Religion stock

Society is evolving and the changes seem to come at breakneck pace. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably having a difficult time keeping up with the changes. So, in 2019 my resolution is to stay "woke" (it is a phrase the kids use and means being culturally aware).

I challenge you to join me. Use this handy guide to help you stay woke in 2019.

Let’s start with language, because that seems the most fluid and can be the most offensive if we aren’t careful. The first thing to do is forget what your teachers taught you in grade school about pronouns. With 53 genders now, he/she and other binary terms are worthless and offensive. Feel free to speak in the plural (they/them) even when grammatically incorrect. Better yet, make the switch to ze/zirs/zirs, xe/xem/xyrs.

James A. Mann

James A. Mann

Speaking of offensive, forward-thinking schools have banned “boy” and “girl” and “freshman” (which is sexist and promotes violence). “Manholes,” (“utility holes”) are also out in 2019. Inmates in Washington state prisons are called “students” and Seattle police refer to suspects as “community members.”

As a pet owner, I mean “pet guardian,” I want to make sure I remove other phrases that might offend the animal kingdom. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals makes the following helpful suggestions: “Take the bull by the horns” is now “take the flower by the thorns.” “Beat a dead horse” is now “feed a fed horse.” “Killing two birds with one stone” is “feeding two birds with one scone.” Much better!

Equally important to what is said is who said it. Be careful who you quote. “In victory, magnanimity.” What a great sentiment, except, well, Winston Churchill said it. That’s why astronaut Scott Kelly had to apologize for quoting it.

And sometimes, the person who said it is acceptable, but ze didn’t go far enough. To wit: “I have a dream.” This was almost removed from a display at the University of Oregon because it wasn’t inclusive enough in regard to gender and gender identity. Come on, Dr. King!

There are other significant cultural issues outside of language of which to be aware. One of the big problems in America is cultural appropriation. As of now, it is still acceptable to enjoy ethnic food of a different ethnicity than your own. But be prepared for that to change.

Think about “Tex-Mex” — why is “Tex” first? And didn’t we steal their land? Now we’re stealing their food? Sure the food is amazing, but it’s racist and imperialist.

Taking and using something dear to another race is always wrong (white women should not wear hoop earrings, I’m told). However, there’s an exception in relation to St. Patrick’s Day when everyone receives a cultural insensitivity get-out-of-jail-free card. After all, they’re just Irish.

Religion is another sensitive area — a mine field full of triggers and micro-aggressions if you’re not careful. BC and AD (as in “Before Christ” and “Anno Domini”) are long gone. They’ve been replaced by BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era). Again, don’t get hung up on details, like the fact that the Common Era coincidentally began at the birth of Christ.

Speaking of Christ (if you dare), we learned in 2018 that the cross is a symbol of violence, not of love and redemption. So put away all cross jewelry with your hoop earrings for safekeeping until it’s acceptable to bring them out again. Our evolution has brought plenty of options for the woke believer — Bibles that change difficult wordings and churches that change difficult doctrines are all easy to find.

And the holidays; progress is being made here, too. Some really brilliant educators in Seattle schools came up with “Spring Spheres” that can be painted and hidden. I’m not sure who hides the Spring Spheres, maybe the Spring Sphere Bunny.

As for Christmas, we’re doing well in this area. Every year we evolve. “J” shaped candy canes are banned from schools, as they should be. We’ve pulled a lot of offensive, sectarian, “shove Jesus down your throat” elements from the holidays, too. But we can do better.

If we learned anything about Christmas in 2018, it’s that we should remove all elements of the holiday that point north of the Equator (snow, cold, fireplaces, hot chocolate, snowmen — sorry, “snowbeings”). Very hemispherecentric, and frankly, southern-hemispherophobic!

Speaking of cold, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is out, but rap music’s still in.

We’ve got our work cut out for us in 2019. There are still people who drink from straws and use plastic grocery bags. There’s a Denton City Council election coming and extra special magical “Municipal Equality Index” bonus points to be earned.

Worse, there are still conservatives out there — people who aren’t woke — people who resist this evolution. They read the Bible. But worse, they believe it. And the more we push for the sensible changes I suggest here, the more they resist (resisting is only good when the object of resistance is the president of the United States).

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, writing an opinion piece in USA Today, suggests “Most Americans don’t want to be woke.” He even attaches a number to it: 80 percent of us want nothing to do with the PC movement. The social justice warriors make up only 8 percent of the population. But they are loud.

So maybe being woke won’t be my resolution in 2019, after all. Instead, I’ll follow the Prophet Jeremiah’s suggestion: “... Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls ... Jeremiah 6:16).”

JAMES A. MANN, Ph.D., is a Denton native and the lead pastor of New Life Church of Denton. He is an assistant professor of New Testament at Liberty University School of Divinity located in Lynchburg, Virginia.

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