David Brooks to "Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus" Guy: Avoid the Vagueries

By Jack Palmer 02-03-2012

Since his poetry went viral in the YouTube sensation “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus," Jefferson Bethke has been put at the center of sparked intense debate both within and outside the Church. His subsequent change of heart (after discussions with a number of the theologians who critiqued his interpretation of Jesus’ view of religion), is symptomatic of a deeper issue for this generation’s protestors and activists, David Brooks writes in the New York Times:

This seems to be a moment when many people — in religion, economics and politics — are disgusted by current institutions, but then they are vague about what sorts of institutions should replace them. This seems to be a moment of fervent protest movements that are ultimately vague and ineffectual.

But these replacements actually can be envisioned within the context of an existing framework. Rather than disengaging from religious institutions, Brooks suggests, belief systems help ...

people envision alternate realities. They helped people explain why the things society values are not the things that should be valued. They gave movements a set of organizing principles. Joining a tradition doesn’t mean suppressing your individuality. Applying an ancient tradition to a new situation is a creative, stimulating and empowering act.  

Brooks offers a challenge to all young, frustrated activists who want change, but don’t know what the change would look like:

If I could offer advice to a young rebel, it would be to rummage the past for a body of thought that helps you understand and address the shortcomings you see. Give yourself a label. If your college hasn’t provided you with a good knowledge of countercultural viewpoints — ranging from Thoreau to Maritain — then your college has failed you and you should try to remedy that ignorance.

If the Millennial generation has a natural suspicion towards institutions, Brooks offers a challenge:

Authorities and institutions don’t repress the passions of the heart, the way some young people now suppose. They give them focus and a means to turn passion into change.

Read Brooks' column in its entirety HERE.

And in case you haven't seen it yet, here is Bethke's video:


Jack Palmer is a communications assistant at Sojourners. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackPalmer88.

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