The lead vocalist, bassist, and songwriter for a top Christian rock band is sounding the alarm about the “woke” ideology of critical race theory and transgender identity, insisting that Christians cannot afford to sit on the sidelines as this competing worldview takes over the culture.
Skillet’s John Cooper will release a new book this month on the topic entitled “Wimpy, Weak, and Woke.”
“The main premise of my entire book is that there is a revolution against America, to just tear America down,” Cooper told The Daily Signal in a May interview at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention. “Some of the Christian people just say, ‘Well, you do have to admit there is systemic racism,’ and I say to them, ‘You don’t understand. If you’re saying we are structurally racist, we have to tear down the foundations.’”
Although the Left’s ideology does represent a “revolution against America,” it is more fundamentally “a revolution against Christian civilization. It’s a revolution against God,” Cooper said.
His book lays out two alternatives for America and the West: the god of Man, or the living God.
“One of these things is going to lead to a culture of death and one of these things leads to a culture of life,” Cooper said.
Cooper warned againstcritical race theory, an approach to history, civics, and other disciplines that encourages students to find “systemic racism” throughout American institutions and to reexamine every aspect of life through a race-based lens that assumes white people are oppressors and black people and other minorities are oppressed.
He said the theory is “not Christian” because “the Bible specifically says you don’t let the father’s sins [be visited] upon their kids. You don’t hold kids responsible for what their grandfathers did. That’s not right. You’re responsible for your own behavior, your own sins, your own standing before the Lord.”
Cooper emphasized that Christians should judge others according to the late civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech—by the content of their character. Yet critical race theory encourages people to judge others on the basis of skin color.
“I mean, that is just racism,” Cooper said. “And that’s the weird thing about CRT, is that it’s just racist, but it’s acceptable racism, right? It’s just acceptable racism.”
Cooper also warned against transgender ideology.
“We don’t even believe in objective reality now,” he lamented, referring to American society.
“We are saying you can be a Christian as you want to, as long as you privatize it,” Cooper explained. “You can be a Christian at your home, just don’t go around telling people. But in the public sphere, [where] we used to be able to talk about religion and objective reality … in the public sphere, we are going to make people’s personal subjective feelings be public truth.”
“So if you say, ‘I’m a boy, but I know I’m actually a girl, and I believe it in my heart,’ the public has to say your inner feelings are true,” the songwriter said. “But if somebody says, ‘No, I can see objective reality, you are a boy,’ that’s not publicly true, though it can be a privately held belief if you want.”
“That’s the way to end all things,” Cooper said. “That is the destruction of objective reality.”
In contrast to this ideology, Skillet’s songwriter urged a return to the Judeo-Christian outlook at the center of America’s Founding.
“We Christians, or we traditionalists, we should be morally confident because we have a lot of history to look at and say it’s worked for a really long time,” he said. “We know that two-parent families have much better outcomes than one-parent families, from wealth, to less depression, to less people in mental institutes or in prison, or drug arrests, or committing rapes, or committing robberies.”
Cooper defended the Judeo-Christian values at the heart of Western culture as “this inherited wisdom from millennia,” leading America to become “the freest country, the most prosperous country,” where “it doesn’t matter where you come from, the color of your skin, how much money you make, what your religion [is]. You have individual liberties that cannot be taken away by the state.”
“That’s an amazing thing, right? That’s such an incredible thing,” he noted. “You can come here and you can chart your own course. It’s the American dream. You can be born of the poorest family in America and no one is going to say, ‘No, you can’t become the president.’”
Cooper insisted that the Left’s idea boils down to a rejection of this good heritage.
“Christianity and what we’ve inherited is actually causing us to be enslaved,” he said, referring to the opposite vision. “It’s causing us to be sad and depressed, and it’s evil, and the Christian God, namely, is enslaving us into sexual mores and traditional thinking. We need Him to go away. We need to kill God, which is what Marx wanted to do. We kill God, and then we replace God with a new god, which is basically ourselves, and we can find utopia. We can perfect the world with trans ideology and with LGBTQ ideology, and by unleashing sexuality in children we will make a new superman.”
