What is ‘Woke’ Bible Study?

Woodbrooke has been running a short series of ‘woke’ Bible studies. What on earth does this mean? Let me try to explain.

What is ‘Woke’ Bible Study? Woodbrooke Quaker learning and research

Woke is a word which started off as an African-American term meaning ‘alert and awake to racial prejudice and discrimination’. Since then, it has been co-opted by some right-wing people and groups as a derogatory term about people who try to speak up about any inclusion and justice. This is similar to how the term ‘identity politics’ is used by the same people to dismiss those of us who want to draw attention to privilege and lack of it in different groups.

Nowadays, many inclusive-minded people are reclaiming the word ‘woke’ as a positive. We see on social media explanations of what it means to be woke – a summary of some of these would be ‘a decent person who cares about others’ – and people saying they are ‘proud to be woke’. So, although it started off as a word used by people of colour about awareness of specifically racial discrimination, you can see that in both its derogatory usage and its positive usage, it now means an awareness to all sorts of discrimination, from disability to LGBT+ and so on.

Knowing that Quakers in general are pretty ‘woke’ people, but that not all are that interested in the Bible, or perhaps are interested but don’t know it very well, some people at Woodbrooke decided to commission people to lead what they have termed ‘Woke Bible Study’ sessions. The first one of these was led by Mark Russ, on the 27th March. It was entitled ‘Are there any white people in the Bible?’ and focused on colonialism, empire and white supremacy.

The second woke Bible study in the series will be led by me, and it is still possible to sign up to it, as long as there are still spaces! My session will be on the topic of disability and the Bible. We will be looking at how disabled people are represented in the Bible and why there is so much more than the ‘healing stories’ to consider on this topic. There are actually a large number of important disabled figures and disabled leaders in the Bible, and the Bible has much to say to us about the gifts that disabled people bring to the table. Disabled people are not just people to be ‘fixed’, as Christianity has long made out.

Please do come along and join us for this session, which will also draw many disabled people in, some of whom will have more wisdom to impart than me! It takes place on the 11th April at 7pm on Zoom.

Sign up to ‘Woke’ Bible Study: are there any disabled people in the bible?

You can find other sessions in our ‘Woke’ Bible Study on our website

Ruth Wilde is the National Coordinator of the charity Inclusive Church and also works 1 day a week at Northern Baptist College as a Tutor for the Inclusion of Disabled People. She is in the big umbrella of disability, as a neurodivergent person. Ruth attends Selly Oak Quaker Meeting and Selly Oak Methodist Church.

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