Belvidere preacher rides a Harley for Jesus

May 29, 2012

Robert Kopp wants you to know something:  Jesus loves you, and he would've ridden a motorcycle back in the day.  The Rev. Dr. Kopp's new book, I Just Wanna Ride (FTW), describes how the biker lifestyle leads to a more authentic faith.  It's the first installment of WNIJ's Summer Book Series.

Part memoir and part manifesto, Kopp compares the diversity of the biker community -- blue collar, white collar, young and old -- with what he calls the growing mono-culture of mainline Christian churches.  "Isn't it sad that a motorcycle could bring people together more than Jesus can bring people together IN THE CHURCH, which says they love him."

1st Listen Button:  Rev. Kopp reads an excerpt.

Central to Kopp's book is the idea of biblical freedom, which he calls "being exactly who God designed and gifted you to be."  According to Kopp, people who act as God intended will express their own freedom without infringing on another's.  If you guessed Kopp is a libertarian, you'd be correct.

He is also a strong advocate of religious diversity, extending the concept of biblical freedom to Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and others.  For Kopp, how or where one worships isn't important.  "If you read the New Testament, you'll find that Jesus had tremendous disdain for clergy, for traditionalism, for religion.  He was trying to develop a relationship."

Like many bikers, Kopp was inspired by the 1969 film Easy Rider.  His favorite scene is when Dennis Hopper's character, Billy, gives the finger to a couple of rednecks who threaten him with a shotgun.  They kill Billy, he wipes out and his bike bursts into flames.  Kopp calls Billy's "royal salute" a rebellion against the dominant culture, one that any biker would approve.

2nd Listen Button:  Kopp explains the book's subtitle, FTW.

Kopp gives his own "salute" on the cover of his book, which shows him sitting on his Harley-Davidson.  Kopp isn't gesturing, but the book's title includes the letters FTW, meaning "F**k The World."  In an interview with WNIJ, Kopp said he doesn't use such language while preaching, but doesn't shy away from it.  Like his leather jacket, Kopp says the F word is part of the biker culture.

The Rev. Dr. Kopp is the Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Belvidere, IL.  He rides a 2005  HD Road King.

3rd Listen Button:  Broadcast version with Steppenwolf intro.

Friday, June 8, our Summer Book Series continues with Rockford author Dan Libman.  He'll discuss his short story collection Married But Looking.  Hear the broadcast version of that interview during Morning Edition at 6:34 and 8:34.