Cooper also lamented that many Christians seem ashamed to defend the goodness of Western civilization or America, in particular.
“They think that it is more Christian to dislike America than to like America,” he noted. “They almost see it as like idolatry.”
Yet the singer recalled learning to value both God and country while he was growing up.
“Yes, of course, you’re more loyal to Christ than you are to America. Of course,” he said. “But these things are not at odds with each other. In fact, loyalty to Christ will make you a better citizen.”
Listen to the podcast or read a lightly edited transcript below.
Tyler O’Neil: This is Tyler O’Neil, managing editor at The Daily Signal. I’m joined by the one and only John Cooper, the lead vocalist of the tremendous and award-winning Christian rock band Skillet and author of a forthcoming book exposing woke ideology. It’s an honor to speak with you.
John Cooper: Thank you. It’s great to be here, man. In fact, I’m not the one and only John Cooper I found, because there’s like a mayor in Nashville or something, his name is John Cooper. Because when he was running people were sending me all these things, “Oh, you’re running for mayor of Nashville?” But he’s a liberal, which, really, I was like, “All right, come on. Nah, that’s not me.”
O’Neil: I also have a former co-worker named John Cooper, so it’s like, it’s a very common name, but also—
Cooper: I’m the one and only.
Cooper: Thank you.
O’Neil: I think so.
Cooper: Thank you, brother.
O’Neil: Well, so yeah, John, [since you are] a leader in the CCM [Christian and contemporary music] world, I was first wondering if you would address this really shocking movement of deconversion that we’ve been seeing among so many CCM artists. It seems as though maybe the spotlight got to them, or maybe they just hadn’t gotten to read your book.
Cooper: Yeah, it’s the latter. I mean, it’s such a travesty. It really can’t be exaggerated. I don’t mean to be like hyper “the sky is falling” about everything, but it really can’t be exaggerated.
What you’re looking at, I think, personally, is not even so much the spotlight or pride or they’re all about themselves and then this—I think it’s such a lack of teaching, it’s such a lack of worldview. What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to view the world in a Christianly way?
So what you have happening in the world—let’s remove Christianity from this. Let’s look at what we have happening in the world.
O’Neil: That’s what the deconversionists are doing, right?
Cooper: That’s exactly right. Yeah. So, let’s look at America. We need to look at young people, 20-somethings. For instance, it’s not popular to like America, right? They kind of look at America like, “Well, it’s a lot of terrible things.” They’re holding these things in tension between “America is the worse place in the world”—even though they don’t know where is better. It’s just random information they’ve been told.
So even in the world people are just—they’re down. They’re down on Western civilization, down on America. They’re down on the idea of individual liberties, as we saw in 2020. A lot of wonderful, great-meaning Christians, they said they were conservative people, were all for the lockdown. They were all for the vax mandates. They were all for a lot of things because they just don’t understand. They haven’t been taught.
In Christian music it’s the same thing happening, just on the religious side. They just don’t value where we came from. They don’t value tradition. They’re not into any of it. And they really want a new kind of faith that is progressive because they view progressivism as a good thing and traditionalism as a bad thing.
O’Neil: Yeah. No. I think that makes a lot of sense. And that approach to progressivism, even the word sometimes I bristle at it. But your book kind of runs the gamut on these destructive left-wing ideologies, through critical race theory, the transgenders, and statism, socialism, Marxism. You trace them all back to an atheistic utopianism, what you call the age-old war between gods, a “winner takes all” battle between the living God and the false god of man. What do you mean by that?
Cooper: Yeah. Every system is going to have a god, right? So every system of law, every culture, will have an ultimate say. Something is ultimate. It could be natural law. It could be Darwin’s evolution. So it could be rooted in the goodness of man, which is what progressivism basically is, right? The goodness of man. We can solve all our own problems and we don’t need some sort of transcended being or anything like that. We can do it.
Every system is going to have a god. And so what I think we’re dealing with now, and what’s really weird is that we’re dealing with it in Christianity, which makes no sense, but I don’t think it’s because we haven’t thought about it.
