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No, we will not let our Christian colleges become 'woke'

If you didn’t know the context, you’d think you were attending a Bernie Sanders rally when Kaitlin Curtice addressed Baylor University’s chapel service last month.  

Michael Youssef
Michael Youssef, Ph.D., is the author of Saving Christianity?: The Danger in Undermining Our Faith — and What You Can Do about It. He is Founder and President of Leading The Way and the founding pastor of The Church of The Apostles in Atlanta. |

The Baptist school played host to her lecture on identity politics and gender equality (view it here) where she never cited Scripture or named the name of Jesus.  Actually, she opened and closed her talk with prayers to “O Mystery” instead of the Judeo-Christian God.

Curtice talked about her inner conflict, raised by a Southern Baptist mother of European ancestry and abandoned at age nine by a father of Potawatomi Native American ancestry. She is on a journey, she said, of being a person “who relies on and trusts and listens to . . . Mother Earth as she speaks.” She lamented (and rightly so) the 1839 “Trail of Death” when more than 800 Potawatomi people were forcibly removed from Indiana to a reservation in Kansas.

So, now, she told the students, she was focusing her life on “decolonizing,” which she defined as “the work of breaking down systems of colonization.”  

“Colonization is” to Curtice, “the act of taking and erasing indigenous history, culture, and tradition” and she was also on a journey of “decolonizing” herself, “I am reclaiming who I am, wrestling with all parts of my identity, my white privilege, my native feminism, my spirituality.”

For sure, it saddens me that Curtice struggles with her identity, condemning the faith of the mother who raised her while embracing the “Mother Earth” worldview of the father who abandoned her. I pray for Curtice. I also pray for the leadership of Baylor University to know the difference between a Christian school’s chapel service and a class in ethnic studies.

One thing is sure, Curtice didn’t inspire students to a deeper relationship with God. In fact, her only references to the Christian faith were her denunciations of it. 

Why did Curtice lecture Baylor students on “colonization?” Were these students somehow responsible for the federal government’s displacement of her people nearly two centuries ago? Should they feel guilty because the church had “silenced” her “inner and outer voice”? 

Curtice’s chapel message was actually political. It was a secular-left screed on “wokeness” dressed up in spiritual language. Her attempt to apply her partisan message to Christian spirituality was feeble at best: “We cannot deny that this history [of colonization and white supremacy] is a spiritual one. So today, my spiritual liberation is tied up with all my spiritual relatives who face oppression. . . . Are we not working to be liberated together?” 

As it has for 2,000 years, I submit that true liberation in Christianity still comes from faith in Jesus Christ — a subject completely absent from Curtice’s lecture — not identity politics or from being “woke.” 

As Jesus said in John 8, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The good news of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ has unshackled more slaves, elevated more women, empowered more poor people, and founded more hospitals and universities than any other movement in history. The church was its own kind of woke and inclusive long before our politicians. We have often led the charge against injustice and our courageous humanitarians have birthed virtually every good in our world.

Rather than being shamed into an inferiority complex by our progressive culture, it’s time Christians own their proud identity as real warriors for justice and as real revolutionaries who’ve brought love to every corner of the planet because of our faith — not in spite of it.

Kaitlin Curtice’s ideas come not from the Bible, but from “critical race theory,” a far-left grievance ideology that condemns today’s people of European ancestry for the sins of previous centuries. Instead of viewing people as individuals, as Jesus did, today’s “woke” theorists segregate people by race and condemn “white people” as irredeemably guilty of all of society’s ills. 

“Wokeness” and critical race theory have become the religion of the secular left — and increasingly of “progressive Christianity.” They cannot be allowed to infiltrate our Christian institutions as they have been allowed to become the theology of America’s secular educational and political institutions. 

This new godless religion seeks to replace biblical ideas with an agenda of race-conscious victimhood and grievance. “White supremacy” is the devil of the new leftist religion. “White privilege” is its original sin, for which there is neither redemption nor forgiveness. Can this guilt ever be erased? No. As Curtice told the Baylor students, a “decolonized spirituality” is “a forever process. It’ll take our whole lives.”

But, as Baylor should know, imputing guilt-by-skin-color is not a Christian value. As the apostle Paul reminds us, in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male and female — and hence, neither white privilege nor white racial guilt— for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Yes, there were many injustices committed in the colonial period, from the 15th through 20th centuries, but the colonial era ended soon after World War II — and not all effects of colonialism were destructive. 

I was born into a Coptic Christian family in Egypt, and we trace our Christian heritage to the first century when the apostle Mark evangelized Egypt. In 1517, Egypt was conquered by the Islamic Ottoman Empire, and life became very difficult for Egyptian Christians. From the late 1870s until 1936, Egypt was a British protectorate. Six decades of British colonial influence brought political stability, education, modern hospitals, and modern transportation systems to Egypt, along with a respect for individual human rights.

As an Egyptian-born American citizen and now an evangelical Christian, I’m grateful for the influence colonialism has had on the land of my birth. If Kaitlin Curtice thinks life in America is unbearable and Christianity is oppressive, I would invite her to visit such “decolonized” lands as Iran and Syria. 

I think the experience might deepen her appreciation — and soften her condemnation— of both Christianity and America. 

Michael Youssef, Ph.D., is the author of Saving Christianity?: The Danger in Undermining Our Faith—and What You Can Do about It. He is Founder and President of Leading The Way and the founding pastor of The Church of The Apostles in Atlanta.

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