The Missionary Zeal of Wokeism

Why do countless students willingly pay upwards of $50,000 a year for a degree in black studies, when the skills they learn are seldom sought in the marketplace? In fact, the opposite may be true: few employers want to hire angry activists who’ve spent years marinating in grievances while learning to write impenetrable, jargon-filled prose about cis-gendered, heteronormative white privilege. At best, schools might justify such offerings as cheap ways of extracting tuition from sub-par students or, in the case of minority students, of meeting diversity quotas with easy-to-pass courses. In each instance, the school’s justification rests on crass economic self-interest, not some illustrious educational goal. But why would students embrace these vocationally unreliable programs?

This puzzlement ended after I read a recent article about Bard College at Simon’s Rock. The school has announced a new BA program “… designed for and by LGBTQIA+ college students that aims to elevate LGBTQIA+ college graduates into leadership roles in fields across the workforce.” The initiative, called the Bard Queer Leadership Project, will make Simon’s Rock “… the first intentionally queer-serving college in the world.” Though the program has just begun, the intent is to graduate students with a genuine Bard bachelor’s degree comprising both liberal arts subjects and a concentration in “Queer Leadership.” Tentative courses at Simon’s Rock will include “Queer in Field,” “Queer in Community,” and various seminars on “Queer Culture.”

While the meaning of “queer” might be fuzzy, “queerness” is, at its core, a rejection of heterosexuality as normal, and of the conventional nuclear family as the standard by which to judge personal behavior. For self-identified queers, there can be no such thing as normal sex or conventional human relationships. Everything is socially constructed and, thus, a matter of personal choice.

Training youngsters for LGBTQ+ leadership roles is hardly limited to Bard—indeed, gay students can assess the friendliness of other colleges and universities to the homosexual agenda through the website Campus Pride Index. Bard’s program is also part of a broader effort (The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals) of like-minded schools, various affiliated organizations, and interested individuals whose purpose is to promote the liberation of LGBTQ+ people in higher education. Many sympathizers occupy official positions at prestigious schools such as Yale and Duke. The Consortium’s work also incorporates intersectional and racial-justice frameworks through its conferences and seminars. In short, it’s a wide-ranging, well-organized movement promoting homosexuality in the academy.

Thus understood, this Queer Leadership initiative is not about young people wasting money for an impractical education. It is training for missionary work. Those who enroll have, obviously, heard the call from on high to spread the word, and are thus novitiates heading off to seminary. Ironically, Bard College (originally St. Stephen’s College) was founded to train Episcopal clergymen, so this program is consistent with American higher education’s historic role of training youngsters for the ministry.

[Related: “Academic Honor Codes and Woke Adrenaline Junkies”]

One might compare the embrace of queer theory to the Christian missions beginning with the sixteenth-century Spanish conquistadores. Then there were the nineteenth-century American and British Protestants who sought converts in Africa and Asia. Contemporary Mormon universities continue to make evangelism central to their religious identity. What is happening at Simon’s Rock just confirms that the religious urge is likely hard-wired in the human genome.

Leaving aside its explicit sexuality, Simon Rock’s Queer Leadership initiative resembles many college-based programs dedicated to training Christian missionaries. One website lists the top ten schools specializing in Christian missionary instruction, including, for example, Harding University, Andrews University, and Johnson University. Though most missionary-oriented schools are Protestant, one may also find Catholic and Muslim missionary organizations in the United States.

The obvious question is: Why would anybody pay Bard’s sky-high tuition for a degree in queer evangelism? Moreover, these graduates are unlikely to follow the path of traditional missionary work. It’s hard to envision pairs of disciples walking door-to-door asking ordinary citizens if they would like to learn about queer theory. They are even less likely to serve disenfranchised homosexuals victimized by homophobia and discrimination. Mother Teresa is not the role model. Similarly, forget about mastering exotic languages and travelling abroad to nations such as Egypt or Uganda where homosexuals are actively prosecuted, even killed.

No, these champions of the faith will stay home and seek jobs in academic administration, philanthropies, non-government organizations, and government agencies. In the private sector they will gravitate to media-related fields such as publishing, advertising, and filmmaking. Libraries and fashion companies also offer opportunities to spread the queer faith (think books with gender-fluid characters or androgynous models). These careers certainly outshine combatting homophobia in Uganda.

One might ask, of course, whether securing a degree in Queer Leadership is an effective pathway to spreading the faith. Why embrace a controversial label instead of majoring in sociology? The answer, we suspect, is that in today’s identity politics–obsessed world, a Queer Leadership degree certifies the job applicant as the genuine article, not an opportunistic, box-checking impostor. After all, how can the HR department deliver on its pledge to diversify the workforce when anybody can claim to be gender fluid or non-binary?

