Jeff Bethke insists he doesn't want to be famous but his 15 minutes in the limelight appear to have>"/>
Updated, with Bethke's response, below.
Jeff Bethke insists he doesn't want to be famous but his 15 minutes in the limelight appear to have been extended. His "Hate Religion, Love Jesus" video is still viraling upwards since we wrote about the Mars Hill Church member five days ago. But the Seattle artist's biggest boost came from a Thursday piece in The New York Times by conservative columnist David Brooks - even though Brooks took a negative view of Bethke's video claims:
Jesus preaches healing, surrender and love, [Bethke] argues, but religion is rigid, phony and stale. "Jesus came to abolish religion," Bethke insists. "Religion puts you in bondage, but Jesus sets you free."
Yet, Brooks notes, a blogger named Kevin DeYoung pointed out that it's biblically inaccurate to say Jesus hated religion when, in fact, he preached a religious doctrine, prescribed rituals and worshiped in a temple.
Bethke responded in a way that was humble, earnest and gracious, and that generally spoke well of his character. He also basically folded. "I wanted to say I really appreciate your article man," Bethke wrote to DeYoung in an online exchange. "It hit me hard. I'll even be honest and say I agree 100 percent."
Brooks compared what he calls Bethke's "passionate polemic and subsequent retreat" to protest cries - the Occupy activism, apparently - heard these days. "This seems to be a moment of fervent protest movements that are ultimately vague and ineffectual."
If you go out there armed only with your own observations and sentiments, you will surely find yourself on very weak ground. You'll lack the arguments, convictions and the coherent view of reality that you'll need when challenged by a self-confident opposition. This is more or less what happened to Jefferson Bethke.
Bethke didn't respond to an e-mail we sent him. But his viral video has gotten about 300,000 more hits in the past few days and on his Facebook page he wrote yesterday that he was enroute to Chicago to speak to high school kids. He also said he was thinking of putting all his poems online. About 450 commenters responded to the posts. If he's folded, no one seemed to notice.
Update, Tuesday 9:44 - In a belated response, Bethke says his days are "a little crazy right now" and he's deluged by e-mails (he's asked a friend to help him read them). As for the Times story? "Never in a million years would I thought I'd get written up on the NYT ya know?" Aside from the Weekly's blog, he adds, "for some reason little to no seattle outlets have written or made any contact and its cool to see someone from my hometown do a write up! Really appreciate it!"
Earlier vid, shot outside First Avenue porn house, has 3.3 million hits.