What you’re really dealing with is that we are either going to kind of continue what I consider to be conservatism, as we’re conserving the traditions we came from—it’s conserving the social order, the moral and religious fiber of where we came from, which is a system of laws and culture morality based on inherited wisdom, based on inherited truths and things like that.
Or we’re going to say, actually, all that is bad. Christianity and what we’ve inherited is actually causing us to be enslaved. It’s causing us to be sad and depressed, and it’s evil, and the Christian God namely is enslaving us into sexual mores and traditional thinking. We need him to go away. We need to kill God, which is what Marx wanted to do. We kill God and then we replace God with a new god, which is basically ourselves, and we can find utopia. We can perfect the world with trans ideology and with LGBTQ ideology, and by unleashing sexuality in children we will make a new superman, basically.
That’s sort of what the book is about. It’s saying there’s two ways to go here, is the god of man or is the living God, and one of these things is going to lead to a culture of death and one of these things leads to a culture of life.
O’Neil: And can you describe a little bit more about how we know it’s a culture of life that the Christian God brings us, that Western civilization enhances?
Cooper: Well, you could tackle that from several different places. As a person of faith, I believe in eternal truth. I believe in eternal values. I believe that, let’s just say philosophically, if there is a God—which of course I believe there is—if there is a God, then it just stands to reason that he created the world, so he knows how it should run, right?
So from a faith perspective, a theological perspective, then I say, well, God created a moral universe that runs in a certain way and then God gives us the moral law, and the moral law coincides with a moral universe. So in other words—here’s a good example, right?
It would be really weird if God’s moral law says sex is only between one man and one woman in marriage, you don’t have sex outside of marriage, right? But then the universe only gives STDs to people who only have sex with one person their whole life. It would be sort of like God is saying, “Yeah, I know it’s going to harm you, but this is the way I want it to be.” So it separates morality from the way the universe works, which is not a thing. So that’s what I would say in terms of that’s good.
Now, if I was to take my theology hat off and let’s just talk naturally and logically, there’s a lot of proof that “the living God,” his ways are good and beautiful and righteous.
But I think that this is where the argument comes down to people to think that Western civilization is good or is Western civilization really evil, because Western civilization is built on these Judeo-Christian values, this inherited wisdom from millennia.
And we look at it and we say in America this is the freest country, the most prosperous country … . Of course we have our incredible sins, obviously, but it doesn’t matter where you come from, the color of your skin, how much money you make, what your religion. You have individual liberties that may not be taken away from the state.
That’s an amazing thing, right? That’s such an incredible thing. You can come here and you can chart your own course. It’s the American dream. You can be born of the poorest family in America and no one is going to say, “No, you can’t become the president.” It’s absolutely amazing, the first county on the planet that puts documents saying all men are created equal. It’s absolutely awesome.
So it’s so weird to see so many people say, “No, actually, Western civilization is the biggest imperialistic perpetuating evil country in the world and we need to open up our borders, because people are coming from evil countries.” I can’t even wrap my head—I’m not even an intellectual person, but I’m smart enough to know that both of those things can’t be true.
So I would just say, let’s take a look at what’s happening around the world right now. In China, enslaving millions of Muslims, and other religions as well, but mainly talking Muslims.
You look in the Middle East, you look just below us in Venezuela, and you look at places that have been just ravaged by communism, and you say, “OK, communism and Western civilization are the antithesis, of course, right?” Because communism is built on the power of man, Western civilization on wisdom of the past. Which one of these things do you think produces life and which one produces death? You don’t have to be a smart person to see that.
O’Neil: Yeah. And I think a lot of people, especially in the young generation, take it kind of for granted, the benefits that we have, and they almost assume that these aren’t something weirdly new in human experience, these aren’t like a natural flourishing of a long process, and they think slavery was—I think there are studies where college students act as though slavery was unique to America and not a universal institution. Do you address some of those issues in your book?
