Its not every week that one sees Spoken Word and poetry trending online, but this week that is exactly what I found. Actually I found one poem, in particular, trending (with over 12,000,000 views) and then I found another poem that I believe should have been trending, but instead seemed to slip through the radar. One poem was entitled ‘Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus’ and the other was entitled ‘Death: Its Sting and Defeat’.
Can you figure out which one was trending?
If you had not idea what either poem said would you know which one would be more popular by its title?
*Click on the pictures above to watch the videos*
I think it would be a pretty easy decision: the former of the two. Maybe its just me, but there is something real trendy about the title of the first poem. It is a title that fits into the mold of the popular culture. Like a glove it slides right over the views that we have made already or have allowed others to make for us. It is comfortable to us whereas the title of the second poem is more intentional than catchy, and therefore, not as enticing. The first title is controversial and worded for acceptance while the second title is seems to capture the essence of the poets heart.
Now, I don’t want to get judgmental or too critical, but these thoughts and observations have been on my mind for the past week. Originally I was going to talk about the terminology of the first poem, and how I hate when people confuse religion with legalism. I wanted to talk about how I wished that the poem would not confuse people who do not speak ‘christianese’ (as one of my friend’s called it), but would rather clearly define what it was saying. However, I decided to take a different angle after discovering an article that addresses this issue much better than I could.
Instead of addressing the terminology in the first poem I wanted to take a brief look at ‘Trendy Christianity’:
So often I feel like we accept what it trendy more than what we actually believe. Or, to phrase that differently, we assume that ‘Trendy Christianity’ is correct without really challenging it. I’m not saying that all ‘Trendy Christianity’ is wrong, but I am saying that we accept things far too easily, and these accepted trends often times find their way into our creations. We begin to say things that come from popular phrases and slogans rather than from our hearts. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard Christians say ‘Its not about religion its about relationship’, and I’ve always wondered, “Do they say that because they believe it, or because it sounds catchy?” Or the number of times I’ve heard Christians quote Jeremiah 29:11 out of context when it comes to God’s plan for their life (especially at graduations).
We are less of ourselves than we realize, and I believe that when we are less of ourselves we create poorly.
These two poems are very interesting to me. As I listened to them one amazed me and the other bored me (so much so I had to turn it off half way through – and I only went back to it because everyone seemed to be posting it).
I listened to Bethke’s poem and I could not seem to connect. There was just something about it that I dreaded, and it was more than the terminology that made me cringe. To be honest, I didn’t think that the poem was all that good. I appreciated his heart, his pointing to the gospel, and his attempt to draw Christians to lives that make a difference, but I just felt like it lacked a lot. The meter seemed shaky and the rhymes seemed forced. As I watched him I just wanted to stop him and ask him, “Could you take a bit more time to structure this poem better? And then when you present it could work your heart into its core so much so that everyone sees it more than the poem itself?”
I know that sounds harsh, but if I’m going to be honest that’s what I wanted to say. I’m sure he poured his heart into his poem, to some extent, but I had a hard time finding it over the trendiness that seemed to overshadow his poem.
When I watched David Bowden’s poem, however, I was blown away. The poem itself was quality, the preformance: passionate and heartfelt, and the video was well crafted. Not only that, but the message was clear, not only in its delivery, but in the fact that it came from the heart of a man who was seeking Christ. There were no controversial phrases to over shadow the message he sought to give, but rather a precise and well articulated focus. I saw Christ in his poem; I saw Christ standing up and conquering all that has kept us captive; I saw a Savior uniting his people to shake this world; and I saw a heart I so often fail to have.
And I began to wonder: “Why isn’t Bowden’s poem trending? Why hasn’t this caught like wild fire and shaken the foundations of the internet?”
This is the answer that came into my mind: “Because it is easy to talk about the negatives of the Church. Its easy to talk about what we are doing wrong. It is easy to get caught up in catchy and controversial phrases. It is easy to debate. It is easy to never come to a conclusion, but, rather, to talk circles around ideals. But it is hard to put your hope in something when everything seems to be falling apart. It is hard to believe sometimes. Its hard to put Christ above ourselves. It is hard to believe in the Church when the Church is made up of corrupt humans. It is not easy to believe that Christ can save us, change us, use us, and love us.”
I wish so badly that we saw Christ more than we saw our problems. I wish that we would take some time and stop talking about all that we have done wrong, and begin talking about who Christ is and how he desires to change us, shape us, and use us. I wish that we would have hopeful words for the Church instead of always looking down on ourselves. That we would see the Church as the hope of the world instituted by Christ to shake the foundations of our communities and cultures.
It was interesting reading the comments beneath these poems on youtube (which have been removed now for the first one). In those comments the non-christians understood what us Christians often fail to see. One of them read something like this, “I wish you Christians would stop complaining about yourselves and just follow Jesus.”
That is my hope for the Church. That we would stop looking down on the Church and follow Jesus, and focus on Jesus, and love Jesus, and speak of Jesus. And then from that point, a point of living and breathing the things of Christ and Christ himself, begin, through Christ, fixing the areas in the Church we have corrupted.
May we rise up, and be the Resurrection; the Hope of the world, through Christ and Christ alone.
Question: What are your thoughts on this after watching the videos?
* My hope is that I was able to articulate this well. These are simply observations and thoughts. I am not trying to look down on either of these poets or speak of either as people who don’t love Christ and the Church. Nor am I trying to exalt either was perfect or more holy. My hope is, rather, that I could pull out some of the core questions and thoughts that I wrestled through while watching these videos and share them with you. *
P.S. Check out this link to some questions and answer with Jefferson Bethke about his Poem. I just found it now after writing this, and feel like it might help us process one of the poems better…