FIRST ON FOX: Catholic Bishop Robert Barron and commentator Chris Rufo share a hope that the "extremism of a lot of the woke ideology" is prompting a promising backlash despite dominating conservative fears.
"My Hope Is that in what 20 years, 30 years, 40 years people will look back at this time and say ‘oh my goodness, that woke extremism was so unhealthy,’" said Word on Fire ministries' Barron during an hour-long conversation with Rufo on Bishop Barron Presents.
Barron, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Winona–Rochester in Wisconsin, discussed the ideological threat of critical race theory (CRT), Marxism and transgender ideology with Rufo, who is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in an interview shared with Fox News Digital ahead of its Thursday release on Barron's popular YouTube channel.
Rufo is among the most prominent activists against CRT and transgender ideology, and has been accused by critics of sparking widespread moral panic among conservatives.
Chris Rufo and Bishop Robert Barron (Word On Fire)
Barron, one of the most vocal Roman Catholic prelates in the U.S., faced criticism in recent years for speaking against "woke" ideology. But his opposition to CRT is against the theory's framing of fundamentally racist structures, collective guilt and revolutionary struggle.
Barron said the U.S. will be "on dangerous ground politically" as culture moves away from the Declaration of Independence's sense of inalienable rights. "Real equality is that we're all children of God together our rights are going to even us because they're dependent upon the Creator's will," Barron said.
While many Republican politicians have joined the crusade against "wokeness," others have softened on the term.
"I don’t like the term ‘woke’ because I hear, ‘Woke, woke, woke,'" said Republican primary frontrunner and former President Donald Trump during a campaign stop in Iowa this summer. "It’s just a term they use. Half the people can’t even define it, they don’t know what it is."
In his book "America's Cultural Revolution: How the Radical Left Conquered Everything" Rufo writes that the roots of CRT and wokeness are found in Marxism and nihilism, but presented in moral — even Christian — "marketing terms."
Activists take "revolutionary literature and launder them through euphemism, passing them through the organs of legitimation — the academic journals and the university programs — into the K-12 School curriculum, into the diversity training curriculum in companies, into public policy using those same ideas," Rufo told Barron.
At the university level, critical race theory began permeating academic institutions in the 1960s and '70s, when according to Barron Catholic and conservative intellectuals "didn't present our own point of view with confidence."
"Coming out of this very rich intellectual tradition there was kind of a hand-wringing quality to a lot of Catholic intellectual life and [that] opened the door too to the invasion of these other points of view that were not wringing their hands — they were evangelizing very effectively at a time when we had sort of stopped evangelizing," Barron said.
The success of what Rufo called the "cultural conquest" has been pervasive, but not at every level.
Pope Francis has spoken out against transgender ideology ((AP Photo/Andrew Medichini))
At the local level, Rufo sees promise in education movements away from public schools toward charter schools and homeschooling, often making drastic job or life changes to do so.
In local and broader policy fights, Rufo also sees promise.
"This is not a conflict at heart between left and right," Rufo said. "This is a contest between the permanent bureaucracy and let's say elite institutions that are seeking to impose these ideologies from the top down and then the broad middle class that opposes them."
As more people contest the charters and funding for "woke" programs, Rufo said more politicians will turn aside.
"That's going to be a brutal it's going to be a difficult and it's going to be, in a metaphorical sense, a bloody fight," Rufo said.
In his 1993 book "Faces at the Bottom of the Well," Derrick Bell — hailed sometimes as the godfather of critical race theory — argued that "racism is an integral permanent and indestructible component of our society."
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr's protests called for conversion and justice while modern ‘woke’ activism pushes revolution, according to Barron ( Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)
"If that's true, if [racism is] so baked into our society then the only solution is a complete destruction of the society," Barron said. "It's not a matter of reforming [society], calling it to conversion like in [Dr. Martin Luther] King's case summoning its own best qualities," Barron said. The "only solution is a revolutionary violence that destroys the entire society, and that is a Marxist inspired strategy," he added.
Bell wrote that recognizing systemic racism throughout society should not cause "disabling despair."
For Bell, resistance to the overarching structure helped achieve freedom at a human level, even if it never overturned structures "deeply poisoned with racism." Bell quoted 20th century psychoanalyst and Marxist Frantz Faron: "In the World through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself."
The self-creation, self-identification motif is something Barron called fundamentally anti-Christian, and he connected it to transgender ideology.
"Pope Francis — I can tell you this from direct experience — he told us when I was a bishop out in California ‘I want you to stand against the gender ideology,’ because it's repugnant to the Bible and to our anthropology, and we're on dangerous ground when we start playing that game of my existence completely trumps essence," Barron said.
Thomas Phippen is an Editor at Fox News.