Jesus & Religion
by Jefferson Bethke
Run Time 4h 12min
Release Date: October 13, 2013
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Christian, Inspiration, Self-Growth
My Rating: 5.0 of 5.0 Overall; Content 5.0; Narration 4.75.
Abandon dead, dry, rule-keeping and embrace the promise of being truly known and deeply loved.
Jefferson Bethke burst into the cultural conversation in 2012 with a passionate, provocative poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The four-minute video of Bethke’s spoken-word performance literally became an overnight sensation, with seven million YouTube views in its first forty-eight hours (and 24+ million within a year). The message hit like a blizzard on social-media sites and in forwarded e-mails, triggering an avalanche.
In Jesus &; Religion, Bethke unpacks the stark contrasts that he drew in the poem-contrasts between teeth gritting and grace, law and love, performance and peace, despair and hope. With refreshing candor, he delves into the motivation behind his message, beginning with the unvarnished tale of his own plunge from the pinnacle of a works-based, fake-smile existence that sapped his strength and led him down a path of destructive behavior.
Bethke is quick to acknowledge that he’s not a pastor or theologian, but simply a regular, twenty-something, soul-starved searcher who cried out for a life greater than the one for which he had settled. Along his journey, Bethke discovered the real Jesus, who beckoned him beyond the props of false religion.
Author Bethke shares from his experiences growing up with religion and church but still struggling with sin and destructive behaviors. Like many people, he often viewed himself in comparison to others: he wasn’t a saint, but he was better than a murderer. He finally hit the “eureka” moment when he realized that no one is good enough to deserve grace. It doesn’t matter how religious one might be, we are unable to control our sinful natures. As Christ points out in the New Testament (Matthew 5:28) – if you think a sin in your mind (lusting after someone, coveting possessions), even if you don’t act on the thought, you have sinned in your heart. If we get what we deserve, no one would get grace.
Bethke came to realize that we need to proclaim Christianity as what Jesus has done for us… not what we do. When we pursue Jesus, who can be found in the scriptures, we will find that: “The Jesus of the scriptures is more radical and subversive than we realize.” At some point each person has to decide: either Jesus is who he says he is – God – or he is a liar. As Bethke notes: “Be careful when you pursue truth because you might just find Him [Jesus].”
I liked all of this journey that Bethke shared but a point I particularly like is in Chapter 9, “Religion points to a dim future, Jesus points to a bright future.” Often we think that only Christian things matter, not secular things. But reference Romans 8, Bethke makes the good point that all creation groans from sin. God created everything and cares about the earth, art and all jobs, even mundane ones. There is no true divide between secular and Christian. All of our world is God-created. We can still distinguish good from evil and we need to know the difference between praising God through the good and defaming him by the bad.
Bethke explains that there is a purpose for the church – to be a hospital for the sick; to train members to reach out to others with the message of Hope. But religion, as a group of routines and rules, often detracts from the relationship with God and people.
I highly recommend this to everyone. Christ followers will appreciate the truths of the distinction while seekers, and even atheists, may see what really matters beyond the hypocrisy of “religious” people.
Audio Notes: Jefferson Bethke narrates his own work and does a good job. His voice contains concern and energy that helped keep me engaged. I appreciated this work in audio.
Source: 05/30/2020 Chirp $3.99. This qualifies for 2021TBR, 2021Audiobook, and 2021Alphabet Audio goals.