Jefferson Bethke performs spoken word at Biola
A crowd of hundreds gathered at Sutherland Hall on Feb. 23 to see Internet sensation Jefferson Bethke. Bethke is the man behind the immensely popular and controversial spoken word poetry YouTube video “Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus.” This video spread like wildfire; it gained millions of views in a matter of days and was the centerpiece for much discussion and debate among Biola students.
Bethke addresses criticism, answers questions
Bethke performed this poem and it was met with thunderous applause. He also shared his heart on the topic of following Jesus rather than trying to earn our way to God by simply following a set of rules. He addressed criticism he received for using abrasive language in his poem. He explained that the Bible is indeed an abrasive book at some points, citing Isaiah’s reference to menstrual rags and Paul’s conversation about circumcision in Galatians 6.
Then he contrasted religion to Jesus, explaining that religion says good works earn God’s love while Jesus says his love will create a desire to obey; and that religion is about getting earthly things while Jesus says following him is about gaining a relationship with God.
Bethke is a man who isn’t afraid to speak about what he believes in: This came out once again when the audience texted in questions that would make even Joel Osteen quiver in his seat. The questions dealt with difficult topics, such as when one student expressed their dislike for homosexuals and asked if it was a sin that they did not reach out and share Jesus with them.
“I wanted a medium that was gritty, and spoken word is something I’ve always been passionate about, so YouTube was just a convenient place to post my videos,” Bethke said.
Mixed feelings as YouTube views increased
When he was asked about his own thoughts as he watched the view count climb over the course of just a few days, he said, “My first thought was ‘Sweet! This is so awesome,’ and then right after that I thought, ‘Uh oh, I’m about to get completely destroyed on the Internet.”
This did in fact take place: His video even garnered a negative yet humorous response from The Amazing Atheist, an extremely popular atheist vlogger on YouTube. Despite the amount of negative responses, Bethke stood firm in his beliefs and was under guidance of many mature Christian men in his life.
“I had one day where I just said ‘Forget it! I was wrong and I never should have posted that video,’ but then when I spoke to some older godly men in my life they told me that what I said in the video was the truth and that they would have told me if they believed otherwise,” he said.
If nothing else, Bethke gave the event’s audience a glimpse of who he is and what he stands for, beyond his YouTube poetry that he’s known for.