The Widely Popular Christian Thinker and Spoken Word Artist Speaks About How His Ideas and Success
Since then he has created a gigantic online following with nearly 700,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel that focuses on faith, love, and relationships (with his wife Alyssa). His casual, yet powerful style of dealing with complicated issues that are pressing questions for Christians and those seeking more information about faith has made him one of the leading millennial figures about Christianity.
WRN was able to interview Mr. Bethke about his views on social media, Christianity, and relationships.
WRN: You have mentioned social justice as a “non-negotiable” for millennials? How is that affecting how millennials express their faith? Do you think that this is being prioritized by organized religion? Are there any dilemmas that this creates?
Jeff Bethke: I definitely think justice is a core principle of the good news of the resurrected Jesus. I’d consider the definition of justice being “setting the world to rights” to borrow NT Wright‘s terminology. And this is something that is first being done by God from the minute the curse entered the world in Genesis 3, and we are graciously and humbly allowed to join him in this restoration project through the person and work of Jesus. As far the question about it being prioritized I think that is too broad of a question to answer, as I see many communities that do and some that don’t.
WRN: What makes the internet and social media unique in how it creates engagement on faith? How do you think you utilize it best?
JB: I think social media is best seen as the new marketplace. In the same way Paul entered the marketplace in Acts 17, we are able to do the same via the internet. Everyone has a voice. And ideas can and should compete with each other, and I’m confident that the message and hope of Jesus is something that can stand victorious in the marketplace of ideas. The downside to social media is I think the speed at which it works has a tendency to uplift half-baked ideas, rather than beautiful time-tested ones that have been earned over someone’s lifetime of faithfulness.
“I’m confident that the message and hope of Jesus is something that can stand victorious in the marketplace of ideas.”
WRN: Where do you see the future of the intersection of faith and social media engagement?
JB: I see it as just another extension of our lives, and in that way I see it having good parts and bad parts about it in the future.
WRN: How do you determine the topics for your online videos?
JB: It’s usually a mix of whatever is on my mind and what I’m personally thinking through, coupled with wondering what would be most helpful or where there is a need.
WRN: You have mentioned that Christians somethings see their faith as “part of the pie” rather than the “whole pie.” Why do you think that is true?
JB: There certainly is a compartmentalization in our faiths where it is seen as a part of our lives, but not the very framework that should be driving our lives. And sadly because of the compartmentalization, it allows for a lot of disconnects where our behavior doesn’t match our “beliefs” all the time.
Compartmentalization, it allows for a lot of disconnects where our behavior doesn’t match our ‘beliefs’ all the time.
WRN: A recent study has said that those that use social media are more likely to think of religion as something that is less a dogma than something you can pick and choose. Do you see this in people you interact with online? How can that be confronted in the digital landscape?
JB: Certainly. But I don’t think social media is the reason for that. I’d say the overarching religion of American individualism is the reason for that. We don’t tend to see the scriptures and the weight they bring as authoritative over us, but instead as something that’s below us in which we get to dictate and pontificate on how we best think it should be.
WRN: Have you faced any criticism about your positions? Where do they come from and how do you respond to them?
JB: Of course. Honestly, I don’t know if I can name one particular area where there always seems to be friction. If I had to pick one it’d be my age and the consistent criticism that I should live a little longer before I speak. And to that I actually agree and always have that in the back of my mind, yet also struggle with the tension of the resources and videos my wife and me seem to create do seem to be a helpful resource to a certain group of people. So I’m always trying to make sure I’m studying and appreciative of the platform, and the weight and responsibility that comes with that.
WRN: You have given information about having a healthy relationship with your wife. What piece of advice would you have given yourself at the beginning of your relationship?
I think early on in our marriage I would have told myself to understand that the tension points of the marriage aren’t signs of discord or fragility but actually the very places God is particularly using to make you more like him. And when that shift happens you tend to welcome those moments and parts a lot more.