Friday, March 9, 2012

Religion, Hate and Love*

Over the last few weeks a video by a young Gig Harbor, Washington man has gone viral with almost 20,000,000 views on You Tube. The video has resulted in Jefferson Bethke being interviewed on CBS This Morning and ABC's Nightline. It also resulted in an article concerning him and his video in Time Magazine's Religion section.

The video that has caused such a stir is entitled "Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus." There is no doubt the video is catchy. But does Bethke have a valid point? Hundreds of people have taken the time and effort to respond to the video. Among them Catholic and Protestant Priest and Pastors, people of other faiths as well as atheists and agnostics.

I think, as it must be in matters of faith, much of the truth is in the eye (and the mind) of the beholder. The value of the video, as I see it, is that this young man, who himself happens to be a member of the Seattle, Washington megachurch Mars Hill, has succeeded in creating a great deal of discussion about Jesus and religion and the value (if any) in religion.

I have reviewed some of that discussion and find bits of wisdom in much of it. There is no doubt Jesus abhorred the corruption of the Jewish Temple System of his day, yet at the same time he was a practicing Jew and he spoke in the Temple himself. There can be little doubt among believers Christ did not want to destroy religion, but gave his life to fulfill its teachings and to reform it. There can be little doubt among any honest Christian that the church universal is still full of corruption 2000 years later and still somewhat misguided in its mission.

For the homosexual and bisexual man, the connection in all of this discussion, as I see it is to point out rather obviously that the minds of both common folk as well as the minds of folks very well educated in theology have for centuries pondered religions of many sorts. Yet, neither the common folk nor the well educated have been able to agree on a common view of God.

In spite of all the pondering throughout the ages no one has ever even been able to prove that God, any god, either exists or does not exist. This point is important because faith actually does cut both ways. Most religious people, at some level, whether they will admit it or not, know their beliefs must rest essentially on faith in the absence of proof. However, it is less common for the atheist to understand that his belief that there is no god must also essentially rest on faith in the absence of proof just as well.

With all this lack of proof either way being a fact, it becomes essential that homosexual and bisexual men who struggle with their sexuality because of religious views (and millions do) give considerable thought to those views and understand what is fact and what is not fact concerning religious teachings relating to human sexuality.

I have personally known men who were suicidal because of their homosexuality because of what they had been told and thus feared concerning homosexuality and a particular religious viewpoint. I have known many more men, including myself, who endured great personal pain and self-hatred for the same reasons.

It seems to me that, at a very real level it is tragic for one to sacrifice his life, his happiness and his sense of well being and self worth on the alter of religious dogma about which hardly no two thoughtful people on the face of the earth entirely agree. And it certainly makes no sense at all to sacrifice one's life for a set of teachings one has never examined closely himself, but rather has just relied upon someone else to research the matter for him and accepted as truth what some man tells him it is the truth. Most of us would never think of risking our lives so carelessly and so thoughtlessly for any other reason; but when it comes to religion, most of us just become sheep and allow someone else to do our thinking for us, no matter  how much it may hurt us.

As homosexual and bisexual men, in a world where progress is being made and at a time when most Americans are becoming more tolerant of homosexuality and more willing to believe that homosexual people should have full and equal protections, rights and privileges under the law; we must be keenly aware that progress itself is dangerous. It is dangerous because many people see the progress and become reactionary to it. That is exactly what is happening in the right wing fundamental Christian churches in this country today. This particular group of Christians see the growing acceptance of homosexuality and bisexuality as a real and present danger to everything they believe! They will do anything and say anything to stop the progress in its tracks and reverse it. Is there anyone other than right wing fundamental Christians who has not been shocked over the words Rick Santorum has publicly spoken in the last few weeks concerning women's reproductive rights, the separation of church and state and the role of the church in secular life? I can tell you, I'm a Christian who is in church every Sunday and his words have shocked me beyond belief. I can further tell you that I don't want someone like Rick Santorum and those who agree with him deciding what religion should or should not be in the common experience of this country. I want that to remain a personal decision for each of us.

Being a homosexual or bisexual man is not easy. It may never be easy. But one can make it easier by doing his homework and learning for himself the facts and the fictions which surround it and upon which others form their opinions concerning it.

For those of you who have not seen Jefferson Bethke's video I have posted it below along with a couple of responses.  In each of the three videos, I find things I agree with. In each of the three I find personal opinions with which I vehemently disagree. I hope viewing these video's will convince you of the need for you to think for yourself in religious matters. The Bible itself tell us that we must each work out our own salvation. It cannot be worked out by someone else and given to us.

Jefferson Bethke's Video

Father Barron - A Catholic Response to Jefferson Bthke

An Agnostic Response to Jefferson Bethke

Bethke's video has now spurred hundreds of responses on You Tube. If you would like to browse through them click here.

