue), good or bad, does leave us face to face with the problem of a human consciousness filled with very definite images of evil, and with no definite image of good. To us light must be henceforward the dark thing – the thing of which we cannot speak…
… The human race, according to religion, fell once, and in falling gained the knowledge of good and evil. Now we have fallen a second time, and only the knowledge of evil remains to us. A great silent collapse, an enormous unspoken disappointment, has in our time fallen on our Northern civilization…”
And now we are set for the full force of Chesterton’s genius. I have rearranged the shape of the following paragraph so that it can be seen more clearly, but the order of words and ideas is exact):
“… Every one of the popular modern phrases and ideals is a dodge in order to shirk what is good.
We are fond of talking about “liberty”; that, as we talk of it, is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good.
We are fond of talking about “progress”; that is a dodge to avoid talking about what is good.
We are fond of talking about “education”; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good.
The modern man says, “Let us leave all these arbitrary standards and embrace liberty.” This is logically rendered, “Let us not decide what is good, but let it be considered good not to decide it.”
He says, “Away with your old moral formulae; I am for progress.” This, logically stated, means, “Let us not settle for what is good; but let us settle whether we are getting more of it.”
He says, “Neither in religion nor morality, my friend, lie the hopes of the race, but in education.” This, clearly expressed, means, “We cannot decide what is good, but let us give it to our children.”
Chesterton later calls this “unconscious shirking” (p.14), before stating: “What is the good of begetting a man until we have settled what is the good of being a man? You are merely handing on to him a problem you dare not settle yourself.”
The following article is a guest post by Rev’d Dr Helen Paynter, a Research Fellow and Coordinator of Community Learning at Bristol Baptist College, as well as part-time minister at Victoria Park Baptist Church in Bristol, and it is published here with my thanks to her friendship and ministry.
It is of no small significance that the great Anthony Thiselton, writing the preface to his 20th Anniversary Edition of New Horizons in Hermeneutics writes, “The two thinkers to whom I would now give serious space if I were writing the book today are probably Hans Robert Jauss and Mikhail Bakhtin” (p.xxi) – emphasis totally mine!
To the truth…..
The truth: the holy truth, and nothing like the truth – post-truth society and the church.
Bristol Baptist College May 2017
The post-truth phenomenon and why it matters
Truth is the ground on which we stand and the sky that stretches above us – Hannah Arendt
The art of political ‘spin’ is millennia-old. But in recent years, the will to deceive for political purposes has intensified to a new level – or so it seems. In the light of the now-notorious ‘£350m/week for the NHS’ claim, and the election of US President Trump, we in the UK and liberal West are now, apparently, in the age of ‘post-truth’ politics.
The phrase ‘post-truth’ was designated ‘Word of the Year 2016’ by the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines it as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. In bald terms, it means that the factuality (I hesitate to use the word ‘truth’ here, for reasons which will become clear later) of claimed facts is becoming an irrelevant commodity in public, or at least political, discourse. As The Economist put it recently, ‘Truth is not falsified, or contested, but of secondary importance’.
An important – and disturbing – cultural phenomenon is arising, and the church needs to understand and address it. This paper will briefly consider some of the causes of our current predicament, and suggest some ways that the church might respond. First, I suggest five reasons why it matters.
As shown by a Mori poll published in December 2016, lack of public confidence in the political process is at an all-time low. Ironically, this begets a vicious cycle: ‘When lies make the political system dysfunctional, its poor results can feed the alienation and lack of trust in institutions that make the post-truth play possible in the first place.’
History has repeatedly shown that lies are the tools of political oppression. As Hannah Arendt put it, ‘[Truth] is hated by tyrants, who rightly fear the competition of a coercive force they cannot control.’
Psychological studies have proven that false memories persist, even when they are publically retracted. In light of the commandment not to bear false witness (Exodus 20:16), this should disturb all who take biblical ethics seriously.
A recent Demos report showed that on-line disinformation, a major source of untruth, is disproportionately seen and believed by children and young people.
Contrary to the logic of ‘post-truth’, facts matter – in politics as elsewhere. How I ‘feel’ about Europe or the NHS may or may not be important; whether one of these institutions is receiving £350 million a week certainly is.
How have we arrived at the stage where untruth is regarded as acceptable – or at least, unsurprising – within the common consciousness?