I was listening to Joe Rogan’s interview with Aaron Rodgers last night and something Rogan said struck me.
First, let me be clear: I enjoy Joe Rogan’s podcast because he often engages social issues with his own alternative takes that don’t neatly fit into either a conservative or liberal point of view. While my conservatism is based on my reading of Scripture’s diagnoses of man, how peace comes, and what God wants from us, that doesn’t mean I only listen to conservative voices. And it often is the case that if someone comes with a take that would probably make enemies on both CNN and Fox News, I’m interested. I don’t watch either channel, but usually get my news from a mixture of Daily Mail, Tim Poole, Twitter, and Real Clear Politics. What endeared Rogan to me over the last couple of years was that he, like me, wasn’t buying the COVID keep-up-with-appearances anarchy. Even though I had COVID about 10 months ago, and still from time to time have minor inconvenient symptoms, I think the virus was weaponized politically and was sensationalized based on a naturalistic worldview, forcing a lot of decisions in the public sphere that were driven entirely by appearances.
That is part of the reason I was interested in listening to Rogan’s interview of Rodgers. Rodgers, undisputedly one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time (no other player has more NFL MVPs except Peyton Manning, both having inexplicably won separate MVP awards ten years apart), got COVID from a vaccinated teammate in late October 2021 about the same time I had it. Since Rodgers is allergic to one of the ingredients in the mRNA vaccines, he had to go about immunization a different way. When it came out that he was therefore “unvaccinated,” he had a slew of criticism from right and left, and a stain on his integrity in the public eye that, as he states in the Rogan interview, will probably never go away. All that to say that I find him to be an interesting guy not just for his football abilities.
But before I move into the main reason I’m writing, let me make a second disclaimer: Aaron Rodgers and Joe Rogan both believe in using natural psychoactive and entheogenic drugs to connect at a spiritual level with reality. They talk about this around 1:40:00 in their interview (it is a long interview), and it is a very clear endorsement of a brand of transcendentalism: A view of the world that depersonalizes God, instead opting for a framework that says that we all comprise God as aggregate humanity, and once we accept this, it will foster peace among us. Such a framework is similar to various Hindu religions, and has some things in common with the practice of yoga and with George Lucas’s Force, popularized in the Star Wars franchise. In the practice of these psychoactive drugs, people feel that they connect with reality at a deeper level, which is why many view such drug use as a type of religious experience. Indeed, in one sense, it is.
It should be no surprise, then, that Rodgers has been extremely critical of his Christian upbringing and with Christianity in general, calling religion a “crutch” that people use to make themselves feel better. I can’t say I disagree that some people use it as such; I just think that to reject Christianity based on that observation alone is extremely dangerous: What if while some use it as a crutch for good feelings, others adhere to it because Jesus of Nazareth really is who he says he is, and he initiated an experience with them? This is the question that still eludes so many people: Despite the alleged abuses of Christianity by so many adherents ("alleged" because, do our failures really abuse it as much as prove it?), is Christianity, nonetheless, after all is said and done, true? And further, what standard are you using to judge the wrongness of said Christians’ behavior, if not a standard given to us? Do you really think we created right and wrong? Rodgers and other critics of religion say Christians have questions to answer. I say the atheists and religion critics have more questions to answer, including these ones.
But this leads me to the point I wanted to reflect on. Around 00:26:00 of the interview, Rogan and Rodgers come to a place where they agree that people just don’t know how to treat others anymore. And Rogan ponders, “Whatever happened to being a charitable and forgiving person?”
It’s interesting that until five minutes ago in history, it was the Christians who were known as the charitable and forgiving people in society. I would argue (as would Charles Taylor) that the only reason that charity and forgiveness are considered such virtues in Western society today is because of the influence of the Christian framework over the west.
But the real reason that Christianity exploded in the first few centuries CE, and why it currently exists in an unprecedented global way, is not primarily because of missionary zeal or because of aggressive evangelism that guilts people into converting (although that does happen). The real reason is that Christianity uniquely explains that what is wrong with humanity is not that we are uncharitable, unforgiving, and socially ugly by nature, but that we are all of those things as a result of the Fall. We were created peaceable and peaceful, but an Enemy came in with a crafty plan to cast doubt on the trustworthiness of the God who created us. And if He can’t be trusted, neither can others. The effect is that now our “feet are swift to shed blood” (Prov. 1:16), and now we “turn each one of us to our own way” (Is. 53:6).
So no one is immune to this problem. No one, except one man who lived in Judea in the first century CE. His life was a perfect one that flawlessly demonstrated what life is supposed to be: Perfect life-giving love. Hence he is Himself “the life” that was “made manifest” (1 Jn. 1:2). But instead of demanding the respect that he deserved, he let the very people he came to serve crucify him on a Roman cross so that the penalty of man’s sin would be fully paid. It makes sense actually: If all are fallen in Adam, none can pay the price (that is, none can make atonement). So in Jesus of Nazareth, the Word made flesh, God paid it in the ultimate act of charity and forgiveness.
The irony here is that while both Rogan and Rodgers rightly see that humanity needs to be more charitable and forgiving, both Rogan, who identifies as agnostic, and Rodgers, who purposefully doesn’t identify with any religion, are rejecting the only One in history who has been truly and fully charitable and forgiving. If these men would look inside themselves they’d see that they, too, are neither as charitable or forgiving as they should be (and I think they’d admit this). But that is a proof of why the Christian gospel is true and why it is so needed: We should be charitable and forgiving, but we aren’t. And only Jesus, the only One who ever truly was, can get us there.
You might remember that in 2005, Tom Brady famously wondered in a 60 Minutes interview why he, in chasing Super Bowls, keeps chasing something that he knows won’t satisfy him. He was dancing around the gospel. Similarly, these other prominent voices seem to also be dancing around the gospel that alone can truly save the world. While I respect that Rogan and Rodgers are seeing through the noise, propaganda, agendas, and narratives that plague American (and more and more, global) society, I echo C.S. Lewis’ famous conclusion to his Abolition of Man: The purpose of seeing through something is seeing something on the other side. To say “People are not loving enough and everyone is a liar” doesn’t go far enough. The next question is, “Why are we like this, and how can we change?” And that is when Jesus walks into the room.