Jefferson Bethke is a 22 year old guy from Seattle. He recently created a video that went viral. It was about Jesus hating religion. It was viewed over 18 million times on You Tube and shared on multiple Facebook walls and Twitter streams. His basic message is that Jesus was cool but religion is NOT cool. As he says, Jesus is the cure and religion is the infection. Religion makes you blind but Jesus makes you see. Jesus was interested in healing and love, but religion is phony and rigid. Jesus had integrity, but religion is full of hypocrisy. He said, “Jesus came to abolish religion. Religion puts you in bondage, but Jesus sets you free.”
He no doubt tapped into a feeling shared by millions of people inside and outside of churches who are disillusioned with institutional religion. Personally, I think it’s healthy that people are claiming their personal power and freely questioning any institution that appears to be rigged at the top and rigid at its core.
The musician Sting expresses what many people feel about this issue-
I don’t have a problem with God. I have a problem with religion. I’ve chosen to live my life without the certainties of religious faith. I think they’re dangerous.
I resonate with the video in many ways, even though I don’t share Bethke’s belief that we are all sinners and need Jesus to save us. And apparently he attends a church whose pastor thinks that yoga is demonic, which is bizarre in this day and age. In terms of beliefs, we probably have little in common. What moves me is his conviction, passion and sincerity. Conviction is powerful and lessens limitations. I remember a drama teacher saying that if you forget your lines, mumble with conviction. This seems to hold in life. If you’re not sure what to do next, do something with conviction and see where it leads you. I don’t need to agree with everything people say, or like everything about their style. But conviction is contagious, and covers over all sorts of disagreements.
Not everyone likes Bethke’s video. An offshoot video called “Why I Dislike Your Poem, But Love God” has been viewed over 500,000 times. This is not surprising. Unfortunately, after people started criticizing him, Bethke changed his mind, saying that he was wrong to base his views on experience rather than scripture. It was a pity he folded so easily. I thought he was on to something, at least a partial truth. Not all religion is bankrupt, but the fact that so many people are now forging their own spiritual path with or without religion says something about the institution and about the independent spirit of our age. Bethke was bold in his video, but he lacked the courage to follow through. He wilted under pressure, lapsing into Groucho Marx style pragmatism, “Those are my principles. If you don’t like them I have others.”
In this series I’m writing about worldviews; knowing what your worldview is, why it’s important, letting it expand your life, and living it with passion. The second piece looks at the convictions and communication, how to hold your convictions AND communicate in open ways.
Have the courage of your convictions. Stand up, speak up and be bold. You won’t always feel the way you do today, but that’s okay. Believe what you believe now, and believe it boldly. When the time comes to change your mind, do it humbly, but not because other people criticize you. Change because it’s right for you to change. Then live your new views with just as much conviction.
One of my favorite quotes about courage comes from my mentor Bishop Spong. He has given me a lot of great advice over the years but one statement has stayed with me. He said, “When you’ve done a bold thing, don’t tremble at your own audacity.” An initial authentic step is bold. It takes courage to follow through and not become frightened by the shadow of your own boldness.
What does this look like for you? How are you stepping out in bold ways, and then following through with courage? If you put your own vision for life on trial, would there be enough evidence of courage to convict you, to empower you, to keep you on the path of change and growth.
For me this path has taken me away from my hometown, out of the mainstream church with its doubled edged security and into independent spirituality. There have been detractors, doubters and doomsdayers at every step, but an intangible inner power has kept me moving forward. Conviction is part of this power. I have come to realize the truth of Victor Hugo’s words,
No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.
Here is a 10 point conviction checklist. I have learnt the importance of these principles the hard way. Remember that you are judge and jury in your own trial. No one else can convict you or make you guilty. It’s all about your own motivation.
- Are you being yourself? It’s not your responsibility to please others, and you can’t possibly please everybody. (the authenticity test) Read more here about authenticity.
- Is your determination stronger than any doubt? (the commitment test) Read more here about perseverance.
- Would you persevere even if it took your whole life to get where you want to be? (the stickability test)
- Would you work just as hard if your name wasn’t associated with the idea? (the ego test) Read more here about ego.
- Are you open to feedback without being ruled by feedback? (the personal responsibility test) Read more here about personal responsibility.
- Will you find a way no matter what obstacles you have to overcome? (the optimism test) Read more here about optimism.
- Are you driven more by your own sense of satisfaction than other’s praise? (the intrinsic motivation test)
- Are you prepared to take risks to keep your dream alive? (the surrender test) Read more here about surrender.
- Are you prepared to sacrifice popularity/fame and fortune to stay true to your dreams? (the priority test)
- How creative will you be to find the necessary resources, support and partnerships? (the resourcefulness test)
Speak your truth, no matter what needs to be said. Follow your path, no matter how it twists and turns. Let your heart lead you through any ache and burn. There is nothing more frustrating than a voice trapped in your throat or a dream trapped in your mind, like a bird stuck inside the house. On the other side of boldness, there is nothing more liberating and magically powerful than a voice or a dream finding its freedom like a bird finally finding its release through an open window. This is the reward that awaits your conviction. Your voice, your life, and your vision carry conviction, clarity and commitment. Let them free to do their work.
I end with the inspiring words from Kenny Loggins song, Conviction of the Heart.
Where are the dreams that we once had?
This is the time to bring them back.
What were the promises caught on the tips of our tongues?
Do we forget or forgive?
There’s a whole other life waiting to be lived when…
One day we’re brave enough
To talk with Conviction of the Heart.
And down your streets I’ve walked alone,
As if my feet were not my own
Such is the path I chose, doors I have opened and closed
I’m tired of living this life,
Fooling myself, believing we’re right, when…
I’ve never given love
With any Conviction of the Heart
One with the earth, with the sky
One with everything in life
I believe we’ll survive
If we only try…
How long must we all wait to change
This world bound in chains that we live in
To know what it is to forgive,
And be forgiven?
It’s been too many years of taking now.
Isn’t it time to stop somehow?
Air that’s too angry to breathe, water our children can’t drink
You’ve heard it hundreds of times
You say your aware, believe, and you care, but…
Do you care enough
Where’s your conviction of the Heart?
One with the earth, with the sky, one with everything in life.
I believe it will start with conviction of the heart.
With the earth, with the sky, one with everything in life.
I believe it will start with conviction of the heart.
One earth, one sky, only one world, only one chance for one life.
When will we live?
One child,one dream, only one life.
You’ve but one chance for one life.
When will we live?
Only one earth, and only one sky, and only one world.
We’ve only got one chance to live in one life.
I believe, it’s only gonna start when we begin with some conviction of the heart.