THE authors of the 13 chapters in this radical volume offer a unique challenge to church leaders. If those who are missing from the Church are young people whose Christianity reflects more of the Sermon on the Mount than the Apostles’ Creed, will leadership respond? They are young, “woke”, and often angry at unheeding church leaders. The eminent Black theologian Professor Anthony Reddie sets the tone in his prologue. Call it what you will, “woke, or consciousness as in my day, or even more traditionally, righteousness”, is an awareness of deep and structural inequality.
The volume’s editor Victoria Turner introduces the concept of “woke” and its origins in the 19th century in the United States. More recently, it featured in the vocabulary of Black Lives Matter activists and others campaigning against the systemic racism that led to the murder of George Floyd and other young Black men. This volume addresses that original “woke” aim through writing about race, but also focuses on other forms of discrimination and inequality relating to sexuality, gender, disability, poverty, mental health, and climate change.
The chapters are not simply lists of grievances and examples of wrong thinking, but they offer practical and insightful suggestions. In providing advice on creating racially inclusive churches, “Racial Inclusion: Guidelines to Being a More Radically Inclusive Church”, it is best, Nosayaba Idehen advises, not welcome a new Black family with tales of your mission visit to some far-away African country, but by actively involving them in church leadership and creating inclusivity through affirmative action and attention to the micro-aggressions that permeate church culture.
In her chapter on “Waking up to Ableism in Christian Communities”, Chrissie Thwaites points out that many churches lovingly accept people who are disabled, but more is required, as “disability is not just an issue of inclusion: it is also one of justice. And this is where the Church falls short.”
Josh Mock calls for visibility and pride, in his chapter “Queer, Christian and Tired”, emphasising that “As queer Christians we must be unapologetic in our queerness” and act from a place of “queer celebration”.
This is an important book that could lead to widespread change. As Victoria Turner says, it shouldn’t be seen as a yet another capitalistic marketing venture designed to attract more customers. It may, I suggest, be a liberation theology for the post-modern age.
Dr Abby Day is Professor of Race, Faith and Culture in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is one of the co-editors of Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonisation: Practical tools for improving teaching, research and scholarship (Bristol University Press, 2022).
Young, Woke and Christian: Words from a missing generation
Victoria Turner, editor
SCM Press £16.99
Church Times Bookshop £13.59