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.