Posted by: watchman | January 16, 2012

Spoken Word ‘Theology’

Recently an artist named Jefferson Bethke became famous because of a You Tube video that featured him telling the world why he hates religion but loves Jesus. Check it out:


My thoughts? Erm… Ugh.

Let’s start with the good. Essentially, Jefferson presents a video that says there is a Jesus that is not like the ‘religion’ that claims his name. Anybody that is passionate for purity and truth in their faith deserves to be commended. As far as I’m concerned, the author/speaker is doing a wonderful job trying to present an alternative Jesus. There are a lot of us milling around outside the church right below a ‘do not enter’ sign. Many of us would like to know that there is a different Jesus than the one represented by the meanies that gave us the boot. So, kudos for that. I think presenting such an alluring alternative is resonating because people are looking for something/someone different than the Jesus in Church.

Now, on to my specialty. Nit-picking.

On an aesthetic nit-pick level, I think the video is annoying. He just spouts off some rather stale bumper sticker type theology in a way that is almost self defeating. That’s my job and I do it on a thing called Twitter! Hands off, Mr. Leather Jacket!

Time for a more serious nit-pick. Isn’t this just a different way of retreading that stalest of Jesus Movement flotsam: I’m spiritual, not religious.

I would (should) never fault anybody for using hyperbole to get their point across, but I think this hyperbole pushes us in a wrong direction. ‘Religion’ is the collection of practices that people of faith perform for spiritual and worshipful reasons. Prayer is a part of religion. Also, meditation, fasting, gathering, singing, praising, preaching, fellowshipping, etc. Is Jefferson saying that Jesus ‘hates’ fasting and prayer? Worship and fellowship? I can’t think that he does. Nor should we.

For those of us that have found ourselves on the outside looking in, it is easy for us to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We want to pursue some sort of homebrewed spirituality because we’re sick of all the ‘religious’ people. So, there goes our prayer life. Adios to the peace of meditation. Farewell, to the genuine love and accountability of a corporate faith. Why? Because we’re spiritual not religious. We believe in Jesus not the Church.

That is a real quick way to end up being a grumpy jerk that nobody likes. More on that here.

The thing that bothers me most about this whole spoken word bumper sticker theology thing is that one of the primary means of finding Jesus is via religion. Rarely do people have spontaneous revelations or sudden epiphanies. Christ’s sanctifying work is a long process – a steady erosion of our sin and shame, and then a rebuilding of love and hope. It takes a long time and it is an intensely social process.

It is also a religious process.

People’s shame and guilt are not exorcised by sitting at home watching YouTube or reading blogs like this. Our inner hells are vanquished when we gather and we pray and we love one another enough to partake in the body and the blood.

You can’t baptize yourself.

I know I know. Nobody complains more about the church than I do, and Ithink sacerdotal religious practices tend to do more harm than good. OK. I’ve got issues; you’ve got issues; we’ve all got issues. But, I sincerely hope to continue  being a voice from within the Church. I should be calling out for people to right the boat and not abandon ship.


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