There is much writing and strategizing about young people in the Church, which tries to understand and minister to them as the ‘missing generation’. This book is a much-needed contribution by young people to that conversation, and I pray the Church listens.
If the use of the term ‘woke’ in the title puts you off, don’t let it. For a variety of reasons, not all of the authors would claim that label for themselves. What unites them is that their concerns on a range of issues, from climate change to trans rights to food poverty, have been dismissed as unimportant or even dangerous because of their supposed ‘woke’ motivations. It is a serious term that needs a respectful conversation about what it means, but too often is used as an unserious insult. As editor Victoria Turner argues in her introduction, ‘Woke is the umbrella term used by those who want society to stay the same to describe progressive ideals that change the status quo of injustice in society.’
It is perceived that young Christians are frustrated with the Church over social issues because they care about their political and social identities more than their Christian identities, placing ideology over Scripture. This book counters this myth ferociously, showing how for these authors their passion for liberation and justice is precisely because of their relationship with Jesus, not in spite of it. They want the Church to be more faithful to the mission of God in the world, not less.
Of course, we should not treat all young Christians as monolithic, just as we wouldn’t with any demographic group. There are many young Christians within the Church who disagree strongly with the expression of faith found in this book. Yet it is important that these perspectives are heard in the Church, as they are too-often silenced by orthodoxy for fear of the so-called ‘woke agenda’.
So, if you have struggled to understand the perspectives of young people in your congregation, and if you have seen the Christian faith as incompatible with being woke, then I encourage you to read this book. Read it carefully, respectfully and prayerfully, in the hope that even if you disagree, you can learn from it.
And if, like the authors in this book, you have experienced the struggle of being young, Christian, and maybe even woke in a Church that hasn’t listened to your concerns, then in reading it you will experience the joyous affirmation of knowing that you are not alone.
Matt Ceasar works on the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT). JPIT is a partnership between the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, and the United Reformed Church. The purpose of JPIT is to help the Churches to work together for peace and justice through listening, learning, praying, speaking and acting on public policy issues