Last week, I wrote a rather sophomoric response to that insipid “Why I hate Religion, but love Jesus” video. By the end of the day, my hit-counter doubled several times (Yes, twenty readers!) because, I assume, snark is far more entertaining to read than the slow-motion, existential train-wreck that is my life, and frankly, just over-using the word “asshole” is a lot easier to write, too. Regardless, I want to give a hearty welcome to the new readers of A Red State Mystic and to assure my old readers that there will always be time for angst, darkness and silence. But, I can’t leave that stupidly incendiary video just quite yet.
Before I go on, through, I need to confess something to you: I’m not pretty.
Now, yes, I will admit that I can be quite strapping with the right bowtie/sweatervest combination, but I have a radio face with my nerdy lack of proper orthodontics and youthful beginnings of Winston Churchill’s jowls. Even though I come from a rather athletic family, everything that interests me is sedentary. So, I’m pretty sure I have the body that models secretly wish they had, because, as far as I know, no one ruins their ACL while playing Brahms or starves themselves while reading Dostoevsky. For goodness’ sake, the only way I can survive thirty minutes on the elliptical is to get thoroughly engrossed in my copy of The New Yorker, because exercise bores me so! Like most homely people, I’ve had to work for all this charm. And I’m pretty sure this rapier wit and my televangelist-hair are pretty much all I’ve got going for me.
Thanks. I needed to get that off my chest before I went on . . .
Modern Christians love it when hotties talk about Jesus. The early Christians had martyrs and bishops; the Medievals had mystics and theologians; but we have football stars, beauty queens and YouTube sensations. Evangelicals* especially love these, because they’ve been trained to love these for several decades. Rick Warren had undertones of this idea in his vastly influential book, The Purpose-Driven Church (Zondervan, 1995), where he insists that the Gospel must be presented as easily-to-digest as possible. What is more accessible than a hottie talkin’ about Jesus?
Consider the “I love Jesus, But Hate Religion” video. Consider what would happen if you stripped away the cool video editing, the fancy camera work and awesome location — what remains? Well, his poetry is laughably terrible, his ideas are logical fallacies and lacking in theological depth. He uses words and phrases incorrectly, but does it with such an earnest honesty that I don’t think he knows that he’s wrong (cf. “religion”). What remains? Not much, unfortunately.
Yet, it seems that not many of us are able to look past this sleek packaging. The video has been hailed as moment of great honesty. Myriads of commentors and bloggers write about how obvious it is that he loves the Lord and that his argument is pure and original. CBS has interviewed him. I’ll bet you an Old Fashioned that he’s even got a book deal. Oh yes, we love it when hotties talk about Jesus. Does anybody even want to look beyond the packaging?
Maybe we love it, because it reinforces the belief that Jesus wants us to be his little hotties. After all, don’t many of us believe that Jesus wants us to be healthy, wealthy and successful? Doesn’t Jesus want us to win popularity contests and be a “person of influence”? Well, of course, why wouldn’t he when you are his favorite out of billions of Christians throughout time? Perhaps, we listen to the hotties because they are the embodiment of the Modern Christian ideal: attractive, adulated and successful.
The problem with this is that Our Lord didn’t exactly hold up the hotties as his ideal for the faith. In fact, he said quite the opposite. Jesus said that it is the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, and that those who thirst after righteousness are blessed. You know, the Beatitudes.
In fact, I think he might even say: blessed are the ugly. Blessed are those without video editors and those who cannot rhyme. Blessed are those who struggle with darkness; those who hold onto “religion” because of lost faith and blessed are the fourth and fifth runners-up and those who never enter into the pageant to begin with. Blessed are you with no athletic ability; you who have gifts that won’t make you money; and blessed are the socially awkward.
Blessed are you when you doubt. Blessed are you when people ignore you and tell you that you’re not enough. Blessed are you in the thin time between paychecks and blessed are those without paychecks. And blessed are you when you ugly cry. Blessed are you when people say they “detest” your faith through internet videos. We, the untalented, the uncoordinated and the homely are blessed because Jesus likes us and he loves us. And, most importantly, he thinks we’re blessed.
Let others say and do what they will. Let those follow whom they must. But, for me, I’ll stick with Jesus and not the “religion” of beauty queens, job creators and YouTube sensations.
They’d never let me in, anyway.
*: Lest you think Jefferson Bethke of the “I love Jesus but hate Religion” video is an Atheist because of his hatred for “religion”, he is actually an Evangelical; he is a member of the Seattle Church of Pastor Mark Driscoll, the violently misogynistic l’enfant terrible of Evangelicalism.