New India is more woke than we may realise.
“Stay woke” began as a watchword for African Americans. Now woke has evolved into “a single-word summation of leftist political ideology, centered on social justice politics and critical race theory,” says Aja Romano.
While staying woke grew out of marginalised African American communities, in India it is more often a popular posture held by the privileged.
To be woke in India is to be aware of the layered injustice that permeates Indian society. It means being free from the blinding lights of the pageantry on stage. Now you are awake to what is really happening behind the scenes.
If you are woke, you no longer simply see things. Now you can see through them.
To be woke is to have a new way of thinking, living, and being a good human being. Woke India sees itself as having a strong sense of equality, diversity, liberty, and morality.
How should Christians think purposefully about loving and serving woke India?
Woke India’s Questions Are More Likely Conclusions
I grew up in a time when it was frequently proclaimed, “Jesus is the answer.” Then someone once asked me, “Yes, but what is the question?”
Good Christian communicators are receiver-oriented, not sender-oriented. First, they are able to understand the questions people are asking. Then they are able to apply the Bible’s answers to those questions, uncompromisingly.
What questions does woke India have for the church that we should seriously consider, so we can meaningfully continue to declare, “Jesus is the answer?”
If you are woke, you no longer simply see things. Now you can see through them.
To be honest, you only ask questions if you care enough to get an answer. Woke India probably does not have any questions for the church. It has already come to firm conclusions about it.
At best, woke India sees the church as tolerable. At worst, it sees it as an unjust, gender-biased, homophobic, narrow-minded, enemy of progress. It faults the church for harbouring sexual abuse, political power-mongering, harmful superstition, greed, and infighting.
Twenty years ago, it would not be uncommon for Indians to think they were not moral enough to go to church. Today, woke India would find it unappealing to go to a church because they think we are not moral enough for them.
How do you testify to people who are testifying against you?
Answering Questions Wokely
Facing scrutiny and hostility is not the exception to the Christian life; it is the norm (Phil. 1:29). The “exiles” in the Roman empire faced all manner of suspicion and hostility from their neighbours (1 Pet. 4:12).
In writing to them, the apostle Peter instructed Christians to live such “beautiful lifestyles” among their neighbours that any false accusation would lose its potency by the visibility of their tangible good deeds (1 Pet. 2:11-12).
Jesus is the safest man a woman will ever know.
To be clear, Peter was not instructing Christians to be silent or to “let their lives speak” for Christ. Visible lives do not replace an audible testimony.
He simply assumes that the power of such beautiful lifestyles will provoke searching questions. Then he wants them to be ready to give an answer with two celebrated “woke values”—gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15-16).
Good deeds make good news feel good.
We cannot return hostility with hostility but must love our critics graciously, with loving-kindness.
All that said, here are three questions we must be prepared to answer in ways that audibly, visibly, and tangibly display the mercy of God in Christ.
Mental Health: Do You Know What I’m Going Through?
Woke India is a hurting India. We are witnessing high levels of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and deaths of despair.
The instruments of woke India—social media, dating apps, messaging & streaming platforms—are powerful but their power turns against us without a moral compass.
In the absence of self-control, they increase anxiety, heighten misanthropy, breed hostility, deepen the fear of commitment, loosen relationship bonds, and induce feelings of insecurity and inadequacy.
A hurting India needs a helping and empathetic friend, full of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
God wants the church to imitate our empathetic high priest—to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15). This ministry posture affirms rejoicing without valorising it, and recognises mourning without condemning it.
Sin is the great equaliser.
We need to learn, appreciate, and respond compassionately to the seriousness of mental health struggles in woke India—nurturing cultures of caring for one another, more than curing one another.
In the early Church, Tertullian testified of the world’s fascination with Christian love. They would say, “See how they love one another!”
Love is the most powerful apologetic (John 13:34-35).
To testify to an indifferent, if not hostile, audience, Christians can begin by loving one another lavishly, tenderly, and patiently, with thoughtful concern for people struggling with mental health.
Abuse: Whom Do You Protect?
“Official crime statistics for 2016 showed a woman was raped every 13 minutes; six women were gang-raped every day; a bride was murdered for dowry every 69 minutes; and 19 women were attacked with acid every month,” as reported by the BBC.
This harsh reality prompted Deepa Narayan, author of Chup, to say “India is at war with its girls and women.”
Jesus is the safest man a woman will ever know (John 4:29). In a country where women are unimaginably unsafe, the body of Christ must prove itself to be the safest people on earth for women and children.
Jesus has created the most inclusive, diverse family in human history.
Early in the life of the church, the Corinthians were silent about a couple in a sexual relationship that even the sensual Romans could not stomach (1 Cor. 5:1).
In response, the apostle Paul prescribed an urgent, zero-tolerance, no-nonsense plan of action to protect the church from corruption and steer the wrongdoer towards repentance (1 Cor. 5:4-6).
A church that does not act swiftly, decisively, graciously, and thoughtfully about sexual abuse in the church will only hurt itself.
Such a church will invite the ire of the Lord who is an avenger in these matters (1 These. 4:4-6), leave alone what woke India will think of it.
Sexuality: Why Are You On the Wrong Side of History?
Firstly, the world is not as inclusive as social media portrays it; and the church is not as excluding as our accusers say it is.
Jesus has created the most inclusive, diverse family in human history. It includes people whose stories are excluded on Netflix.
Same-sex attracted Christians who choose celibacy are a gift to the church.
The most beautiful thing about the church is the Head of the church.
Their faithfulness to Christ can teach us so much about intimacy that is greater than sexuality and love that is broader than romance.
They have found an identity in Christ that supersedes their sexuality and establishes their hearts in love (Eph. 3:17-19).
Secondly, Woke India often directs its quest for identity towards sexuality. In this respect, we are all the same.
Sexuality is one of many options in the marketplace of God-substitutes. All of us are prone to build an identity on something that turns into an idol—money, power, ministry, pulpits, or even a sense of humour (Eph. 5:3-5).
Sin is the great equaliser. Every human being is a sexual sinner. All sexual sin is rebellion against God. Every body is lowly, rebellious, and untamed.
Yet grace is the great awakening—inclusive, welcoming, and compassionate (Matt. 11:28-30). God’s mercy in Christ is overflowing and unrestrained, to anyone who believes.
Jesus stands at the door and knocks, eager for us to include him in our hearts without excluding his authority over bodies.
Most counter-intuitively, our bodies are most liberated when they are most devoted to seeking God’s pleasure and serving his purposes (Rom. 6:12-14).
Hope: A Person for Woke India to Ponder
Our greatest oppression does not come from outside us. It comes from the nature within us that manipulates us, deceives us, and overpowers us.
If our minds can lie to us how can we use them to discern if we are deceived? It would be like trying to perform brain surgery on ourselves while we are unconscious.
We need supreme help from someone who is not vulnerable to deception, weakened by sin, or a slave to death; someone who will engage us, enlighten us, and empower us.
Such help is here in Christ, whose mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).
The most beautiful thing about the church is the Head of the church. He is the most powerful person in the universe who became the most vulnerable so the most powerless can share in his glory (2 Cor. 5:20-21).
Jesus is our empathetic high priest who feels what we feel. His Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us through wordless groans (Rom. 8:26).
Our Lord is the safest person on earth who indwells our bodies with his Spirit. He is our eternal comfort from suffering, our hope for justice against the unrepentant, and our true and faithful love.
“Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’” (Eph. 5:14).