Uncomfortable Conversations

Defending the Faith in Everyday Life

I recently took my son to a new doctor for a routine appointment. While the three of us were chatting lightheartedly in the examining room, the doctor profanely and casually dropped the “J” word—Jesus. As a Christian who takes to heart the Second Commandment—“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Ex. 20:7)—I winced. I believe that the vain use of the Lord’s name can take many forms, one of which is to invoke it irreverently, without regard for the One who owns it.

Though taken aback, I said nothing because I didn’t want to offend the doctor, make people uncomfortable, or otherwise create a scene. It has always seemed to me that there is an opportune time and an appropriate place to share my faith, and sitting in an examining room making small talk with someone I hardly knew didn’t seem like either.

Yet every day, when I turn on the TV or radio, scan the news, or look at social media, I am subjected, without nuance and certainly without my permission, to the proselytization of others seeking to impose their religion on me. It is the religion of wokeism, and it is everywhere.

Writing for Newsweek, Vivek Ramaswamy cogently lays out the current state of affairs:

"Like most religions, wokeism is comprehensive and indivisible; just as no good Christian can pick his or her favorite five commandments, no woke practitioner can pick and choose which parts of the LGBTQ or BIPOC acronyms to like or dislike. Wokeism doesn’t give suggestions; it gives affirmative commands. You can’t just be “not racist,” but must be 'anti-racist.'

And like any good religion, wokeness has its catechisms, clothing guidelines (no cultural appropriation) and taboo words. . . . Indeed the word “woke” itself forges an explicit connection to past American “great awakenings”—periods of renewed religious fundamentalism. With its new versions of blasphemy and heresy, its new doctrine of original sin (exemplified by the 1619 Project), its claims to ultimate truth and its mandatory catechisms of professed belief, wokeness has become America’s newest creed."

Ramaswamy goes on to entreat those who have lost employment as the result of wokeism to pursue legal recourse under existing anti-religious discrimination laws:

"It’s well established that an employer violates Title VII if it fires an employee because of his religious beliefs. . . . Often forgotten is that Title VII protects not only religious employees from being fired for their beliefs, but equally protects nonreligious employees from being fired for refusing to endorse an employer-mandated religion."

As wokeism and cancel culture show no sign of slowing down, comparisons to the witch trials of historic Salem seem increasingly apropos. Thank God, the people getting canceled these days are not being hung or thrown in the river to drown; they are “merely” losing their reputations, jobs, and right to participate in the marketplace of ideas. But the incessant and irrational effort to rid society of what has been deemed impure by those in power is strikingly similar to past purges, and Ramaswamy is right that dissenters must resist in whatever way they can, using whatever means they have at their disposal.

Second Thoughts

Ever since that doctor visit, I have wondered if I should have said something, wondered if I dishonored my God by not doing so. Perhaps if I had told the doctor that her words were an affront to my faith, she would have apologized. Maybe she would have asked me to explain, thus opening the door to constructive conversation.

On the other hand, maybe she would have labeled me a religious extremist, rolled her eyes at the office staff behind my back, or laughed in my face and told me to lighten up. In any case, I would have been free either to continue to do business with her or to go to another doctor. I would not have been free, however, to demand that she be run out of her profession because she didn’t share my understanding of the Second Commandment.

Adherents of wokeism have the right, as much as anyone, to try to win others to their religion. They do not, however, have the right to impose that religion on others, any more than Christians have the right to make adherents of other faiths go to their churches on Sunday mornings. Still, as wokeism continues to dominate the discourse in the public square, those who hold a different faith must not demur from speaking in defense of their faith whenever and wherever they can, as uncomfortable as that might be.

It has been said that the United States of America has never been more divided as a nation than it is now. I don’t know if that’s true. I do know, however, that whether your religion is Christianity or wokeism or something else, the most fruitful way to share it with others is not to coerce, browbeat, gaslight, mock, blackmail, or threaten to erase them if they don’t agree. Hearts and minds are not changed, nor are people encouraged to consider other viewpoints, through witch hunts and re-education campaigns, but through individuals talking to one another in the course of their everyday lives with honesty, respect, and consideration. Next time, I think I’ll give that a try.

is managing editor of Reporter, the official newspaper of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. She has written for a variety of publications, including The Federalist, Touchstone and The Lutheran Witness, and is a contributor to the book He Restores My Soul from Emmanuel Press. She has degrees in English and music and enjoys playing piano in her spare time.

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