Q&A with Jefferson Bethke

Q&A with Jefferson Bethke


Jefferson Bethke is the New York Times bestselling author of Jesus > Religion and It’s Not What You Think, and coauthor with his wife, Alyssa, of Love That Lasts. Together they make YouTube videos and host a pod- cast about relationships and faith. They live in Maui with their daughter, Kinsley, and son, Kannon.

Q: What do you think the internet and social media offer people that’s unique when it comes to exploring faith and talking about religion and spirituality? 01

What they offer is a double-edged sword. One of the blessings of digital spaces, and the internet cultures that form in those spaces, is being able to find answers to your questions and truth that moves you deeply. If you were an outsider in your community a hundred years ago, you didn’t have many places to go where you could feel you belong. But digital spaces allow you to be a seeker on your own terms and find people who may be more loving and helpful than the people around you in physical space.

The downside, though, is too many people unwilling to stay put in communities where there are differences of opinion and perspective. That’s not good. I think a willingness to stay put is very much one of the fortifying powers of spiritual growth. When there is a massive shift away from true community, face-to-face interaction and longstanding spiritual traditions—silence, communion, meditation on scripture, solitude, prayer, fasting, and so on— we’re in trouble.

Q: At what point do you think the internet and social media fall short when it comes to spiritual conversations? 02

Digital spaces are great for starting a conversation, finding information and gaining understanding, but terrible for being truly known—and that’s essential for any human walking healthily with the Lord. Being known re- quires genuine vulnerability, and generous acceptance when someone else is genuinely vulnerable, to lift the burden of shame that is heavy on so many of our friends and family. And vulnerability, in its truest and most beautiful form, just can’t happen online.

Q: When we asked who people are most comfortable having spiritual conversations with, fathers came out low on most people’s lists. And when we asked fathers who they are comfortable having spiritual conversations with, we found they are not nearly as likely as mothers to say their kids. What do you think is happening here? 03

This is a crisis by all accounts. The practice and art of fatherhood is being lost day by day. There are a lot of factors, but I think one of the main reasons is that dads feel incompetent in this area, and most guys—and some women too, of course, but it’s a sharper pain point for many men—can’t stand the feeling of incompetence. When we feel like a failure, shame beckons. Then we retreat inside ourselves and close off all vulnerability in a failing effort to protect ourselves from shame. This loop repeats itself over and over again.

Most dads I know are great about talking in depth when it comes to work, sports or opinions on current events, because those are areas where we are expected to be experts. But when it comes to our children’s hearts, and pursuing them on an emotional level, we think of that as the mom’s job, the pastor’s job, the teacher’s job—when, in reality, one of the primary callings of a dad isn’t to work, to provide, but to capture his child’s heart. That can only happen when we lead with vulnerability. Transparency and intimacy beget more transparency and intimacy.

Time is a huge factor. According to research I’ve seen recently, the number of hours a father spends at home keeps shrinking. Dads have fewer and fewer touch-points throughout the day to build relationship and intimacy with our kids. I’m not saying that staying home or working from home should be the goal for every dad, but I do think it’s important to get some perspective on what we gain and what we lose by being away so much. Is it possible we’re in the Matrix and don’t even realize it, serving the economy instead of our family?

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