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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Woke Capitalism

Spiritual alertness is a recurrent theme in the Psalms. The language often used is of being ‘awake’ to God. Even though David was hiding from King Saul in a cave, he wrote these rousing lyrics: ‘Awake, my soul! Awake harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn!’ (Psalm 57:8). This theme is echoed throughout the rest of scripture, especially in the Gospels and Epistles. And historical outpourings of the Holy Spirit are often called ‘awakenings’.

Against this background, to be ‘woke’ is a virtue. But what does it mean? Until recently, ‘woke’ was generally just about waking up – as in the Beatles famous lyrics: ‘Woke up, fell out of bed; dragged a comb across my head’. But alongside the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the term has come to mean alertness to injustice and prejudice. It even finds a place in the Oxford English Dictionary, as does a term with which it is associated, ‘post-truth’.

In the business world, ‘woke capitalism’ finds expression in the conscious shift many companies are making, or are seeking to make, away from the idea that profit should be the overall arbiter of strategy. Taking a longer-term view of their financial viability, such companies seek to integrate social, environmental, and relational concerns within their decision-making processes.

This movement is not new – previous terms include ‘corporate social responsibility’. But today it is propelled by a resurgent interest in personal and corporate purpose, and in how they can be aligned. Research shows that, especially amongst younger people, companies achieve the best recruitment, retainment, and work satisfaction levels when a company is infused with a strong sense of purpose.

As with any new movement, especially when commercial interests are involved, the movement has critics and advocates. Whichever side we feel most drawn to, it is worth returning to the wisdom of David, our archetypal woke lyricist. Despite his faults, the New Testament states: ‘When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep and was buried’ (Acts 13:36). Surely an epitaph like this is what all of us would want on our gravestones!

To be woke, like David, is to serve God in whatever sphere God has placed us, not by giving blanket support to yesterday’s cultural status quo but by our having hearts and minds alert to the needs of our own generation. People are looking for purpose and are questioning dominant paradigms. In this context, frontline agents of God’s kingdom will, like David, ‘stay woke’.


Peter S Heslam
Peter is director of Faith in Business, Cambridge.


  1. David stayed woke through his relationship with God and let God shape him. God used David to shape several generations as David tried to follow God’s will (on the whole). We can do the same.

    We should shape rather than feel compelled to respond. The social orthodoxy dog wags the tail too often and sends Christians into frenzied responses as if we are a PR machine that has to have an answer and has to respond to the latest whim and fashion. Our cultural significance comes from the gospel and showing the presence of the kingdom of God whilst inviting others to receive/share in it too and not our opinion on gender/identity, race or climate change

    We have the benefit of knowing how and what it is to remain in Jesus, knowing the outcomes if we choose to do so. Deuteronomy 28 has some interesting comments about priorities for God’s people and likely outcomes too. Let’s keep at the head.

    By Brian Smith  -  9 Apr 2021
  2. Thank you for this… it’s got me thinking, and helped me to challenge my knee jerk reaction to the very word… now where’s my comb?

    By robert jackson  -  9 Apr 2021
  3. Thanks – and great comment from Brian too. I sometimes wonder what might a future generation – or even people a few years from now – think about some issues we neglected to speak up & act on powerfully enough today. Such as the suffering in Yemen to name but one.

    By Bruce Gulland  -  9 Apr 2021
  4. Great article on “woke”. I write a weekly BAM blog in North America and wonder if I can reproduce it with credit to you. Thanks.

    By LARRY SHARP  -  9 Apr 2021
  5. Absolutely Bruce. Christians should seek to be prophetic. To my mind that means spotting the issues which God is most concerned about, BEFORE everyone else has woken up to them! It’s great to see Christians getting so involved in things like Eco Church, at long last, but once again we are just playing “catch-up” with other parts of secular society. What are the big issues nobody is talking about? Perhaps we should pray for God to open our eyes to those.

    By Martin Tiller  -  10 Apr 2021
  6. Oh dear no! I think comedic “The Church of Woke” video on YouTube sums up the situation MUCH more fairly!
    That word “woke” should be an anathema to Christians! Would David’s insistence of there being only One God, or his opposition to practicing homosexuality (we assume) , or rejection of Pagan practices be considered “woke”?

    The more awake to God David was, the less “woke”, thank goodness!
    The more awake to God & His Word Christians become, the more they are accused of being “un-woke” by a generation which is trying desperately to invent a “righteousness” of it’s own double-standards. “Woke” is the religion of the “Fad-Pharisees” policing our freedom of speech & crushing legitimate dissent – ESPECIALLY Christian dissent.
    Christians have spoken up against injustice from Paul’s letter to the Colossians onwards, through Wilberforce & Shaftesbury etc without being anti-white, pro-perversion, or pro-Islam ie: “woke”
    “Woke” truly represents “the latest whim & fashion” & the “latest social orthodoxy” (see Brian Smith comment above). Embracing “woke” is for those caricature Trendy-vicars & their desperation to be cool, so (rightly) ridiculed in the media.
    “Woke” doctrine is like the demanding crowd of Matt 11:16-17. THEY are playing the pipes & insisting, even LEGISLATING for “politically correct” conformity.
    Personally I will choose, with the Woke-persecuted believers everywhere, to stay AWAKE to the God of David & Paul & Wilberforce and expose “wokeness” for the self-righteous sleep-walking it truly is!

    By Mr Michael Brittain  -  11 Apr 2021

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