My personal thanks to Jefferson Bethke for challenging us all to think about something many of us are afraid to think about. In that, he has provided a great service.

Jack Scott


  1. I watched the video rap and felt what every "little guy" feels in the big fish pond of organized anything. That is, I felt some sense of my personal power to be me and to be seen and heard, not diminished. The essence of being human and spirit to me is keeping my power when surrendering to a higher power. Religion seems to do a good job of teaching us to deny ourselves (and others)...and that will never work in any redemptive situation. Again, my belief.

    I have felt disenfranchised in many situations because I gave away the power that comes from claiming me in all my glory...especially what I have hidden as shameful or not acceptable, my sexuality and anything that might betray me. No more.

    I think what we are seeing in the world is a great deal of FEAR of losing something that cannot be held or frozen in time; faith, love, life, all of it is organic and alive, not a dead, stiff thing (read dogma). The reality of the world is that we are all unique and one size will never fit all. Can we all just accept that, and move on with love and tolerance? That is the message I get from all great men and women of any faith. Ultimately, mature faith is without fear and openly accepting and patient. That's where I want to worship.

    1. Jack, thanks for your comment. Being raised Southern Baptist I quickly came into conflict with the fundamentalist dogma that we, as humans, are totally unworthy and nothing more than pond scum in the eyes of God.

      As with what I hear you saying I also had an issue with giving up control (power). It wasn't that as a 10 year old boy I had a lot of power. Who does at that age? But I certainly felt it was up to me to exercise a goodly measure of control over my own life, and I'll admit I tried my best to exercise a measure of control over others.

      It was not until I was an adult and had joined the United Methodist Church that I first heard a preacher say that God loved me, no matter what! He assured me that God accepted me just as I am and just where I am in my life. He reassured me that I was important to God and God wanted me to love myself, to claim my power and my will to do good things for myself, my family and for others. In short he assured me that I was not just pond scum in the sight of God and that God wanted me to be happy, successful and powerful enough to do good things.

      I agree completely with your thoughts that fundamental right wing religion is a religion gripped by fear of losing control. To me it is such a shame that such people of faith never see what they are really doing. First, they are denying their own belief system. THEY are trying to hold on to power. Second, they are stripping God of His own power by acting as if, they don't keep control over the lives of those they consider heathens then God can't keep control either.

      You ask a simple question, "Can we all just accept that (one size does not fit all), and move on with love and tolerance?"

      Fortunately, I think the majority of Americans are reaching the point where they can answer "Yes" to that question. Unfortunately, for right wing fundamental Christians, their answer is still a resounding "No", and it is likely to become more resounding as their reactionary response to what they see as the sinfulness of the average American becomes more and more tolerated.

      My message to those thoughtful members of fundamental groups who have not consumed the whole cup of Kool Aid is that there is another option for you. There are many many liberal Christian churches which speak Sunday after Sunday of a God of love rather than a God of hate.

      Even better there are millions of Christian members of these churches who every day try their best to live by the example of Christ's love and in the doing show tolerance for the poor, the downtrodden, the homosexual, the woman who felt she had no choice other than abortion and many many others who in their brokenness are not welcome in fundamental groups just as they are.

      Jack Scott

  2. Have you heard the latest about Rick Santorum? Rumor has it, he's banging Anita Bryant!

    But seriously, the last video [agnostic] seems pretty benign; I wonder what it is that you find as disagreeable about it. My guess is that you find it too simplistic? I'd be the first to agree that structure is important, but perhaps structure is the very thing that alienates so many from religion. To have faith is to believe in the structure of the founding of any religion. But if it goes against our grain somehow and instills guilt, shame or random feelings of doom--how can we truly have faith and conviction?

    To listen to the last video, it sounds very much like the drug induced rambling of some hippie, leftover from the 60s. But now as we look back at much of what the hippie movement tried to implement, don't we now see that they were right about so many things? Simplistic as it is to say that we should "hate hate, and love love", how can we argue with that?

    I wish I had an answer to all of this, but it's all so complicated. I like to think of myself as a "fair conservative" as much as that seems to contradict itself. I used to think the hippies were nothing more than lazy, draft dodging loafers who wanted some publicity.

    Remember the bumper stickers during that time? I still believe in "America, love it or leave it.' Then life happened. Now, I also believe in "America, change it or lose it." Somewhere in the middle of those philosophies lays religion, politics, and guys like me. I don't think we'll ever come to a sound conclusion on any of this. But I'll agree, Rick Santorum is one scary dude.


I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

The only reason I take the time to write this blog is to spur your thoughts and comments. Please do not let the spammers cause you not to comment. I know entering the verification words and numbers is a pain in the ass, but I hope you will not let the spammers cause you not to comment.

I still very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott