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Rob Bell vs. Conservative Evangelicalism :: More Video Wars

In case you missed it, Rob Bell came out with a book last year that sparked immediate controversy before it ever even hit the shelves. How? Through this trailer video. It ruffled the feathers of what may be the largest stream of Christianity in America: conservative evangelicalism. Here is the original video:

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Now part of what makes Bell’s videos so attractive to a postmodern age is his ability to communicate with probing questions and provocative stories instead of a traditional preachy format. Jefferson Bethke, the same guy that recently attained instant fame through his video “Jesus vs. Religion” made a response video to Rob Bell’s trailer expressing this conservative evangelical critique quite well. Here is that video:

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Most people don’t have time to read lengthy written critiques of controversial perspectives, so the best they will ever get is an entertaining view of what I have labeled the “video wars.”  Here is a better way: listen to two conservative Christians confronting Bell in a respectful but insistent way, to clarify his views on Unbelievable.  Although clearly the interviewers appear to be antagonistic, and often interrupt Bell and dominate the discussion, this is a great dialogue.  I was shocked when I realized that Bell’s response to Warnock on biblical texts left Warnock admitting his own ignorance of the biblical languages, whereas Bell had apparently studied the biblical texts more critically than Warnock.

Jesus vs. Religion: Catholic and Muslim responses ignite religious “Video Wars.”

Is evangelical Christianity non-religious? That’s what Jefferson Bethke seems to think. But don’t give him the credit for the idea; this evangelical dichotomization of “religion” vs. “Jesus” in sermons, music, blogs, and other forms of media is a matter of routine to a certain breed of evangelicals (although more discerning evangelicals see past this oversimplified dualism).  But what Jefferson can be credited with is a well produced video that makes this characteristically evangelical dichotomy consumable for the masses in a rhetorical flourish set to religiously evocative music. One lessen we can learn from the overnight fame of the video is the power of savvy, impressionistic, sound-bite video production in the global village. In my personal opinion, anyone who is passionate about a cause ought to get busy producing aesthetically appealing media that makes their cause accessible in an impressionistic format. It’s simply the “language” of our day. He who wishes to reach the masses will speak their language.  Jefferson’s video is at over 17 million views and counting.

Here is the video, in which the now famous Jefferson Bethke uses the word “religion” in a way that reduces its meaning to something like superficial, empty, and hypocritical self righteousness and draws a crass dichotomy between “religion” on the one hand and “Jesus” (read: evangelical Christianity) on the other.

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Catholic Responses

There were lots of thoughtful Catholic responses to this video.  Catholics (I have learned) tend to use the word “religion” to refer to true sincere spiritual devotion to Christ rather than empty, judgmental, hypocritical self-righteousness. It seems apparent from these videos that Catholics feel their faith has been attacked by Jefferson Bethke in some way.

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A Muslim Response

Here is a Muslim who wisely takes the opportunity of the video wars to attack the doctrine of the Trinity and argue that Christianity is “religion without reason” and evidences the human tendency to idolatry (the worship of creation instead of God).

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I haven’t seen any slick Orthodox responses yet.  There was a very good atheist response that I thought expressed my own initial reactions to the video with wit and humor, but unfortunately it was full of vulgar obscenity and as the video drags on it turns into a bash against Christianity and was designed to be offensive so I decided not to share it.

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