There are injustices occurring every day at any given time – on a global level and even on a personal level. Hashtag after hashtag, headline after headline, the actions of people around us – we cannot seem to catch a break! As a Christian, what should our response to injustice be? I look at striking the balance between consciousness and Christianity.
Consciousness, colloquially known as wokeness, includes (but is not limited to) being aware of systemic injustices pertaining to social and political issues, questioning the status quo and rousing others from their unconscious apathy towards these issues. All this is mainly achieved through acquiring and dispersing knowledge. The end game for woke folk is to affect change and bring about social and political change, typically achieved through vigorous campaigning (activism) – the particulars of what affected change should look like differ between people.
Christianity is seen as one of the vehicles used to carry out the very injustices that are being fought against…
The issue with consciousness and religion – Christianity in particular – is that Christianity is seen as one of the vehicles used to carry out the very injustices that are being fought against; so, to subscribe to a faith that firmly perpetuates and manufactures injustices of all kinds, must mean you are firmly sleep and you, as a Christian, simply cannot bring about the change needed – you are a mere product of the sleep system. This is the dynamic a Christian faces and this is where the conflict begins.
Experiencing dissonance between consciousness and Christianity is not uncommon. This partly because, to argue that Christianity is and has not been used, albeit underhandedly, to preserve injustice would be disingenuous – there are examples throughout history, where Christianity has been perverted and misapplied to propagate oppression and this saddens me deeply. Conversely, to argue Christianity in its truest form, seeks to eternise injustice is simply unfounded because for every apparent Christian maliciously breeding injustice, there is an actual Christian fighting for emancipation – the tension lies in attempting to reconcile these truths.
As Christians we are called to learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause (Isaiah 1:17 ESV) – this appears to be in step with activism!
It is clear that we should be involved in bringing about physical change but the unique difference is that Christ is our main motivation for change not just what we, in and of ourselves, deem fair. This is because all humans are made in the image and likeness of God, we are all worth fighting for because our very existence expresses God’s goodness! We ought to uphold and defend the dignity of all made in God’s image! However, it is important that we do not get swept away with trends or movements and world views that do not have Christ and the gospel as their motivation for change.
The Bible is vocal on the issue of justice – we Christians cannot afford to be passive about it! Martin Luther King Jr. puts it succinctly,
“in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
It is wrong to take a laissez-faire, c’est-la-vie approach. Because we are spiritual and physical beings our approach must be two-pronged! James 2 highlights striking the balance in our approach – “and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (v16-17).
To be alert and aware of the injustices in the world does not come without ramifications. Author and activist, James A. Baldwin had this to say about race relations in America,
“to be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
He is not alone – the issue might differ but the sentiment is the same. When we are made aware of injustices that occur around us, it is frustrating (to say the least) to see them reoccurring, to live through it, to campaign and then see minimal change. Every time a news clip is shown or another hashtag is created, it genuinely eats away at your heart and wreaks havoc on your emotions. You cannot fathom how these incidences keep occurring and how there isn’t adequate legislature to protect people or how the system designed to help all, favours some whilst crushing others. The kicker is the vast majority of people don’t seem to care or worse – cannot even recognise the issues at hand!
ItsRadishTime, a Youtuber, coined the term ‘wokeness fatigue’ to describe this experience. It just seems your efforts are not enough and oppression keeps prevailing – these things can quickly begin to take their toll on your health – emotion and otherwise. The prevailing antidote for wokeness fatigue is to disengage for a while and hope for the best but as Christians we know that we can take all our cares and worries to God, and only He can sustain human perseverance! (Isaiah 40:30-31). When we are woke to all the injustice in the world, and seek justice through truth, we might grow weary (suffer from sleep deprivation, if you will) but we can always rest in God’s redemptive promise for our souls and the world.