About a year ago, I blasted a dude named Jefferson Bethke who made a video called “Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus,” which currently has over 23 million views and attracted all kinds of criticism and praise — and I was one of the guys who hated on him.
I left a mean comment on YouTube, went wild about it on my blog, and accused him of “thin doctrine” and a “poor choice of words” about the Christian faith.
Only a couple weeks later, I came to my senses and snapped out of it with a semi-apology.
I don’t know Mr. Bethke or anything about his faith and life — but in my arrogant selfishness and a subconscious attempt to piggyback off his success, I called him out on stupid secondary nitpicks that only made me look like an insecure moron.
Plainly speaking, I looked like an ass.
Over the last year, I’ve realized how many times I lacked grace, stomped on fellow Christians, and snapped at disagreements with all the tact of Westboro picketers. All the while I offered no solutions and no constructive ways forward.
I don’t write this to look humble “in reverse,” but rather to show a single symptom of a greater problem: that most of us self-professed Christians are too in love with the sound of our own voices and point our barrels of ideology at each other to win an invisible contest. We compulsively tear each other apart over ridiculous nonsense that makes no difference in the real world: because that’s easier than grace.
In the end, our churches look like a sad squabbling episode of Jerry Springer stuck in an ivory tower.
Here is a young man who made a sincere attempt to express himself in a creative, artistic, well-thought way, and there were millions who heard about the love of God through him. But I had to split hairs, as if I was the great gatekeeper of all Christian doctrine, and I blinded the truth with my mad flailing. They have a name for guys like me: a Pharisee. And to top it off, Jefferson Bethke wrote a gracious reply to the jerks at The Gospel Coalition, which only served up a double heaping of humility.
If you think I’m taking it too hard on myself, it’s because we don’t get called out on this sort of crap enough. I’d like to think I’m past it now, and maybe I’m better today — but I don’t ever want to give off a hint of the former critical schmuck who only perpetuated the worst of Christian stereotypes.
I’ve seen too many Neo-Reformed Calvinists and Theology Police and twenty-year-old blogger kings who jump at the slightest doctrinal infractions — but it all looks like a desperate attempt to look tough in front of their buddies, as if they’re constantly afraid to be burned at the stake for heresy. Reformed Calvinism is still the ghetto of the Christian subculture: and it will never be anything else.
Really: if I have to see one more hasty cringe-inducing reblog tacked on with a bunch of anal retentive commentary, I might jump out a window. Of a moving vehicle. Tied to a desk. Shaking my head the whole way. I’m also aware that my own venting about venting is self-defeating: but I’m grieving for our self-centered unloving blogosphere that doesn’t look anything like Christ.
Maybe we can all hit pause before we sling mud at our fellow Christians:
and remember the Enemy is not each other.
Maybe we can be truthful without sounding like a damned whiny brat:
because we are better than this.
Maybe we can Hebrews 10:24 each other if we’re going to use the Bible as a weapon.
Mr. Bethke: I know you will probably never read this and I’m just a nobody blogger, but I’m sorry for my unfair harshness towards you. I’m sorry for Christians whose first reaction is to go with their first reaction. I’m sorry for hindering God’s work through you. May you continue to lift up Jesus in this impatient, impulsive generation.
**Update: Jefferson Bethke replied to this post here.