Wokeness is a religion
"Woke" is a religion. That's been affirmatively determined by dozens of smart observers, including New York magazine columnist Andrew Sullivan. He recently described what he called "the cult of social justice, whose followers show the same zeal as any born-again Evangelical. They are filling the void that Christianity once owned[.]"
While Sullivan and many other commentators have pointed to certain failings in the theology of Wokeism, none has put his finger on the most important issue. Simply put, there are good religions and there are bad religions.
There are three specific elements that when found in any given religion greatly increase the likelihood that its practice will lead to human flourishing.
All of the great religions share, for example, the Golden Rule, most often expressed in Christian tradition as "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In the Quran, Muhammad says, "not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself." The Hindus call it the sum of duty: "Do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you." (Do all of the faithful follow these rules? No. Not even close. But it's there.)
Love of others is not a tenet of Wokeism, which turns this law on its head. In the world of woke, brutality is the name of the game. Insults, canceling, doxxing — all are considered virtuous acts that somehow enhance one's moral standing. It's preposterous, but the woke derive a perverse kind of spiritual satisfaction from pointing out the splinters in the eyes of others.
It is manifestly the case that enthusiastically calling out the flaws is others isn't virtuous, but rather is an illness. As often as not, condemning others as racist, sexist, or homophobic is nothing more than a symptom.
Note, too, that because the woke lack empathy, they deny a second aspect of a good religion: the possibility of redemption. When the mob sets out to cancel someone, it means to cancel him. There are no second chances for those who made a mistake at any point in their lives Compare that to the Catholic Church, which famously provides absolution to any member who confesses his sins with a sincere heart and a determination to not repeat the error.
Less famously, the Church has a second teaching regarding confession: once you've confessed your sin and it has been forgiven, it is a sin to further lament it.
Go in peace. That's the message.
Sullivan describes succinctly the third "commonality of the zealot then and now": their utter lack of a sense of humor. This aspect of woke has been witnessed many times, including the refusal of significant numbers of comedians to perform on college campuses. Among them is Chris Rock, who in recent days was inundated with vile comments when he retweeted an article entitled "[Jerry] Seinfeld is a respite from the Insufferable Wokeness of Comedy."
"Thank God for Jerry," Rock wrote.
It may seem strange to suggest that humor is a mark of a healthy religion, but it shouldn't be. What brings people together better than laughter? What reveals the human condition more accurately than a good joke? What is having a sense of humor about oneself other than a means of expressing the deeply felt but otherwise inexpressible?
In fairness to Wokeism, I should note that all new religions are rough and crude when unpolished by the waters of time. They need confidence and history, and the teaching of many masters, often over millennia, to subjugate their worst tendencies. But in the end, there is an unmistakable distinction between good and bad religions. As G.K. Chesterton said, "it is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it."
Mark Couhig was a reporter, editor, and publisher for 40 years. Now he's retired and living in Texas. Write to Mark at email@example.com.