How woke are you? You’re familiar with that term, “woke”? It’s a word that means being aware of the reality around you, specifically when it comes to systemic oppression as we often talk about when we look at the racism that invades our culture and society. Essentially, being “woke” means you are paying attention to, and taking seriously, narratives and realities other than your own.
In the spring of 2018 I took a trip through the American South as part of a seminar while enrolled at Christian Theological Seminary. We stopped in a lot of popular spots along the Civil Rights Trail, as well as out-of-the-way spots. One of those out-of-the-way spots was a small memorial park in Ruleville, Mississippi, the site of the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Statue. Until that trip, I hadn’t known who this pioneering activist and advocate for representative democracy was. It woke me up—a bit.
Other experiences along the multi-state route, often by bus, woke me up further. From museums to memorials to conversation over meals with my cohort, many of whom were black Americans—all of this has been part of what I now understand to be, not arriving at wokeness, but a lifelong process of coming awake to the condition of God’s be-loved community.
Fannie Lou Hamer has many memorable quotes from her lifetime of struggle for equality,but the one I singled out at the left seems very important for our lives as Christians who believe in an active justice, accomplished with God and through creation, that is, through us. If we are praying for the end to racism and systems of poverty until we are about to faint—to fall asleep—then maybe it’s not really prayer after all. Because I think Hamer is right, God doesn’t put the things we wish and pray for in our laps, God puts them in our hears and hands, in our feet and mouths. God created us to do justice and love merciful kindness in our humble walk with God. So let us pray with our actions. Let us keep waking up.
All good things,