Yes, he’s from Tacoma, Washington. Yes, he played baseball in college. Yes, he loves Frosted Flakes. But, if you’re like over 25 million other YouTube viewers, you probably know Jefferson Bethke from his viral video, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” Bethke’s new book, Jesus > Religion: Why He is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More and Being Good Enough explores some of the themes from the 2012 sensation. Here, we talk about religion, his critics, and why he still thinks Jesus hates religion.
JM: Jeff, your spoken word YouTube video has had over 25 million views. Why do you think it resonated with so many?
JB: That’s a great question. I still am not entirely sure. But if I had to speculate I think it resonated because I think there’s this constantly growing chasm in the 21st century western evangelicalism and this vibrant, beautiful, revolutionary, new creation oriented world Jesus launched at the resurrection you see more predominantly in the scriptures. Even though it seems like a caricature, reading YouTube comments on many religious oriented videos, would show that many people’s Christianity doesn’t go much farther than “don’t get tattoos, don’t drink beer, and never swear or curse.” I think my generation has constantly felt this almost awkward vibe when reading the New Testament and then looking up into the landscape of modern evangelicalism and saying, “really? This is the same thing?”
JM: Not every Youtube sensation can or should write a book like you have. Can you say something about the thinkers who have influenced you and why people should listen to what you have to say?