Now Mr. Huckabee is perhaps known to most. Jefferson Bethke, by name at least, probably not so much. To the Internet generation he is probably better known as the man who hates religion but loves Jesus. In a Youtube Rap, he tapped into the modern trope that 'religion bad, me centered spirituality good'. I first heard of the video on an atheist blog where atheists sang the praises of a confessed believer who finally admitted what most modern atheists were trying to insist: that religion was a blight upon the face of humanity.
Armed with unintended irony to spare, Mr. Bethke appeals to the post modern notion of a nationalism of me, whereby I am no longer attached to anything that puts demands on me beyond what I prefer. Seizing upon this 'me and the rest of the universe' mentality, he launches into a string of shallow clichés about what makes religion bad, but his particular approach to Jesus so darn good.
Of course Jesus never came to abolish religion. As Protestantism continues to splinter and fragment into a hundred thousand denominations of 'me', most forget that the notion that religion is bad is really a recent phenomenon in Christian history. It certainly would have been foreign to Jesus, and Paul, and others of the New Testament who were devout Jews following the religious norms of their Jewish faith. It obviously would be a shock to Jesus to think striking down religion was his goal, when he assured his listeners that he didn't come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.
But post-modernity being short on deep research and long on 'that's cool because it makes me look so darn hip', has embraced our good Mr. Bethke and made him the Billy Graham of the Youtube generation. On Mike Huckabee's show tonight, I watched to see if former minister Huckabee would call him on some of the more ludicrous levels of irony in his approach; if Mr. Huckabee - whom I admire - would remind him that not only is he giving ammo to those who hate all aspects of religion, but he is being unintentionally just as judgemental and religious as any of those whose religion he appears to hate. I watched in vain.
Yes, Mr. Bethke assured us that he really meant we should be sincere and honest and real about our faith. He even went so far to say going to church was important. Not that any of those unnamed religions he puts in the cross hairs have missed that point. It isn't as if those not-Bethke religions go around promoting hypocrisy or shallow standards of living. Especially humorous was Mr. Bechke trying to establish the type of institutionalized religion he was talking about, while mentioning the logistics and fund raising he was engaged in while attempting to establish organized ministries on college campuses. Again, completely blind to the obvious.
That Mike Huckabee let him off the hook by ignoring the grave problems in such a careless, shoot-from-the-hip approach that has mocked the efforts of so many millions of sincere Christians, even if unintentionally, shows just why it can be dangerous to always try to be a nice guy. Nice is nice. I'm all for it. But sometimes you have to call a spade a spade. And tonight, Mr. Huckabee missed a perfect chance to do so.
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