The Sins of Wokeness
Woke theology presents an alternative definition of evil.
Republican congressmen Tony Gonzales of Texas and Mike Johnson of Louisiana were both recently accused of “mansplaining.” At least in liberal circles, the term is an effective pejorative for reprimanding and delegitimizing men. Mansplaining is regularly offered by DEI bureaucrats as an example of behavior that undermines equality and efficiency in the workplace. Conservatives tend to see it as a bit of a joke.
But the ideas behind mansplaining should be taken seriously. What strikes me about it and the other sins of woke ideology is that they are largely, if not entirely, exclusive to persons based on racial, sexual, and gender categories, apart from the individual. In that sense, woke hamartiology, or doctrine of sin, presents a dramatic departure from how both traditional Christianity and American republicanism have understood the nature of evil and human responsibility.
If you don’t know already, mansplaining is what it sounds like. According to Merriam-Webster, to mansplain is “to explain something to a woman in a condescending way that assumes she has no knowledge about the topic.” Macmillan Dictionary emphasizes the male quality of the offense: “when a man mansplains something, he explains it to someone, usually a woman, in a way that shows he believes he knows more about it than she does just because he is a man.” A recent article at Michigan State University similarly describes mansplaining as referring to situations “in which a man provides a condescending explanation of something to someone who already understands it.” According to new graduate-level research at MSU, the “negative impact on women is very real.”
This sin originates with men. It is men who are the ones rudely treating women with indifference and condescension, and it is women who are the ones subjected to this mistreatment. As Rebecca Solnit, author of the controversial 2008 essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” told the Guardian in February, “if it’s not a man explaining to a woman or a similarly gendered situation, it’s not mansplaining.” Another male sin is “toxic masculinity,” which Cambridge Dictionary defines as “ideas about the way that men should behave that are seen as harmful, for example the idea that men should not cry or admit weakness.” A 2005 article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology explains that toxic masculinity is associated with other sins predominantly committed by men, such as misogyny and homophobia.
There are other woke transgressions whose perpetrators are associated with membership in certain identity groups. Homophobia, for example, is a woke sin typically associated with heterosexuals—or, as DEI bureaucrats like to say, people who identify as cisgender. The same can largely be said of transphobia, though it is fair to note that there are those who accuse gays and lesbians of being transphobic.
Of course, the biggest woke sin, racism—at least in its more traditional definition of believing that certain races are superior to others—is an offense of which any person, regardless of their own race, can be guilty. But in our own day it is usually understood within a victim hierarchy. White people are most frequently accused of racism against “persons of color,” be they black, Latino, Asian, or indigenous. And only white people are accused of a racial “fragility,” a term coined by grievance huckster Robin DiAngelo referring to “discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice.”
According to the tenets of woke progressivist dogmatism, there is a hierarchy of victimizers and victims, those most likely to be culpable for woke sins and those most likely to be the object of such transgressions. White, heterosexual men are the most likely victimizers; perhaps black, transgender women are the most likely victims. Though this flies in the face of what many of us learned in grade school about how “all men are created equal,” and that prejudice, regardless of who commits or suffers it, is wrong, acknowledging the reality of such a victimhood pyramid should not be controversial, given the ubiquity of its application.
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But it is not just the principles of the American founding that this victimhood hierarchy pyramid vitiates; it also represents an alternative definition of evil, one that is in direct conflict with a Christian understanding of sin. As St. Paul writes, “For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22b-23). Or, as the Psalmist declares, “They have all gone astray; they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3). Indeed, one thing that unites the various trespasses found in the Ten Commandments is that they are agnostic when it comes to race, sex, or any other identity group. Pagans or the chosen people, both are equally capable of sin.
What, then, are the fruits of an ideological system that rejects the “equal opportunity” understanding of sin found in the Bible, and in the understanding of human nature that undergirds our Constitution? Certainly it seems to encourage the pitting of various groups against one another, undermining our culture’s waning social cohesion. Few, besides self-flagellating liberal elites, are interested in existing in a permanent state of obeisance and contrition for their racial, sexual, or gender identity. The rest of us wince at the remarkable ability of woke progressives to find racism or transphobia lurking behind so many of our innocuous (and usually well-meaning) comments or actions.
It also engenders self-righteousness among those who sit atop the victimhood pyramid. They, even if their impressive credentials and salaries would seem to say otherwise, present themselves as the aggrieved class, constantly demanding groups of victimizers apologize and offer the necessary tithes to save their hides. “It is not the responsibility of people of color to fight racism,” the chief DEI officer for the ACLU declared a few years ago. “Nor is it the responsibility of women to combat sexism and misogyny,” she added. These are sins that the top tiers of our new hierarchy of culpability are largely incapable of committing. Woe to the rest of us, sinners for whom there will be no mercy.