Shaya Cohen -


Engaging With Others – Especially the Woke

The underlying beliefs and assumptions within a given strain of Christianity leave a distinct, though largely subsurface, pattern that affects every element of a person’s life: the kinds of people they marry, their life goals, the view on family and children and responsibility… our beliefs are deeply foundational, and in so many ways that we usually take for granted.

Religion is not merely a question of what deity someone prays to. A religion is an entire worldview, and it informs everything about a person: whether they are fatalistic or believe in change; whether they invest in other people; whether they treat outsiders well, or dehumanize them in word or deed, etc. I think that the sum of these makes any set of religious beliefs all-encompassing. Yes, this even applies to the Woke religion that has taken popular culture by storm.

“Religion as worldview” applies to all religions, including my own. Torah Judaism does not have a recommended form of civil administration or government, and we do not put religious leaders in jobs for which they are clearly unsuited (it is clearly understood that rabbis should not be responsible for ensuring the garbage is collected or roads are built). But all of that stuff ultimately does not matter very much next to the critical and core beliefs found in the Torah: the innate value of every human soul; loving your fellow like yourself; might does NOT make right; the same laws for strangers as for locals; observation of commandments in a desire to grow positive and holy relationships with each other and with G-d. A Torah Jew has no problem coexisting with non-Jews (in no small part because we recognize that what we do is really not for everyone). But our beliefs and studies lead us to a very specific way of thinking, of communicating, and of solving problems.

The new popular religious faith, whether we want to call it “Woke” or “Eco” or “Trans” does not have a foundational touchstone text like Judaism, Christianity or Islam do. The lack of such a text (and even a common name) makes the religion very difficult to define, let alone target effectively.

It is ironic that the faiths known for believing in an objective “Truth” are paradoxically most willing, thanks in no small part to lessons learned the hard way through thousands of years of hard experience, to actually accept the existence of other faiths. “Live and Let Live” is now the standard doctrine for Judaism and Christianity. The Woke faith knows no such self-restraint: The anti-Catholic vitriol within the Woke media makes witch-hunting look even-handed. The Woke faith seeks to completely undermine, subdue, and then expunge Judaism and Christianity (though its fear of Islam’s fire makes it silent on the anti-Woke qualities of Islamic belief).

I personally view this new popular “Woke” religion as a childish and pagan-narcissism/hedonism, a religion that centers itself around maximal expression of one’s natural desires, with the underlying assumption being that anything “natural” is inherently superior to all else. Thus, altruism or consideration for others becomes something only the religions founded by “dead, white guys” do. So, too, any belief that a person can improve themselves, the people around them, or the world as a whole is in fact evidence of toxic whiteness and unacceptable racism. The woke goal of achieving harmony with nature and the planet and our own inner (and natural) desires, means that any attempt to improve the world or ourselves is in fact heretical and evil, counter to all that is good.

To the extent that traditional faiths try to go halfway with the Woke religion, we have conceded the battlefield, and thus the battle. Christianity and Judaism cannot win if we first concede that mankind (in numbers or impact) is a blight on the planet, or that, “To thine own self be true” is a good way to discover personal identity, let alone right and wrong.

That does not mean we do not engage with the Woke: but it means we first have to understand how Woke religionists think. Merely trolling them that “facts don’t care about your feelings” clearly does not work. If we first understand them, then we can engage them on their terms and in their language. We need to behead their arguments, but we do it not by speaking our language, but by speaking theirs.

To get there, we have to first appreciate and accept that religion is far, far more than the way in which we identify, or the deity to whom we pray. Religion is not merely one set of beliefs among many that a person might hold. Religion is a complete worldview, guiding everything we think, everything we say, and everything we do.

When engaging with Woke practitioners, we need to appreciate that religion does not necessarily make sense. On its face, there is no obvious “truth” to divine cows or G-d talking to someone, or resurrection. Anyone who insists that their religion is logically or empirically true (and all others are false) are ignorant or deaf to how their faith sounds to an intelligent and critical outsider.  “My truth” is just as plausible as “one truth.”

“Live and Let Live” is absolutely possible for most religions (Islam may be an exception), but the assertion that it is acceptable (or even ideal) for us to tolerate the guy down the street (let alone on the internet) who has different beliefs than we do is grounded and stems from the Judeo-Christian belief that each person has an innate value, that no person should be dehumanized by another in word or deed. This belief is uniquely Judeo-Christian – because other faiths do not believe that each person is endowed with a soul by G-d Himself, and is thus deserving of respect on that basis alone, if no others. Woke faith does not share the underlying belief in the value of the human soul, which is why abortion and euthanasia are sacraments, and why it is acceptable to call for Climate Change “deniers” to be killed. It is easy for the woke to dehumanize Trump voters.

Personally, I think we can, in very crude terms, “judge” the value in any given religion by its fruits: what do the people who follow that religion actually do in the world? What are the goals of a faith, on a personal, familial, and world scale, and is there a pathway toward achieving those goals? I think asking these questions of Woke practitioners, and engaging with them on the answers on their terms might help start to move things in the right direction.

Comments are welcome!

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