Resisting Woke Epistemology and Tactical Postmodernism

If Biden’s first month in office is anything to go by, we’re going to see a huge push for Social Justice in the next four years. I’ve written fairly extensively about how Social Justice is an unbiblical ideology, so I’ll not rehash that here. Rather, in the spirit of being shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves, I want to break down what is probably the most insidious of their tools; the manipulation of definitions. To understand why and how the Social Justice crowd manipulates words to get their way, we need to understand how they view the nature of truth.

At its root, the woke epistemology is a synthesis of postmodernism and Realpolitik with leftist morality. 

The hallmark idea of postmodernism is that there is no ‘right’ or ‘better’ way to know truth; truth is nothing but words, and no way of ‘knowing’ is more valid than any other. Truth is, as they put it, ‘socially constructed’, which is a fancy way of saying it’s made up by people and shaped by language. In postmodern thought, the scientific method is just as valid a way of knowing as is scrying chicken innards, and old wives tales are on par with scripture. Everything is just language.

On its own, postmodernism collapses in a heap of contradicting nonsense the moment it comes in contact with the real world, because it can’t resolve the contradictions inherent in itself. The common  man on the street can see through the pretensions of postmodernism with just a few moments’ thought. Enter leftist morality.

In the Left’s moral equation, oppression is the worst form of evil, thus making liberating the oppressed the highest good. When fused with postmodern thought, it brings about the concept of ‘epistemic justice’, in which the most oppressed groups’ viewpoint, their ‘truth’, is regarded as more valid, more ‘true’, than that of the oppressors. This shows itself in an emphasis on listening to the stories of the oppressed, typically coupled with a demand, stated or implied, that you should advocate for them.

On its surface, listening to the oppressed and advocating for them sounds virtuous, and lines up with the Bible. After all, God hates injustice (Leviticus 19:15, Psalm 5:5, 2 Chronicles 19:7). This, after all, is what you hear from professing Christians who get involved in Social Justice, they’re just advocating for justice, like the Bible says. The problem is they’re unaware of (or sometimes actively embrace) the Realpolitik component of Social Justice epistemology.

Realpolitik strips away ethical concerns from the use of power, and concerns itself only with what is possible and what is useful. Since, to the social justice warrior, truth is what the oppressed say it is, words themselves can be defined by the oppressed; and yes, this includes words like oppression and justice. This is used by social justice warriors to win disputes without arguing for their positions; they simply change what the terms of the debate are, so that they are always right. The classic example is racism, which used to mean hating someone for their ‘race’, until leftists defined it as ‘prejudice plus power’. Oppression gets redefined too, from the unjust use of power to being better off than someone. This is how someone can be considered by the Left to be oppressed, even when they have equal protection under the law. Any term will be defined by the Left in whatever way benefits them at the time. I call this ‘tactical postmodernism’.

Much like a tactical nuke, tactical postmodernism is powerful, and always employed with a specific goal in mind. In this case, the goal of the social justice warriors is simple: to get their way, by any means necessary. 

Tactical postmodernism is like tactical nukes in another way as well; prolonged usage causes massive collateral damage. In the case of tactical postmodernism, language itself suffers damage, as words are rendered essentially meaningless by the Left’s re-definition of them. The word racist offers a perfect example. A word that used to clearly articulate a certain idea has now become little more than a playground insult, a way of saying ‘I don’t like you and you’re bad’, because the Left constantly tried to define people who were not racist, in the classical sense, as racist. Consequently, many people tune out accusations of racism as just more name calling. This makes it more difficult to deal with actual racism (the hating someone for their ‘race’ kind), because the word is basically meaningless. The damage will only get worse as the Left continues to postmodernuke (nuke with postmodernism) more words.

What makes tactical postmodernism so powerful is that it doesn’t do away with the original definition of the word it’s used on, rather, it adds its own woke definition, and acts like it’s the same thing. This causes the unsuspecting recipient to conflate the original definition with the woke definition, so they find themselves going along with woke ideology without knowing it. This is how so many churches get infiltrated by Social Justice. Terms like oppression and injustice get a woke definition, which is taught to seminary students, who then go out and compromise churches. At first it sounds pretty hard to fight against something so insidious, but there are things that discerning Christians can do to protect themselves from tactical postmodernism.

First, and most important, study the Bible. Woke ideology doesn’t fit with the Bible, so the more you fill your mind with God’s word and let it shape your worldview, the less susceptible you will be to tactical postmodernism, because it simply won’t fit. Woke definitions will seem off, even if you initially have trouble pinning down exactly why. Stick with the Bible; God gave it to guide you (Psalm 119:109).

Second, define the terms. Tactical postmodernism relies on confusion to do its work. If someone’s telling you something that sounds off, make them define their terms. All of them. This is a trick I learned from Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason. When in doubt, simply ask ‘what do you mean by that?’ and let them explain. For example, if someone says X thing is a justice issue, ask them what they mean by ‘justice’. If their definition doesn’t match the Bible, reject it. It’s that simple.
I expect that we’ll see tactical postmodernism a lot in the coming years, as the Left tries to consolidate power by controlling the narrative. Being ready to resist it, and the woke epistemology that undergirds it, is going to be crucial to living a Christ-exalting life in an increasingly deluded culture. Thankfully, it’s not ultimately up to us. As Jesus promised in Matthew 16:18, He will build His church, and even the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

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