Is Disability Ministry ‘Woke’?

One of the common phrases that is thrown around these is ‘woke.’ If a movie or television show seeks to be racially diverse and include women in significant roles, it may be described as (or accused of) being woke.

Unfortunately, the term has become so elastic in its use that it is difficult to pin down what is and what is not woke. This brings us to churches that seek to welcome and include people with disabilities. Is such a think an example of wokeness since it may focus on the marginalized rather than those who more traditionally were ministered to?

It depends on how you defend ‘woke.’ The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Woke as:

aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)

While the term originally referred to responding to racism, it has expanded to other groups that have traditionally been marginalized. This would include disabled people. So yes, technically a greater emphasis on and inclusion of disabled people could fit into the definition of woke.

But some more conservative Christians have a different definition of woke. I have tried to get them to give an actual definition and often got little more than: “Wokeness is something that is bad and should be avoided.” That is not very helpful.

I think those who are truly concerned about wokeness in the church would see it something like this. Being woke is replacing the gospel of Jesus with a paradigm that is overly influenced by Marxism and which puts too much emphasis on a group that identifies as oppresses and puts too much blame on white males.

I have seen many comments on social media critical, not of the church, but of the entertainment industry which they see as trying to be too inclusive. The refrain is: “Go woke, go broke.” The idea is that the public (rightfully?) does not want more inclusion and would prefer things the way they traditionally were.

I can imagine some Christians looking at the church through the same lens. Why seek to be diverse and inclusive? Why jump on the woke bandwagon? This new ideology is at best a distraction and at worst is a danger to the church.

While I do not feel the need to defend the specific term of ‘woke’, I do see that the idea of being aware and fighting against the oppression of the marginalized as being an important them in both the Old and New Testaments.

Luke, in his Gospel and Acts, puts a great amount of emphasis on inclusion of marginalized groups, including women, the poor, Samaritans and Gentiles. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12 argues for diversity and inclusion within the Body of Christ.

All of this includes the role of disabled people in the church. An emphasis on and inclusion of people with disabilities is not just a momentary fad. Fighting for justice for the oppressed is not giving into secular ideology. All of this is central to the mission of the church. Like or dislike the term ‘woke’ but the motives behind it have much to teach Christians.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.