Tacoma poet behind 'Hate Religion, Love Jesus' viral video

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on February 10, 2012 at 6:07 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 10 at 6:41 PM

TACOMA -- Preaching from an electronic pulpit, he delivers his own brand of fire and brimstone.

"I mean if religion is so great why did it start so many wars? Why does it build huge churches but fails to feed the poor?" asks Jeff Bethke in a spoken-word rant on YouTube.

Bethke is a poet turned Internet prophet. There have been nearly 19 million views of his video called "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus." 

"It looks like I almost woke up a sleeping giant," he says.

That giant, Bethke believes, is a generation curious about Christ but sick of the religious hypocrisy they see in church and political leaders. One excerpt from the video asks, "What if I told you Republican doesn't automatically mean Christian, and just because you call someone blind doesn't automatically give you vision?"

Bethke asks those leaders, "Are we putting something as a barrier or a qualification before you can come to Jesus? I don't care what it is, Democratic or Republican, if we're doing that it's wrong and I'm gonna rail against it."

Bethke is a native of Tacoma and graduate of Pacific University in Oregon. He and a friend shot the video outside Tacoma's Stadium High School in January almost exactly one month ago. Since then it has become an Internet phenomenon garnering Bethke attention from national TV news outlets The New York Times and many more.

The video's popularity has earned him offers for book deals and clothing endorsements. It has also opened him up to persecution from everyone from atheists to fellow Chrsitians. Some poke holes in his arguments, others question his affiliation with Seattle's Mars Hill Church -- whose lead pastor once decried yoga as "demonic."

"The hardest ones for me are those people who are supposedly my brothers and sisters in the faith," he says. 

Ultimately, Bethke does draw a line in the sand, believing Jesus is the only way to God -- something that to many sounds a whole lot like...religion. Contradictions aside, he hopes his "spoken word" will inspire even those who disagree to start a conversation.

"We're all trying to find, in some way, satisfaction and fulfillment. So, I'm just trying to point to where I found that."

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