The deeper question, of course, is whether a parallel exists between spreading the queer faith and spreading a traditional religious faith. What is the Queer Paradise? For example, traditional Disney films held that bad guys must eventually be punished for their evil, a bedrock principle of our moral code. Will the Disney Queer Paradise be obligated to show same-sex romantic lives as equal to that of Ozzie and Harriet? Are the apostles of Queerdom liberating America from homophobia comparable to the Catholic Legion of Decency’s long-gone campaign to banish foul language and nudity from movies? There are certainly parallels.

[Related: “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Woke?”]

While this analysis focuses on training for Queer Leadership, it applies just as well to other identity-based university instruction. These grievance-themed courses are not about seeking and imparting knowledge, the ostensible aims of higher education. Nor are “studies” departments known for academic freedom. Their true purpose is to impart dogma so apostles can go forth and spread the word.

Will experts in queer theory be acquainted with the historic theological debates over the sin of homosexuality? Or the complex biology of sexual attraction? Will graduates of the Queer Leadership program have any idea how to analyze public policy? Will they master “Queer Statistical Analysis”? Everything is subordinated to evangelism.

The graduates in Queer Leadership are trained to repeat the queer mantra, chapter and verse, and then shout down heretics. Perhaps this is what some woke employers want—hire a graduate with a degree in black studies who will then disseminate the ideologically infused lessons they learned in college. The opposite may also occur—Disney might decide to return to Walt’s Christian values and hire graduates from Ouachita Baptist University, regardless of their movie-making talent.

The missionary fervor of this academic instruction helps explain wokeism’s great triumphs in higher education and elsewhere. Tellingly, other examples of this power abound. Consider how a few fervent missionaries converted millions of unbelievers in Central and South America. The power of the zealot to relentlessly spread his faith cannot be exaggerated. According to some estimates, China will be the largest Christian nation in 2030. It’s amazing what a few nineteenth-century missionaries accomplished.

Missionary zeal also explains why those who preach the woke gospel are immune to reasoned opposition. Zealotry is impervious to science, let alone plain-to-see reality. Try convincing today’s woke believers that defunding the police, destroying the nuclear family, and undermining traditional gender roles guarantee disaster. Like the martyrs who happily went to their death rather than renounce the faith, they blindly soldier on. Decades from now, there may be shrines devoted to transgendered St. Sebastian–like drag queens who were fired after performing at the local kindergarten.

In warfare, one must know the enemy—today’s woke enemy is missionary zeal.


Image: Adobe Stock

Robert Weissberg

Robert Weissberg is a professor emeritus of political science at The University of Illinois-Urbana.

2 thoughts on “The Missionary Zeal of Wokeism

  1. “Why do countless students willingly pay upwards of $50,000 a year for a degree in black studies, when the skills they learn are seldom sought in the marketplace? In fact, the opposite may be true: few employers want to hire angry activists who’ve spent years marinating in grievances while learning to write impenetrable, jargon-filled prose about cis-gendered, heteronormative white privilege.”

    Now Comrade Bob, this really is a bit lazy and sloppy. I can google on “black studies starting salary” in about five seconds, and in a microsecond learn from a job site that the average black studies person makes in excess of $76K. OK, it’s not what people make in AI, but it’s not nothing. There are majors in subjects like this because there is a market. It’s not my cup of tea, but I’m not going to knock it for people who choose it. And hey, it being Mar 21 (hint — a birthday), let’s remember that some students like Bach, not rock, and while they may or may not average more than black studies majors, I’m not going to knock their chosen studies.

  2. Whatever cannot go on forever, won’t. This obsession with queer studies, black studies, etc. is not going to last. Economies around the world are starting to tank. The first ones to be laid off are the ones who contribute nothing to company sales. Being a queer activist steeped in victimhood contributes nothing to the bottom line. In recent weeks a number of stories have reported major corporations are undergoing layoffs and DEI staff are among the first let go; they contribute nothing to the bottom line.

    Even the NGOs and government will offer no safe haven for the black studies major. NGOs rely on contributions. These contributions tend to dry up fast in a downward economy. Same with government employment. Less tax revenue means less spending. Queer studies positions won’t be filled when vacated because there just isn’t enough money. People are going to demand their tax dollars fight crime, homelessness and so forth rather than pushing some offensive woke ideology that benefits no one. Just look at how parent groups are now aggressively fighting the pernicious CRT being forced on their kids. They don’t want their tax dollars going towards this depraved racism.

    Oh this nonsense will last for a few years yet, but it is on a downward slope. Decreasing college enrollment means fewer students for pseudo-academic “disciplines” such as womens studies and race grievance studies programs which lack any rigor, standards, or value. No students, no tuition, no faculty positions. Industry is starting to get wise that going woke no only has finanical consequences, but it no longer provides a positive perception by the public. The collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank is a perfect example.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *