Theist Thursday: Jesus > Religion

Posted 5 June, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Theist Thursday: Jesus > ReligionJesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke
Published by Thomas Nelson Inc on October 7th 2013
Genres: Christian Life, Religion, Spiritual Growth
Pages: 240

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Abandon dead, dry, rule-keeping and embrace the promise of being truly known and deeply loved. JeffersonBethke burst into the cultural conversation in 2012 with a passionate,provocative poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The 4-minute video literally became an overnight sensation, with 7 million YouTube views inits first 48 hours (and 23+ million in a year). The message blew up onsocial-media, triggering an avalanche of responses running the gamut from encouragedto enraged.In Jesus > Religion, Bethke unpacks similar contrasts that he drew in the poem—highlighting the difference 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 apastor or theologian, but simply a regular, twenty-something who cried out fora life greater than the one for which he had settled. Along his journey, Bethkediscovered the real Jesus, whobeckoned him beyond the props of false religion.

So you can see from the synopsis that this is a book by the YouTube wunderkind Jefferson Bethke. I give the kid props with this book, he’s really trying. But there’s a lot that’s wrong with this book, as well. 

First, the obvious things: he needs a better editor. I was reading an advanced readers copy, so it is possible that some of the following were fixed: 

  • He has no regard for consistency. Sometimes in the book he’s engaged to his wife, other times, he’s married, and back again. This obvious of a mistake is almost a deal-breaker for me, that’s just sloppy writing. 
  • Other minor issues with typos and capitalization. Not a big deal, but it can take away from your message.
My other problems with this book were significantly more substantive. He spends a chapter talking about fundamentalists and fakers. Unfortunately his view of fundamentalists is (allow me) fundamentally flawed. Perhaps that statement isn’t entirely fair, perhaps his perspective on fundamentalists is different from mine. I view most evangelicals as fundamentalists as (for the most part) many of them seem to be steeped in dogmatism. At any rate, this book was much too dogmatic for me to feel comfortable with. 

Something felt a little disingenuous when the author spoke of his mother (who divorced his father after coming out as a lesbian) and his views on homosexuals. Before you grab the pitchforks let me reiterate, his writing felt disingenuous to me, I am not suggesting that he was actually disingenuous. 

Then again, this book wasn’t written with me in mind as the demographic. It’s going to be great to validate the feelings of the conservative Christian base that it was influenced and written by. 

The author comes off as young, idealistic, and entirely naive. I’d be very interested in knowing how and if the author grows in his analysis of his beliefs in the future. 

Also, I’m grumpy. Can you tell?

Have you ever read a book by an author that just doesn’t seem quite ‘ready’, Readers?


April @ The Steadfast Reader


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