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Op-Ed: This Christian Leader Had the Antidote to Woke Culture All the Way Back in 1798

Timothy Dwight IV was Yale University’s eighth president (1795-1817) and the grandson of famed revivalist Jonathan Edwards. When Dwight became president, the then-Christian college was in a detestable condition due to the invasion of Enlightenment thinking, which emphasized the power of reason and created hostility toward moral and religious absolutes. However, Dwight’s influence profoundly changed the university’s direction for several decades. Dwight not only saw the importance of doctrinal firmness, but also how political influence could affect doctrinal integrity. He aggressively addressed political dangers through a biblical lens. I am arguing modern-day Christian leaders should imitate Dwight’s leadership example. During Dwight’s tenure, he identified a pressing threat — the Illuminati, and the ideas being trafficked through Enlightenment philosophy. In an oration given on July 4, 1798, in New Haven, Connecticut, he made the following statements about the group seeking to undermine Christianity:
“The great and good ends proposed by the Illuminati, as the ultimate objects of their union, are the overthrow of religion, government, and human society, civil and domestic. … If our religion were gone, our state of society would perish with it; and nothing would be left, which would be worth defending. Our children would be prepared, as the ox for the slaughter, to become the victims of conquest, tyranny, and atheism.”
The Illuminati was founded by professor Adam Weishaupt of the University of Ingolstadt in 1776 and was opposed to the monarchy, ultimately seeking the destruction of the church. For Weishaupt and the Illuminati, happiness could only be achieved by removing religion and tearing down traditional political and cultural structures. Sound familiar? Dwight, however, was not intimidated by the latest trend of hostile Enlightenment thinking, atheism and subtle tactics that sought to undermine the Christian faith. He strongly refuted their arguments, declaring the sufficiency and reliability of Scripture. As C.E. Cuningham wrote in a biography of Dwight, he “determined to stamp out the fire of infidelity lighted by the ‘scullions and scavengers of Satan.’” A little over 200 years later, Dwight’s challenges have resurfaced, albeit with slight variations. In place of 18th- and 19th-century Enlightenment thinking, our society has been invaded by “wokeness.” The Unholy Alliance of Critical Race Theory, Social Justice and Wokeness Over the past several years, national events have created social and political tensions within the United States, giving birth to an ideology labeled “wokeness.” As one scholar describes, “To be woke is to be aware. Getting woke and being woke and staying woke and wokeness generally refer to being aware of social issues and social justice. Fundamentally, though, wokeness is rooted in Black activism.” One of the most notable groups in black activism is Black Lives Matter, founded by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. Cullors identifies as queer, polyamorous and Marxist. She noted in an interview that Garza is also Marxist. In short, the BLM movement seeks to overthrow Western Judeo-Christian values and replace them with a humanistic ethic rooted in cultural Marxism. Equally damaging is the concept of critical race theory. The application of CRT is manifested in “anti-racist” methodology, which has been spearheaded by the likes of Ibram X. Kendi, author of “How to Be an Antiracist,” and Robin DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility,” among many others. According to Kendi, to combat racism, one must become an “anti-racist,” which when examined closely does not mean what one would think. This ideology has become influential within large corporations, the military and schools. When all is taken into consideration, wokeness generally describes the awareness of perceived political and social inequalities as determined by inequity. Social justice is the action taken after becoming aware or “woke.” Its primary concern is the redistribution of goods to groups classified as disadvantaged (socialism). How should Christian leaders respond to wokeness transforming American institutions, including the church? Competent, Courageous and Uncompromising Response to Wokeness First and foremost, Christian leaders must understand the issues and their severity. Dwight understood that if Enlightenment thought became predominant in society, a once Christ-centered culture would soon become atheistic and godless. The same holds true regarding the inculcation of wokeness in our society and the church. If Christian leaders do not take the time to understand the issues, they will likely be seduced into either accepting them or irresponsibly ignoring them. Hence, Christian leaders must understand that CRT (informed by Marxism), anti-racism (the application of CRT) and wokeness are literally doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1). Secondly, Christian leaders need to have logical, biblical responses to these issues. Leaders must incessantly teach that biblical justice and social justice are incompatible. Social justice is primarily focused on the redistribution of goods (socialism) and is only applied when the “oppressor” is not a minority. According to this belief system, if inequity is present among those considered to be in the oppressor group, yet the “disadvantaged” minorities are in power, justice has been fulfilled; therefore, reform is not needed. Obviously, this is a distorted version of justice that shows partiality to one group and thus violates the biblical ethic (James 2:9). Moreover, the biblical view of justice is mainly punitive; that is, punishment is levied against the one who has transgressed God’s law. The sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ thoroughly reveals this. The transgressions of the human race were laid on the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, who was the perfect sacrifice to atone for all mankind, which therefore satisfied God’s justice (Romans 3:23-26). How can the promotion of partiality and LGBT lifestyles be considered just when they transgress the law of God, requiring punitive divine justice? Finally, the Christian leader must declare the truth of the gospel and prepare to be persecuted and maligned. The cultural ethos of the United States is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity. It is equated with racial oppression and bigotry. As a result, those who oppose the woke agenda will be criticized. As Jesus said to the disciples, “It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household?” (Matthew 10:25) If God providentially granted revival for Dwight and his generation because of their courage and faithfulness, would he not do the same for ours? Christian leaders, take courage and stand! This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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