Cooper: You’re absolutely right about what college students tend to think, and I just know this from friends. I know this from Christian musicians, that they have this weird—I’m sorry, I’m kind of going off script—but they have this weird and Christians in general these days have this really weird, bizarre thing I can’t figure out.
They think that it is more Christian to dislike America than to like America. They almost see it as, like, idolatry. Now, this used to not be the case. Like, I grew up with people that were like, “God and country,” you know? Yes, of course you’re more loyal to Christ than you are to America. Of course. But these things are not at odds with each other. In fact, loyalty to Christ will make you a better citizen. That was the idea anyway.
I don’t know when that changed, but it changed. And now what I deal with with talking to Christians all the time, it’s almost like they have a reaction, like if I’m pro-America they have a little bit of, “Oh, that’s a little idolatrous. Our kingdom is not of this world.”
It’s almost like they don’t understand that this could change tomorrow, like your grandkids could be, we could all be speaking, your grandkids could be speaking Chinese, depending on what happens in the near future. We could have been speaking German. It’s sort of like, how do you not understand what is happening here?
So, I don’t talk a lot about slavery, but I do talk about critical race theory. But yeah, basically, what you’re dealing with are people that are like, “America created slavery.” That is what they think, America created the idea that—I mean, I don’t even understand, but it’s that nuts.
And I argue with Christian pastors about this stuff sometimes, because they’ve swallowed some of these critical race theory ideas, like of whiteness and things like that. Whiteness was this property of Europeans against everybody else, and whiteness is sort of the original sin of—critical whiteness, that is. It’s like the fall in the garden for them.
And I’m talking to these pastors and I’m like, “Yeah, but there was a real fall in the garden. It happened a long time ago. It means that this is sin. This isn’t a unique thing to white people. What are you talking about?”
So that kind of thing really bothers me because I think that we’re just squandering our chance to continue to live free … .
I told a pastor this. I said, “Look, I don’t care if you’re patriotic. I don’t care if you like America. Fine. At the very least can you admit it’s nice to live in a country where you can live out the Bible without incriminations from the state? Is that on its own a good thing? Because we’re in the process of losing that. That’s a really good thing. Would you rather be in prison for your ethics or would you rather not? And if you’re like, ‘No, I don’t want to be in prison,’ can you quit this anti-American crap? It’s just so ridiculous.”
Sorry, it’s early. That makes me really … I’m flabbergasted, you know?
O’Neil: Yeah. … If you have a rational approach to the world, it is just insane to think that slavery, which has been documented to have been with us since the very earliest civilizations, is a uniquely American sin. That hatred of the other, which is since millennia of antisemitism, and then suddenly, “Oh, it’s only unique to America.” And all of the benefits of America, which are insanely unique and new, and this freedom that you’re talking about, living according to your faith, this is hard fought throughout the centuries.
You barely get it under Persia for the Jews, but that’s one example, where Persia enslaved other people, and in the United States we uphold it for everyone.
Cooper: Absolutely. People died for this.
Some of the racial hatred I’ve heard in the last couple of years—granted, most of it is coming from progressive white people toward white people, so who could make this up? The racial hatred I’ve heard, it’s like, I don’t remember the numbers, 600,000 people died in civil wars, so you’re talking about a lot of people giving their lives to change this, and what you’re saying now is that that didn’t even matter.
They’re only doing that for their own—if you study critical race theory, interest convergence theory, or whatever, convergence theory is what I think is what they call it. It’s part of critical race theory, and I do write about this in the book, whites will never do anything to help blacks because we benefit from the system. The only time we will help is if our interest converges with theirs.
So it’s not our interest, meaning we think it’s unjust that, for instance, we’re enslaving people of color, not that kind of interest, only like if—in other words, is it going to help our bottom line? Is there a way that I’m going to make money from marching with Martin Luther King? Is it a way to make me better?
It was kind of based on this thing about the Brown v. Board—Is it Brown v. Board of Education? I’m getting all my stuff confused. It’s too early. So it’s based on that. What they’re basically saying is that whites that wanted to integrate schools only did so because it would make America look better on the world stage for the Cold War, so that’s the only reason we did it, it was interest convergence.
