Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles addresses the Congress of Catholics and Public Life in Madrid, Spain back in early November where he laid out his theory that new social justice and woke movements are “pseudo-religions and even replacements and rivals to traditional Christian beliefs.”
Archbishop Gomez’s address was delivered by video to the Congress of Catholics and Public Life, but a transcript was shared to the Archbishop’s personal blog.
The Archbishop begins his address by noting that secularization is spreading like rapid fire throughout the the United States and in Europe.
He also points to a group of elites guiding society down this ruinous path, “An elite leadership class has risen in our countries that has little interest in religion and no real attachments to the nations they live in or to local traditions or cultures. This group, which is in charge in corporations, governments, universities, the media, and in the cultural and professional establishments, wants to establish what we might call a global civilization, built on a consumer economy and guided by science, technology, humanitarian values, and technocratic ideas about organizing society.”
“In this elite worldview, there is no need for old-fashioned belief systems and religions. In fact, as they see it, religion, especially Christianity, only gets in the way of the society they hope to build,” he asserts.
Later on, the Archbishop discusses cancel culture and political correctness saying, “In your program for this Congress, you allude to ‘cancel culture’ and ‘political correctness.’ And we recognize that often what is being canceled and corrected are perspectives rooted in Christian beliefs — about human life and the human person, about marriage, the family, and more.”
He elaborates, “In your society and mine, the ‘space’ that the Church and believing Christians are permitted to occupy is shrinking. Church institutions and Christian-owned businesses are increasingly challenged and harassed. The same is true for Christians working in education, health care, government, and other sectors. Holding certain Christian beliefs is said to be a threat to the freedoms, and even to the safety, of other groups in our societies.”
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From there he talks about how these new movements took root in a number of institutions throughout society stating, “The new social movements and ideologies that we are talking about today, were being seeded and prepared for many years in our universities and cultural institutions. But with the tension and fear caused by the pandemic and social isolation, and with the killing of an unarmed black man by a white policeman and the protests that followed in our cities, these movements were fully unleashed in our society.”
He specifically addressed the death of George Floyd, “This context is important in understanding our situation in the United States. The name George Floyd is now known worldwide. But that is because for many people in my country, myself included, his tragedy became a stark reminder that racial and economic inequality are still deeply embedded in our society.”
“We need to keep this reality of inequality in mind. Because these movements that we are talking about are part of a wider discussion — a discussion that is absolutely essential — about how to build an American society that expands opportunities for everyone, no matter what color their skin is or where they came from, or their economic status,” he notes.
From there the Archbishop turns to his theory that these new social justice and woke movements are pseudo-religions.
He states, “Here is my thesis. I believe the best way for the Church to understand the new social justice movements is to understand them as pseudo-religions, and even replacements and rivals to traditional Christian beliefs.”
“With the breakdown of the Judeo-Christian worldview and the rise of secularism, political belief systems based on social justice or personal identity have come to fill the space that Christian belief and practice once occupied,” he elaborates.
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He continues to explain, “Whatever we call these movements — ‘social justice,’ ‘wokeness,’ ‘identity politics,’ ‘intersectionality,’ ‘successor ideology’ — they claim to offer what religion provides.”
“They provide people with an explanation for events and conditions in the world. They offer a sense of meaning, a purpose for living, and the feeling of belonging to a community. Even more than that, like Christianity, these new movements tell their own ‘story of salvation,'” he says.
After briefly describing the Christian story, the Archbishop provides a brief synopsis of these new woke movements’ story.
He states, “We cannot know where we came from, but we are aware that we have interests in common with those who share our skin color or our position in society. We are also painfully aware that our group is suffering and alienated, through no fault of our own. The cause of our unhappiness is that we are victims of oppression by other groups in society. We are liberated and find redemption through our constant struggle against our oppressors, by waging a battle for political and cultural power in the name of creating a society of equity.”
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He goes on to explain why this story is so seductive to so many, “Clearly, this is a powerful and attractive narrative for millions of people in American society and in societies across the West. In fact, many of America’s leading corporations, universities, and even public schools are actively promoting and teaching this vision.”
“This story draws its strength from the simplicity of its explanations — the world is divided into innocents and victims, allies and adversaries. But this narrative is also attractive because, as I said earlier, it responds to real human needs and suffering. People are hurting, they do feel discriminated against and excluded from opportunities in society,” he asserts.
The Archbishop adds, “We should never forget this. Many of those who subscribe to these new movements and belief systems are motivated by noble intentions. They want to change conditions in society that deny men and women their rights and opportunities for a good life.”
The Archbishop then declares, “Of course, we all want to build a society that provides equality, freedom, and dignity for every person. But we can only build a just society on the foundation of the truth about God and human nature.”
He would later highlight this point again saying, “Today’s critical theories and ideologies are profoundly atheistic. They deny the soul, the spiritual, transcendent dimension of human nature; or they think that it is irrelevant to human happiness. They reduce what it means to be human to essentially physical qualities — the color of our skin, our sex, our notions of gender, our ethnic background, or our position in society.”
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In order to combat these social justice and woke ideologies the Archbishop offered a simple answer, “We need to proclaim Jesus Christ. Boldly, creatively. We need to tell our story of salvation in a new way. With charity and confidence, without fear. This is the Church’s mission in every age and every cultural moment.”
“We should not be intimidated by these new religions of social justice and political identity. The Gospel remains the most powerful force for social change that the world has ever seen. And the Church has been ‘antiracist’ from the beginning. All are included in her message of salvation,” he went on to say.
A little bit later he adds, “Of course, in the Church we have not always lived up to our beautiful principles, or carried out the mission entrusted to us by Christ. But the world does not need a new secular religion to replace Christianity. It needs you and me to be better witnesses. Better Christians. Let us begin by forgiving, loving, sacrificing for others, putting away spiritual poisons like resentment and envy.”
As he began to wrap up his speech, Archbishop Gomez said, “Finally, in this hour I think the Church must be a voice for individual conscience and tolerance, and we need to promote greater humility and realism about the human condition. Acknowledging our common humanity means recognizing our common frailty. The truth is that we are all sinners, people who want to do the right thing but often do not.”
He continued, “That does not mean we remain passive in the face of social injustice. Never! But we do need to insist that fraternity cannot be built through animosity or division. True religion does not seek to harm or humiliate, to ruin livelihoods or reputations. True religion offers a path for even the worst sinners to find redemption.”
“One last thought, my friends. And that is the reality of God’s providence. We need to hold onto this supernatural understanding, because it is true: God’s loving hand still guides our lives and the course of nations,” he asserted.
What do you make of the Archbishop’s claim that wokeness and these new social justice movements are a pseudo-religion? What about his solution to combat them?