How Jefferson Bethke Showed Me I Was A Jerk

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.

— J

**Update: Jefferson Bethke replied to this post here.

18 thoughts on “How Jefferson Bethke Showed Me I Was A Jerk

  1. Wow. I really loved your post today. It opened my eyes to the fact that I had done the same thing. I picked up on what I considered doctrinal error right away and dismissed his poem because of it. When in reality, he may not be perfect, but his message was clear. It was a message that Christianity should be focused on a Jesus of love and the love of Jesus. How many of us missed his very real and poignant message because we think ourselves to have more theologically sound doctrine?


  2. He is just saying, stop thinking calling yourself a pretty name makes you anything. Jesus is what matters and the Bible. Religion is just a worldly term.


  3. You are human. The quiet, shy person I used to be doesn’t exist now. God has poured in his boldness that ignites at times the frustration I feel because of those who are blinded; how that interferes with my own blindness becomes a reality. “I was blind now I see” is my reference point however there are many scales I try to scrub off daily. So I have no right to my righteous indignation over those whose blinders are thicker than mine. Not that this has any substance but mine may come from years of being ridiculed for being so small; now I see myself as Christ does so size isn’t an issue. As far as our lashings, or Christian slander I am not condoning us at all, but have found God is much easier on us than we are on each other or even ourselves. Give yourself a break.


  4. Interesting. I’ve had a severe bout of ‘looking in the mirror”-itis this past holiday season as well….coming eerily close to the same conclusion as yourself. Hmmm, wake up call for all of us perhaps?


  5. I wish all Christians could realize we do these things. At least you only argued doctrinal views whereas some lunatics are calling him a false prophet doing the work of Satan???? Let us pray for those people! BTW: God is so pleased that you publicly apologized for your behavior and fixed what was broken, it takes a big man to resist the inner pharisee but an even bigger one to admit they have one and let it out a little. God bless you!


  6. With you Joon. I have been the legalist so narrow I could see through a keyhole with both eyes. I have used the Bible as a weapon: a hammer (against other Christians as well as non believers) instead of using it as the weapon it was intended to be (a sword, used against principalities and powers in the spiritual realm), which really means I abused and misused it for my own purposes.

    James tells me that my truest enemy is my own selfishness and pride. I am my own worst enemy.

    God help me to fight myself for His glory!


    1. Amen brother …!
      A lot of these issues are recognized in hindsight, but I’m also thankful for gracious friends who have gently rebuked me with every aim to call me to a higher self. Thank God for people who speak truth in love.


      1. I had people that wanted to speak truth to me in love. I assassinated them. Why do I have to hurt so many to learn to love people? I regret the years that I, the moth, have eaten. God has promised to restore and redeem not just those years, but me. Regret is a hellish thing to live with brother…


  7. “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.” Awesome post! Venting (for me the “rising up in indignation”) is not where I want to live, though it is almost a cultural habit I indulge at times. And I get your point. But a word of encouragement: as one who LOST faith due to harsh or rationalizing Christians and Christian beliefs, and who has ineffectively vented about them, I am also one who has REGAINED faith due to a few BLOGGERS!!! A few whose kind explanation of Jesus, God, and the cross essentially glowed from my computer screen and gave permission to believe that the work was and is done by Christ, so tolerance of abuse is no longer a requirement of “obedience” for God’s favor. And my respect is completly available to those who become aware of a kinder or wiser way, and then go there. Still wary of Christians and teaching, this kind of “fruit” speaks louder to me than any outrage or opinion or, sorry, sermon. Respect your way! Diane


  8. You have a point, but really, putting these two lines an inch apart on my screen is too much:

    “Reformed Calvinism is still the ghetto of the Christian subculture”
    “Maybe we can all hit pause before we sling mud at our fellow Christians:
    and remember the Enemy is not each other.”

    I realize I’m responding to a 2 year old post, and so far what I’ve seen on your blog I do appreciate, but I’ve seen a couple of comments like the last one, so just want to encourage you also to practice what you preach, brother! If you have a legitimate complaint with a specific blogger or post or whatever, go for it, point it out, but do it lovingly, and above all, please don’t throw a whole segment of fellow Christians under the metaphorical bus to make a point!!

    (PS. it was a Reformed Calvinist blogger who pointed me in your direction … more importantly, he was/is a Christian in word and conduct 🙂


    1. Absolutely agree with you. I’ve been busted several times for my lack of grace towards Calvinists (and I secretly still am a Calvinist, even though I’ve removed it from my bio).

      The only people who have ever attacked me online were militant atheists, a handful of fanatics from Steven Furtick’s church, and Reformed Calvinists. To be truthful, Calvinists were downright the most vicious mean-spirited group to blast me. I became really embarrassed to be associated with them. So of course I pray for “them,” and if recent posts are any indication, I have a heck of a whole lot more grace for them than the time I wrote this post. As with any blog, we’re always capturing a particular state of mind or a mood that day, and even those snapshots I regret, I try not to edit too much. I can always go back to say, “God is still chiseling me up.” Just like he did with my heart towards Jefferson Bethke, and just as He’s doing now with super-theologians. 😀


    1. Thank you dear friend. It always hurts me too. We can be so quick to dismiss each other based on one word or one sentence, and I hope we would have a “longer wick” for each other in the grace that Christ has given first.


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