Living outside the Jesus Subculture

By Nowlin, Rick | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), June 8, 2014 | Go to article overview

Living outside the Jesus Subculture


Nowlin, Rick, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


"JESUSRELIGION: WHY HE IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN TRYING HARDER, DOING MORE AND BEING GOOD ENOUGH"

By Jefferson Bethke.

Thomas Nelson ($16.99).

To the unaware, the title of this book may sound like a spiritual cop-out, written by one of those earnest 20-somethings from a "postmodern" mindset that rejects traditional Christian faith for something trendier, for lack of a better word. Trust me -- Nothing could be further from the truth.

If anything, this book contains, frankly, sound evangelical theology wrapped in a pop-culture coat, quite a feat in itself. Some years ago the question became "What would Jesus do?" Mr. Bethke answers that quite definitively here.

Mr. Bethke two years ago starred in a YouTube video reciting a poem, "Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus," that had about 25 million hits. He doesn't shy away from his failings -- such as alcohol abuse and pre-marital sex -- that are considered taboo in the evangelical subculture. Nor is his background -- a broken home and a lesbian mother -- typical. And that's part of his point because his candor and humility are quite refreshing.

That's what makes the book so effective. It's much deeper than "Jesus is Just Alright," but that's where -- or, more accurately, on whom -- he puts the emphasis.

He does skewer much of that subculture for legalistic hypocrisy and what the late German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer would call "cheap grace."

At one point Mr. Bethke refers to his transferring after his freshman year from a strict Church of the Nazarene college in San Diego to a public liberal-arts school in Portland, Ore. …

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