So I’m talking about the Civil War and I’m like, but there’s so many white people and black people who died for this, so why can’t we celebrate this as a move in the right direction? So that is why critical race theory teaches—like, they’re not against civil rights. They’re certainly not against MLK. They’re saying, “Yeah, that’s good, but really, it was a sham. It was a sham. They got it, but all they did was they pushed racism underground.”
So it’s a little bit like a Kafka trap, you know? Anything that you say to something good that’s happened, they’ll say, “Yeah, but it’s just proof of the bad thing, you know?” And it’s just so ugly. It’s a really ugly way to live. It’s an un-Christian way to live, but it’s also an anti-Western civilization principle.
Yes, we didn’t live that for a long time. OK, so we had a promissory note. We finally got things right, where you don’t judge people based on where they come from. Each person is an individual made in the image of God, and John Locke did a great job of showing that. I don’t know why we hate that now. It’s insane.
O’Neil: Yeah. You say it’s an un-Christian way to live, and I’d like you to expand a little bit on what you mean by that because, as you were mentioning, a lot of Christian leaders, a lot of secular, like to argue that it is the Christian way to live, that you should embrace CRT because it’s caring for other people. You should embrace LGBT ideology because it’s caring for other people.
I mean, you and I know that’s not the case, but why are these things un-Christian and why is looking at history and saying, “These people were just trying to further oppression,” why is that un-Christian?
Cooper: The main premise of my entire book is that there is a revolution against America, to just tear America down. Some of the Christian people just say, “Well, you do have to admit there is systemic racism,” and I say to them, “You don’t understand. If you’re saying we are structurally racist, we have to tear down the foundations.” I mean, we’re talking about the Constitution. And they don’t believe me. And that’s why I’m so glad to be here, because I’m with people I don’t have to convince.
That’s actually what they mean. You have to tear it down, all the way down to the floor here. The premise is is that it’s a revolution against America, but that’s actually not what it is. It’s a revolution against Christian civilization. It’s a revolution against God. So everything that they do has a different premise than a Christian premise.
The reason it’s not Christian is because the Bible specifically says you don’t let the father’s sins visit them upon their kids. You don’t hold kids responsible for what their grandfathers did. That’s not right. You’re responsible for your own behavior, your own sins, your own standing before the Lord. That is your responsibility.
You don’t judge a person by some sort of group identity. Like, I see you and you’re from the Middle East and you did something bad to me, therefore, all people from the Middle East do exactly what you do. That’s obviously racism, but you don’t do that.
You judge people from this MLK idea, from the content of their character. That is a Christian principle. Everybody is responsible for what they do to their fellow man and before the Lord.
So this idea that because people did something in the past and everybody now is involved in that racism, even though they may or may not know it, this is just such a—that is a religious point of view.
It’s a religious point of view where you are now looking into the hearts of people, saying they may not know that they are guilty and that they are this, and this, and this, but they are because of the group they belong to. I mean, that is just racism. And that’s the weird thing about CRT, is that it’s just racist, but it’s acceptable racism, right? It’s just acceptable racism.
O’Neil: It is. And I want to ask, kind of moving to conclude, you’ve been in the Christian music scene and achieving great results outside of the Christian world as well, but how should Christians present an alternative worldview with the kind of gentleness and respect that puts their critics to shame, and how should they engage with secular culture with entertainment, especially in that sphere that you’ve been so successful doing?
Cooper: This is really difficult. I’m glad you mentioned this because I do want to say I don’t just go off in the book. It is leading toward a positive vision for the future. And I think that as I round out the book in my final chapters, it’s pertinent to the question you’re asking me now, which is not just saying, “I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.” It’s saying “No, let’s have a positive vision.”
Now, in some ways, that positive vision is a return to conserving where we came from, our religious heritage, of things like objective reality. I mean, we don’t even believe in objective reality now.
If a boy can say, “I feel like a girl, therefore, I am a girl, and therefore all of society must say that I’m a girl,” then really what we’re doing—and this is part of what I posit in my book—we are forcing people to privatize beliefs uprooting objective reality. Do you know what I mean when I say privatize?
