Was the beloved quarterback’s expression of respect for the American flag really that incendiary? Yes, it was. Because it was heresy. His words violated dogmas of the largest, fastest growing, and most self-assured religious group in America — the Church of the Left — the Woke Church. Once uttered, Brees’ words activated the mob component of this church’s Ministry of Truth. With mechanical efficiency Brees was cornered and his public doctrinal examination commenced.
Kneel and Confess
The initial pedagogical instrument employed recalls that ancient Christian tool of indoctrination, the catechism — a series of set and numbered questions paired with predetermined answers to be produced by the student, the catechumen. Q1: Can white men understand what black men experience? A: No. Q2: Should white men talk about race issues or listen to blacks? A: Listen to blacks. And on it goes. Q18: Are white men permanently afflicted with “Whiteness”? A: Yes. Q19: Does “Whiteness” oppresses all blacks? A: Yes.
No one in America is exempt from the catechesis publicly exacted from Brees. On the evening of June 3, a self-identified Black Lives Matter employee confronted a random white female on a New York City sidewalk — “my CEO has told me to come out today and to bring you on your knees because you have white privilege. So if they see that a white person is getting on their knees, that shows solidarity with the situation. So could you just please apologize?” The inquisitor’s video records the woman’s compliance.
The insistent but oh-so gentle tone of the inquisitor exhibits the warranted and growing confidence of Woke Church ministers. And the dual demand to kneel and apologize signals that, like other church groups, disciples are expected to articulate orthodox doctrines (white privilege), and satisfy requirements of obeisance — kneel down please when you confess your sins.
Take note of the spreading practice of kneeling by members of potentially heretical groups with and before approved members of the Woke Church. Police officers kneel with and before Black Lives Matter adherents. A governor kneels in solidarity with marchers who then violate his curfew.
The limits of humiliation are not obvious. A college president begs a rioter holding him hostage — “I need to pee.” Two young woke white men scream “we’re on your side” as hurled bricks shatter the plate glass of their shop, missing their heads by inches. Will Brees’ capitulation to the Inquisition result in universal kneeling for the cameras by NFL players and coaches? Genuflect please. Now confess. Use the exact words provided if you don’t mind. Submission to ecclesial directives marks the faithful.
Orthodoxy Or Else
The emergence of the Church of the Left concerns every American because membership is compulsory. Not interested in joining or following the dictates of the Catholics or the Baptists or the Muslims or any religious group at all? Not a problem. The Church of the Left? Opting out is not an option. Kaepernick’s sainthood must be acknowledged, or else. The confirmed facts of Ferguson must be, not so much denied, but suppressed, removed from literature and the public square, erased from minds, obliterated forever. The dark shadows of Orwellian dystopia lie heavy upon the American landscape. Once the work of the Ministry of Truth is complete, denial of Ferguson facts proves not just unnecessary but impossible.
The Church of the Left is a State Church with no carveouts for minority faiths. Neither Brees’ wealth nor position nor celebrity could shield him from catechetical and moral examination by church operatives. Nor could hoi polloi anonymity avail for the young sidewalk woman.
Even melanin proves powerless to secure membership in good standing. Church doctrine teaches that a black or brown face wins a privileged voice within the fellowship. But in practice, a more comprehensive set of qualifications defines the line separating the faithful from heretic and infidel. That’s why the un-Woke black and brown voices of Carol Swain, Derryck Green, Voddie Baucham, Coleman Hughes, John McWhorter, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Candace Owens, Glenn Loury are variously marginalized, de-platformed, suppressed, and castigated as the heathen and pernicious squawkings of Uncle Toms and Aunt Tammys. Woke white voices win privilege over un-Woke voices no matter how black or brown their source.
Frantic Rush to Confess By Elites
Rightly fearful of the rising and spreading Inquisition, leaders of other church groups scramble to evade or somehow satisfy the heresy-hunters. Unscheduled and public ecclesial catechizing of the sort Brees and the sidewalk woman endured threaten costly or even devastating attacks from Woke Church mobs. Leaders of Christian denominations, colleges, universities and seminaries rush to publish answers to perceived catechetical questions emerging in the hysteria let loose in aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by Minnesota police.
The scope of Woke Church aims comprises far more than suppression of speech —keeping silence won’t cut it. “All Lives Matter” now constitutes hate speech that must be suppressed and punished. But successful catechumens must provide verbal reproduction of core beliefs, not just eschew evil speech. In churches the bonds of fellowship require mutual and explicit confession of shared dogma. How often Jordon Peterson attempted to correct those who thought he opposed the use of preferred pronouns for transsexuals. No. He refused to produce speech of any kind on demand merely to satisfy Canadian legislation that made certain silences hate crimes. Arrest for yelling “fire” where no flames threaten is one thing. Sanction for refusal to call Mary or Paul “they” on demand is something else.
What we are confronting in the contemporary Left is totalitarian in scope, tyrannical in enforcement, and religious in the claims it makes upon thought, speech, and behavior. Few of us have ever been or shall ever be NFL quarterbacks, but we all share this in common — no matter our color or gender or station in life, a take-no-prisoners involuntary catechesis is coming our way. Better bone up or be prepared to bear up under punishments prepared for failed catechumens.
Mark DeVine teaches at the Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, and is the author of Bonhoeffer Speaks Today and Shalom Yesterday, Today, and Forever.