Jefferson Bethke made a beat poem called “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus”. It made him very famous in Christian circles. He’s got a new one out called “What Are Counterfeit Gods?” and I find it extremely interesting.
So…I tracked down the transcript and we’re going to have a good look at what he’s actually saying.
Let’s get to it.
When I was in college, it didn’t really matter who I talked to about Jesus. Almost everyone seemed pretty open or pretty okay with, you know, chatting about his grace, his forgiveness and his love.
I don’t really agree with him here. Sure, some people like to talk about Jesus, but try walking up to someone on the street and chatting about Jesus and what they need to do to be saved. You’d be lucky to get away with an eye roll or two. Even other Christians get pretty pissed when they’re being preached too outside of church or a religious social function.
But I remember almost everyone like clock-work would start to get upset and kind of have this righteous anger whenever I would bring up those passages where Jesus asks for everything. He says: “You need to give up your life. You need to die – to self. You need to love me more than your Mom and your Dad.” And there was almost kind of this, how dare he attitude, that would boil up when I would chat with people about that.
Uhhh…yeah. I can see why some people would get pretty pissed about being told they had to love an invisible, supernatural entity over their Mom, Dad and family. I mean, your parents gave birth to you, worked their ass off to raise you and were there every step of the way.
'How dare he' is too mild a statement. How dare the church say this sort of trash? What kind of a tyrant asks that you love them more than your entire family, especially when the one asking you to love them is absent. He’s freaking invisible. And they sell that notion by threatening you with eternal damnation.
Think about that for a second.
The creator of the universe is asking you to love his invisible presence more than you love anyone else and if you don’t, then you will burn for all eternity.
Emotional blackmail at its finest - deity-style.
And I remember perfectly being understand – I would understand and say that totally makes sense, but the more I thought about it, I started to realize how come he is the only one we get mad, that asks that. Right, we are perfectly fine with everything else in our life, asking for us – asking everything from us and asking us to sacrifice for. It’s like, how many marriages have we seen where the Father is totally willing to give up everything. The relationship with the kids, the relationship with the wife, maybe his friends at church because he wants to have an adulterous relationship or how many 16 year old teenage girls do we know, who are willing to sacrifice their bodies, their minds, their emotions, their friends for a boy friend. How many people do we know that are willing to sacrifice everything on the altar of their job.
No Bethke, those are false equivalencies. My parents, wife and children do not ask everything from me. They do not threaten me with eternal damnation either.
The adulterous relationship is because we’re mammals and we’ve evolved to have sex. We give in to those urges because we get sexual gratification and we don’t always think through the ramifications. Jesus isn’t going to provide me with sexual gratification. Jesus isn’t going to pay my bills or give me a raise at work. We do those things you mention because we get something from them. Those things we get aren’t promised to us in an afterlife, once we’re conveniently dead.
And so the truth that I started to realize is, it’s not that we should get mad at Jesus for asking thing, asking everything from us, it’s actually that everything does that. There is one thing in every single one of our lives that demands everything from us. This is I want “all of you” and what’s unique, is that it’s not that Jesus is unique in asking everything for us, but Jesus is unique in that he actually gives up everything for us first. Jesus is the only one out of lust, anger, adultery relationships, reputation, power, sex. He is the only one out of all those things that actually says, “I’m going to give you everything I have to compel you to give everything up for me.”
No, nothing in my life demands everything from me.
And what the hell did Jesus really give up for us? I know my parents gave up a lot to raise me. Jesus was a God made flesh. He died on a cross and supposedly was raised and became the Lord of the universe. To me, that sounds like a sweet deal. Die, become Lord over everything. Big freaking sacrifice there. I don’t know if I’d be able to handle giving that up.
Hell, he probably wanted to leave. One second he’s a God and the next he’s struggling to find food and water. I’d sure as hell want to get back to my pearly-gated heaven.
Crucify me, already! I want to go back to being God!
This is one of the things about Christian theology that has never made much sense to me. In my view, Jesus didn’t really give up anything. In fact, he gained from the whole sordid affair.
See the truth is, all those other things, slap a spiked leash on us and drag us around the corridors of life forcing us as a slave to do what they say. And they always over promise and under deliver. But Jesus says, “I’m only demanding your life because I gave you my life.” “I am only demanding your obedience, because I served you first.” And when you understand that, when you see that the cross is the ultimate compelling love – pulling you in, you realize that he is better than every single thing you’ve been pursuing in this life.
For the love of all that’s holy…Jesus didn’t give up squat.
Slap a spiked leash on us? You mean like religion? Where you spend your entire life being told what to do by holy men and a 2000 year old book?
And how is the cross a symbol of compelling love? It’s a torture device. Thousands died on the cross and I’d bet they didn’t think it was a symbol of love and they didn’t get to be Lord of the universe afterwards, either. It would be like Christians walking around with an electric chair dangling from their necklaces instead of a cross.
Hell, many Christians have probably died worse deaths than Jesus – tortured for days on end and then stoned or crucified without becoming Lords of the universe afterward.
Nope, Bethke still makes no sense to me.