O’Neil: Oh, yeah.
Cooper: So we are basically—
Cooper: Yes. We are saying you can be a Christian as you want to, as long as you privatize it. You can be a Christian at your home, just don’t go around telling people. But in the public sphere, which we used to be able to talk about religion and objective reality, in the public sphere we are going to make people’s personal subjective feelings be public truth.
So if you say, “I’m a boy but I know I’m actually a girl and I believe it in my heart,” the public has to say your inner feelings are true. But if somebody says, “No, I can see objective reality, you are a boy,” that’s not publicly true, though it can be a privately held belief if you want. That’s the way to end all things. That is the destruction of objective reality.
So in a way we are returning to traditional values, family values. And as I round out the book I’m saying, why don’t we trust in the eternal word of God? Obviously, I’m coming from a Christian point of view. But the Judeo-Christian outlook has been proven. It works.
We know that two-parent families have much better outcomes than one-parent families, from wealth, to less depression, to less people in mental institutes or in prison, or drug arrests, or committing rapes, or committing robberies. I mean, it just goes on, and on, and on. The nuclear family actually works, and we’ve known that for millennia. This new idea that we don’t need that anymore is just an absolute catastrophe.
So as I’m rounding out the book I’m saying we Christians, or we traditionalists, whatever, we should be morally confident because we have a lot of history to look at and say it’s worked for a really long time.
I think it was G. K. Chesterton that said the difference between the left and the right is somebody walks through a field the first time and there’s a big fence, and the person on the left walks in and says, “Why is this fence here? Take it down.” Then the person who is on the right walks in and says, “I wonder why this fence is here? We should leave it up until we find out.”
O’Neil: That’s a pretty good reason.
Cooper: That’s a pretty good reason. There’s a reason. Let’s find out what that’s for. And I think that’s a good thing.
To answer your question—this is really difficult. We do want to be loving to the world, but we’re in a moment where if I say, as nicely as a human being has ever said to another person, “I do not believe that you, John, are a cat. I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe that’s true. I still love you. You can live like a cat. You can meow if you want to. I’m not saying I won’t be your friend.” I say this because my daughter is in college and she has furries in her class. They say they’re cats and they meow and things like that.
“I’m not saying I won’t sit next to you in class.” You can say it the nicest you want, the nicest human being on planet earth, you will be called a hater. You will be seen to be an oppressive Christian that should be shut down.
I have a friend who works at a big company and they asked them to sign their LGBT form. He’s got to sign this thing saying that he believes that trans men are men and trans women are women. He has to sign it or he’s going to lose his job. He has just decided, “I’m just not going to sign it and see what happens.” This has been three months, and every three days he gets a new email saying, “You still haven’t signed our form.”
Now, they had another training seminar and part of the training seminar was to explain to co-workers, “These are signs of hate and radicalization that you need to be aware of,” sort of like white supremacy things, if somebody has a swastika, if somebody does this. One of those is, if someone is unwilling to sign the LGBT form, they might be radicalized by white supremacy and need to be reported.
So it doesn’t matter that he’s probably their best worker, he’s their biggest income driver because he’s a good salesman, because he treats people fair, because he believes in traditional values and he doesn’t cheat. He’s probably their best worker, but he might just be a radical extremist, hater, white supremacist that wants to hurt people because he’s unwilling to say one of his co-workers is a cat, you know?
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, yes, I think that we have to be loving and know in our hearts before God, if you believe in God as I do, or before whatever your particular moral values are, know for yourself I have done everything in my heart to represent Jesus the best I can, to represent my God, represent my values, and if people hate me, they hate me. It’s a ridiculous way for them to treat me. I’m going to be more tolerant to them than they are to me, but I’m absolutely not going to live in lies.
O’Neil: Well, thank you so much, John. I think we probably need to go, but it has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you, and I wish you really all the best of luck with your new book.
Cooper: Thank you. It was great to chat with you. It was an honor.
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