At this juncture between Martin Luther King’s birthday (January 16) and International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27) — and the open-mindedness and sensitivity and justice they mutually engender, I find myself drawn to the notion of “waking up” and affirming its place in vital Christianity and spirituality.
To be sure, it is a concept that is not as popular or accepted or welcome as one might think or hope. The “Right” has weaponized the word “Woke,” a headline in the Guardian declares. Originally, the article points out, woke meant “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” That’s the definition you will find in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
The article continues…
Today we are more likely to see it being used as a stick with which to beat people who aspire to such values, often wielded by those who don’t recognise how un-woke they are, or are proud of the fact… Criticising ‘woke culture’ has become a way of claiming victim status for yourself rather than acknowledging that more deserving others hold that status.”1
At the expense, then, of provoking some angst and probably concern among some of my more conservative friends and family, I nonetheless feel the need to affirm the place of waking up in our spiritual formation. In tandem with the kindred concept which is “deconstruction,” becoming “woke” appears to be a most logical and indispensable part of our being converted from the narrow and short-sighted perspectives of this lesser world we currently inhabit to the higher purposes, perspective, and presence of God.
Here, the words of Jesuit priest, Anthony de Mello (from his book, Awareness), come to mind – defining, in many ways, the my position in life and my posture in ministry:
Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up…
Waking up is unpleasant, you know. You are nice and comfortable in bed. It is irritating to be woken up. That’s the reason the wise guru will not attempt to wake people up. I hope I’m going to be wise here and make no attempt whatsoever to wake you up if you are asleep. It is really none of my business, even though I say to you at times, “Wake up!” My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance.2