This video featured at The Blaze – ‘WHY I HATE RELIGION, BUT LOVE JESUS’: CONTROVERSIAL VIRAL VIDEO LOGS 10 MILLION HITS IN FOUR DAYS – seems like an appropriate way to start a Sunday morning blog post:
The full text of the spoken word, hip-hop style, spiritual-political-cultural challenge is available at The Blaze.
Poet Jefferson Bethke crafted an artful, entertaining video and there’s little question just why it managed to go viral. His choice of dualisms — Jesus GOOD, Religion BAD — appears to have served to draw attention but unfortunately little clarity. (It’s not like he defines his terms up front — this is a rap, not a graduate thesis.) Via his Twitter he specifies his targets:
I was attacking legalism, hypocrisy, and self justification. Hoping to exalt grace!!
About thirteen years ago I expressed a sentiment similar to Bethke. After four years as a young Evangelical Christian (seventh through tenth grades) I had grown frustrated by the narrow range of theological interpretation tolerated in my church’s youth group so I wrote a (in retrospect) overly mean-spirited, adolescent polemic I titled Sick of Christianity: Still in Love with Christ. I didn’t really understand then what it was I was rebelling against. I’d formulated my grievance along the wrong dualism — just as Bethke has here.
The abstractions “Jesus” and “religion” are overly broad and mean different things to different people — just as my “Christianity” BAD “Christ” GOOD combination also failed. To really grasp what the generational rebellion is about there’s a better, more precise dualism to utilize here, and it’s one that Dennis Prager talked about on his radio show last week: Theology Vs Values.
In commenting on Mitt Romney’s recent victories Prager expressed his unhappiness that so many of his listeners refused to consider the candidate on the basis of his Mormon theology regardless of whether he shared their Judeo-Christian, ethical monotheist values.
Which is more important to being a Christian: Believing the Christian theology of the Virgin Birth, the infallibility of the Bible, the literal truth of Christ’s miracles and resurrection, your church’s take on Darwin, your pastor’s take on gays? Or living a loving, value-based life in imitation of the example of Jesus of Nazareth? What’s the litmus test for what one has to believe in order to call themselves a Christian? Or rather: what’s Christianity really about — believing in the right theological dogmas, or believing we’re all broken people who should try to be (and to do) better?
This questioning of chosen dualisms is also necessary within our field of ideological political journalism. Kevin Williamson at National Review had another engaging column last week that reminds me a lot of the Jesus vs Religion set-up of Bethke’s argument. He diagnoses the conservative movement — and by extension the GOP primary contest — as divided between those who view President Barack Obama’s failings through two possible explanations (my emphasis):
The most acute division on the right — the one that will give Mitt Romney the most trouble — is not between moderates and hard-core right-wingers, between electability-minded pragmatists and ideologues, or between the Tea Party and the Republican establishment. It is between those Republicans who disagree with Barack Obama, believing his policies to be mistaken, and those who hate Barack Obama, believing him to be wicked. Mitt Romney is the candidate of the former, but is regarded with suspicion, or worse, by the latter. The former group of Republicans would be happy merely to win the presidential election, but the latter are after something more: a national repudiation of President Obama, of his governmental overreach, and of managerial progressivism mainly as practiced by Democrats but also as practiced by Republicans.
It is unlikely that those seeking a national act of electoral penance for having elected Barack Obama are going to get what they are after. For one thing, the number of Americans who believe President Obama to be merely incompetent is far greater than the number of Americans who believe him to be, not to put too fine a point on it, evil. For another, that larger group of voters is, for once, probably right.
This formulation — whether Obama’s incompetence or his evil accounts for his destructive economic, foreign, legal, and social policy — invites readers to try and position themselves in it. Which is their understanding of the president and how does it drive their voting preferences? “Incompetent or Evil?” While Williamson’s dualism may be useful for some — it does not work for all.
I’m not able to answer this question in a satisfying way. Forced I would say, “Both and neither.” Because Williamson is not factoring in the implications of the research and arguments his National Review colleague Stanley Kurtz laid out in the best book on Obama, Radical-In-Chief. Option 3 is what I’ve spelled out before: Obama is a Marxist. Or more specifically, as Kurtz demonstrates in exhaustive detail: an Alinskyite, Community Organizing Stealth Socialist. In the book Kurtz reconstructs with recently-discovered documents just when Obama embraced this political ideology: we know which socialist scholars conferences Obama attended in the 1980s, what was advocated there, how Obama put those ideas into practice when he then chose to become a community organizer, and how the techniques of this hidden school of American socialism remained useful for the administration during the Obamacare debates. Further, we understand Obamacare in the context of the Alinskyte community organizing strategy: this is a “non-solution solution” that is really just a stepping stone for a single-payer healthcare program at the federal level (as some are dumb enough to admit on camera):
The question “Is Obama incompetent or evil?” really asks is this: “Is Obama intentionally doing things which he knows will screw up the economy?” And the answer to that question is “Yes.” But that doesn’t mean it’s because at his political root he’s “incompetent” or “evil.”
It just means that he’s walking the same path he’s walked consistently his whole political life, seeing the world through the Community Organizer’s lens and pursuing its objectives.