(Photo: The Christian Post via YouTube)
Spoken Word poet Jefferson Bethke, known for creating such YouTube sensations as "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus," is slated to debut his first book, titled Jesus > Religion, later this year as part of a two-book deal with Thomas Nelson, Inc., the world's largest Christian publisher.
Although the book is not slated to be released until October, Bethke provided The Christian Post with a sneak peek and explained the purpose behind the book, which he says is to communicate the importance of experiencing grace when searching for Jesus.
The book, he told CP, is a "heavy, driven narrative tracing my upbringing, struggles, and testimony of walking with Jesus."
He explained further that the book has a "juxtaposition feel where some of the chapters look at how I used to see a particular topic [such as suffering, Gospel, church, or culture] and how coming to Jesus and study of the Scriptures altered my view of that particular topic."
"I'm really excited for the book! I'm praying it is an encouragement to those who are burned out, struggling under the weight of legalistic American moralism," Bethke added.
Bethke rose to Internet fame when a Spoken Word poem he uploaded in January 2012 went viral, ultimately garnering more than 23 million views and sparking an international debate on organized religion vs. faith.
In "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus," Bethke equates religion to self-righteousness, moral preening, hypocrisy, and a man-made attempt to earn God's favor.
"The problem with religion is it never gets to the core," the poet asserts. "It's just behavior modification like a long list of chores – like let's dress up the outside, make it look nice and neat."
"Religion says slave, Jesus says son," he adds. "Religion puts you in shackles but Jesus sets you free. Religion makes you blind, but Jesus lets you see."
Bethke believes that his upcoming book will be a sufficient start-up point from where his previous Spoken Word poem left off.
"Through the video I think we saw that people are still extremely captivated by the concept of grace," the young Christian poet said in a statement. "There is something beautiful that happens when people realize that the Jesus they think they heard about and wrote off as a kid isn't the real Jesus."
Thomas Nelson publishers say Bethke's powerful message conveyed in his Spoken Word poetry will easily translate to the tone of his books.
"We're excited to be partnering with Jefferson Bethke in presenting his powerful messages in a new medium," Brian Hampton, senior vice president and publisher for Thomas Nelson nonfiction, said in a statement announcing Bethke's two-book deal.
"He offers a compelling combination of passion and humility while staying focused on Jesus, and that's a perfect fit with our mission to inspire the world," Hampton added.
Bethke recently released a new Spoken Word poem, titled "The Greatest Artist of All Time," which includes the memorable line "We are not the artist, we are the canvas," and describes all humans as being products of God's creative genius.
The Spoken Word poet recently wed his girlfriend of two years, Alyssa Joy Fenton, who is also slated to release her own book in 2014.
As Bethke told CP, Fenton's book is still in the conceptual phase, and currently holds the tentative working theme of "Spoken For," teaching Christian women and girls that they are already spoken for by Christ, and are therefore able to be renewed by his grace.
Bethke and his wife both reside in Tacoma, Wash., and attend Mars Hills at Federal Way in St. Auburn.
Bethke's upcoming book, Jesus > Religion, will be released to the public on Oct. 7, 2013.