QUICK HIT: Spoken word artist Jefferson Bethke expands to the written word in It’s Not What You Think to correct the misconceptions of Christianity that the world and sometimes even Christians believe.
Christianity is a bounced check to my generation. That’s how Jefferson Bethke starts off his sophomore foray into the writing world. Powerful words. He goes on to explain: Christianity has promised a better life and failed to deliver. But maybe Christianity just isn’t what we think.
With his setup all set up, Bethke introduces nine different “Not What You Thinks,” ranging from Sabbath to worship to sanctification and more. It’s a solid premise and Bethke mostly delivers. His strongest chapter is entitled The Kingdom’s Not Where You Think, which riffs on the book’s subtitle Why Christianity is About So Much More Than Going to Heaven When You Die. In that chapter, Bethke presents a compelling argument for the now-ness of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God isn’t something to be done out there later, but in here now. The Kingdom of God is in you. It reigns on earth in this one little area called you.
Probably the most contentious part of that chapter is Bethke’s penchant for non-violence, but he words it beautifully and with deep conviction that even the gun-totingest would have to admit he’s sincere. In sum, Christians should look different than the world—we’re aliens in a foreign land.
Other chapters contain good information and solid writing, but I didn’t really feel fit with the book’s overall premise. The idea of It’s Not What You Think is to tell you some misconceptions modern Christians have about Christianity. The “People are Not Who You Think” chapter has a good discussion of loving your neighbor, but I don’t think that’s exactly a misconception in Christianity. No Christian thinks that people are commodities to use. So while it’s an interesting discussion, it doesn’t quite fit the book.
The other great chapter is his chapter on the Sabbath, where he develops an argument for rest as play. The modern church tends to either have those who ignore the idea of a Sabbath altogether or those who strictly adhere to the day of doing nothing except Jesus stuff. Bethke tries to strike a middle ground, balancing the idea of rest with the idea of having a good time. Use your Sabbath to worship, but also to take some time away from your 9-5. Play with your kids. Pursue your hobbies. Date your wife. It’s a great balance that treats the Sabbath with reverence while not being legalistic, either.
Overall, It’s Not What You Think is a solid book. Especially if you liked Bethke’s previous book and so know his style and tone, this is really more of the same. And I don’t say this to denigrate the overall quality of the writing, but rather to uphold the parts where it is excellent. As a spoken word artist, Bethke occasionally drops some very quotable quotables throughout this book. You can be sure I’ll be using them in future sermons and talks down the line.
I’m interested in seeing where Bethke’s career as a writer goes from this point on. I think that he’s better at the spoken word than the written word (at this point), but has definitely proven himself in both areas.