Titus 2:11–14 [ESV] For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Leaders and celebrity Christians in American Evangelicalism have found themselves in quite a quandary. While they realize the need to actively participate in the social media world to reach their followers, in doing so they open themselves up to widespread commentary from those that may not agree with them. So what is an overseer to do?
Enter the “block” button (aka the “banhammer“).
Yesterday, a faithful sister in Christ responded to the following tweet posted by celebrity Christian Jefferson Bethke:
by asking a simple question:
She went on later that afternoon to respond to another Tweet from Mr. Bethke that mentioned he and his wife’s upcoming podcast:
If you were thinking Mrs. Lam would receive an answer to this very simple question for a Christian leader, you would be wrong. Instead, she experienced first-hand how many celebrity pastors and Christians respond to sincere, Bible-based questions regarding things they have posted on social media:
That’s right, Mrs. Lam was immediately blocked by Jefferson Bethke upon her asking him if he shared the Gospel with someone who openly mocks Christians and is hostile to the Word of God. So much for being above reproach.
Some of you might be saying, “But Landon, it’s not like Mr. Bethke is a pastor or something. The qualifications for an overseer (1 Timothy 3) don’t apply to him!” My dear friends, if this is what you’re thinking, you are dead wrong. Ever since rising to Christian fame through his spoken word YouTube video, Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus, and subsequent book, Jesus > Religion, Mr. Bethke has been an influential teacher in modern-day Christianity; specifically influential amongst Millennials. The simple truth is that Mr. Bethke has positioned himself as a teacher of Christianity, someone who has authority and ability to teach the Word of God. As someone in that position, one would do well to be conscious of the Biblical requirements thereby added to their account.
Further, as Paul made clear to Titus (Titus 2:11-12), the Grace of God has appeared, in part, to train “us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions”. As someone who on his “About” page claims he is “…quite the avid grace lover,” should he not then make it a point to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions? And with that truth firmly established, should not Mr. Bethke then make it a point to renounce and warn about Macklemore and his promotion of ungodliness, worldly passions, and hostility toward the Word of God?
The obvious answer to those questions are yes, Jefferson Bethke should not only end his endorsement of Macklemore, he should make it a point to publicly renounce those previous endorsements and warn Christians to stay away from his music.
If you are unfamiliar with Macklemore, I will briefly explain why this man is not someone with whom Christians should associate. Macklemore is an American rapper whose real name is Ben Haggerty. Without diving into his complete discography, suffice to say that Mr. Haggerty has been a popular and influential musician in America since roughly the year 2012.
On his October 2012 album, The Heist, Macklemore voiced his support of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage in the song “Same Love”, which also condemns homophobia in mainstream hip-hop, society, and mass media. On January 26, 2014, Macklemore performed Same Love at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, where Queen Latifah read marriage vows for 33 couples (both gay and straight) who lined the aisles. “This is a love song, not for some of us but for all of us,” she said, followed by an appearance from Madonna singing “Open Your Heart”. Further, Macklemore was criticized for a performance he gave at Seattle’s Experience Music Project in May 2014 where he was dressed as a stereotypical Jew.
Despite claims to the contrary, even from the man himself, Macklemore is a religious person and, as illustrated in the previous paragraph, does seek to convey his version of religion through his music. Have a look at some of his lyrics:
Playing God, aw nah here we go:
America the brave still fears what we don’t know.
And “God loves all his children” is somehow forgotten,
But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago.
Further, in this track released in 2009, Macklemore trades verses with fellow rapper Geological about the church and its lack of spiritual connection:
The word of our God is manipulated and twisted by the same system
That has infiltrated and falsely interpreted Jesus.
One life, one love, one God, it’s us, treated your neighbor how you would want to be treated.
The universal laws of God, don’t look too far, it’s right here, us human beings.
The spirit’s right here and I don’t have to see it.
Now every time I want to connect with God I put my headphones on. . . .
All right see, I be going to Sunday school every week
In the back trying to read, but see that something was off.
Maybe it was cause I was trying to huddle in the yard.
Preacher didn’t connect when he would mumble the Psalms.
Tyler Day of ChristianCentury.org summed this up well when he asked how we could categorize Macklemore’s theology. Ethical humanism with a tinge of anthropomorphic universalism?
Maybe it’s best we don’t. At one point he calls rap “an accurate representation of who people are as individuals and the environment that they grew up in.” The same may be true of Macklemore’s theology: it’s an accurate representation of a culture of seekers, the spiritual but not religious, the label repellent. They use traditional language to speak of new forms and subjective reality. They prefer a bar to a church. Because as Macklemore says in “Neon Cathedral,” “Round here they sing broken hymns. /Their prayers flow better when they’re soaked in gin.” In other words, this man is a postmodern to the core.
Should any Christian be endorsing this guy? Absolutely not! Why, then, is Jefferson Bethke not only endorsing Macklemore and his assault on the Christ Mr. Bethke claims to profess, but subsequently blocking anyone who dare ask that very question? The problem lies within the theology of what made Mr. Bethke a Christian celebrity in the first place and what Andy Stanley has recently decided to adopt; this idea that church is bad and Jesus is good. It’s the theology that the church is preventing people from “making decisions for Jesus” and thus inherently denies the sovereignty of God.
In a Twitter post back in February of 2013, Mr. Bethke was asked what he thought of Macklemore:
He looks up to a man who hates God and mocks Christians all in the name of “tolerance”? Really? When then confronted about how Macklemore’s music in any way glorifies God he responded:
As Mr. Huntrods correctly went on to point out, Paul is addressing non-believers, not Christians. He’s also presenting the Gospel, not making general statements – context is important. Why should Christians buy the next Macklemore album to hear about their hypocrisy and failure when God gave us His inerrant, infallible, and thoroughly sufficient Word?
Please understand I am in no way making a judgment regarding Mr. Bethke’s eternal salvation and whether or not he is a brother in Christ, that is not my place. But as a high-profile professing believer, it distresses me greatly that he would not answer a simple Biblical question and instead opt to run away from the concern.
Unfortunately, this is the new norm when it comes to high-profile Christian leaders; they publicly post and/or present something anti-Biblical, ecumenical, or theologically incorrect and when their public teaching is challenged publicly, they either run away (block the person) or turn and launch an aggressive reputation-smearing campaign and incorrectly label the challenger a hypocrite and a Pharisee. Sure doesn’t seem very “loving”, does it?
Thus, it is reasonable to ask why, as a Christian leader, Mr. Bethke continues to endorse an unregenerate man and his anti-biblical, God-hating music to Christians.
With the evidence presented, Christians would do well to personally ask Jefferson Bethke why he gets his inspiration from someone who hates God and beg of him to repent and turn from such filth.
Just don’t be surprised when you you are ignored and bear the brunt of the banhammer.