We should contemplate these different fates not as autonomous futures that threaten us, but as different possibilities for how the risen Jesus will empower his church. We can and should pray for a dynamic era of repentance and mission.
The populist movement alluded to in my previous post is closely connected (though not synonymous) with a larger group of evangelicals who stand opposed to what they perceive as liberal progressive sentiment on issues like race, sexuality, and free speech. Most people reading this probably have an idea of who this group is and what they say. For those who don’t, your best bet would probably to read evangelical-themed articles from publications like The American Reformer and First Things. Megan Basham, who I also referred to in the piece about anti-Big Eva sentiment, is also a rising star in this camp.
If this group or their platform mean nothing to you, feel free to skip this post. If you’re tracking, let me share what I think are their three possible fates. I’ve alluded to some of these ideas before, but it might be valuable to make their current and future options more explicit. All three of my points below are my predictions for where the evangelical anti-woke movement will end up in, say, 10 years time, if they follow a particular course.
Fate #1: Success
In this scenario, the anti-woke movement successfully reforms a number of existing institutions and churches, catechizes a generation of faithful churchgoers against secularist ideology, and supplies the American church with a strong crop of pastors and thinkers for the next decade.
While victories in American elections would certainly be an expression of this overall success, a true triumph for the anti-woke would be concentrated in evangelical spaces, particularly touching its seminaries, parachurch organizations, and denominational leadership structures. Changing demographics in American religious life, coupled with the longstanding reality that any meaningful institutional transformation requires cooperation and patience, mean that the anti-wokeness movement achieves this by a careful, mature approach to reformation: building evangelical allies and appealing to a diverse group of Christians, including ethnic minorities. A well-crafted alliance of those concerned with creeping liberalism in evangelicalism push out a number of existing evangelical leaders, but not too many, since the alliance itself depends on leadership and a sense of inside-out reformation.
The end result is that the American evangelical landscape looks quite different in a decade, but also stronger and more able to resist an increasingly intolerant secular progressivism. The gospel is clarified and modeled, and many unbelievers, burned by the sexual revolution and by modern shame culture, find healing in the liberating message of grace and atonement in Jesus.
Fate #2: Failure
In this scenario, the anti-wokeness movement as we know it right now is a colossal failure. A failure to build any meaningful coalition or institutional depth saps the movement of both urgency and vision, and its current spokesmen become little more than online pundits, reigning in insular subcultures that do just enough to get the occasional book deal but are forgotten by the vast majority of American Christians.
The story of failure for anti-wokeness could be a story in one of two directions. First, there would be failure of persuasion. Much like the Emergent Church in the early 2000s, the anti-woke movement fails to deliver that key intellectual contribution. As the cultural mood changes, the things that made anti-wokeness look more interesting and credible begin to disappear, and the movement becomes entirely reactionary. Consequently, it ends up alienating the people it needs to convince, mistaking doubters for enemies, and becomes paranoid and self-referential instead of confident and assertive.