Challenge: Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus

Posted: January 17, 2012 by Brett Kunkle in Choosing My Religion, Jesus Changes Everything, Weekly Challenge

You’re probably already aware of the little internet brouhaha over a YouTube video entitled, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.”  If not, you live in a cave.  Anyway, the video has definitely gone viral with over 13 million views and counting.  Check it out:

Now tell us what you think.  A lot of Christians out there think Jefferson Bethke nailed it.  Do you?  If so, why?  What did he get right?  If you don’t agree with Bethke’s video, why not?  What did he get wrong?  I’ll give you my thoughts on Thursday.

  1. He certainly says good things in it, and as an Evangelical Christian who’s been listening to pastors like Mark Driscoll and Tim Keller, I know what he means when he says “religion”, but I don’t think many people will buy it. Jesus certainly did criticize the religious leaders of his day for their self-righteousness and hypocrisy, but He fulfilled the law that they strived to follow, so I think he places a false dichotomy between religion and Jesus. It’s legalism that Jesus has a problem with.

  2. I like alot of what he says. However, I think this kind of video requires alot of clarification of meanings and unfortunately, that makes it a bad video to use when sharing your faith with non-christians.

    When he says that Jesus and religion are diametrically opposed, I believe he is refering to the fact that in its original Latin, the word “religion” means man’s attempt to bind himself to God. If this is the definition we are working with, then yes, Jesus and religion are definitely diametrically opposed. However, as far as I can tell, in today’s day and age the word religion has more to do with a person’s worldview. People use religion to refer to your core beliefs about reality and how they affect the decisions you make. Since this is primarily the way people understand religion today, it is somewhat misleading to say that Jesus and religion are diametrically opposed, seeing as a relationship with Jesus ought to have a direct effect on your beliefs and actions.

    On the other hand, he does do a good job of pointing out that Christianity is about what God did to save us, not what we do to save ourselves.

    However, I think there are too many things here that require deeper clarification and therefore it isn’t a very good witnessing tool.

  3. Cindy says:

    I found this response to Bethke’s video and loved the critical arguments he made. He points out the false dichotomies, the historical errors (wars caused by religion, etc.) and other examples of mushy thinking. When I posted this for my Christian friends’ to read, they landed on me for “taking Bethke too literally.” Sorry, I only have what he says to go on. I can’t go on what you THINK he MEANT.

    When my friend defended Bethke’s rebuke of “religious people” because “we’ve all known some religious people who were hypocrites,” I asked my friend if then, it was OK to say, “black people aren’t very smart” because we’ve all known some black people who aren’t very smart. Clearly the answer is NO, it’s not alright. And neither is it alright to condemn “religious people” as a group, especially when you haven’t spelled out exactly what you mean by “religious.”

    The guy’s heart may be in the right place, fighting false religion and hypocrisy, but he needs to be much clearer and more accurate in his way of communicating it. Otherwise, he could be doing more harm than good.

  4. Elliot Neff says:

    The choice of words for Bethke’s title couldn’t have been more perfect. In fact, I wish that I had written it myself. Bethke’s video shatters an unhealthy paradigm that much of the world (including Americans) hold.

    I’ve always admired the lyrics found within the song entitled, “Fields of Grace”. At one point in the song, it declares “there’s a place where religion finally dies; There’s a place where I lose my selfish pride!”

    Religion. What is it? I suppose if you include a relationship with Jesus Christ among the impersonal and relatively bland term “religion” then you are justified in objecting to the title of this video. I, however, cannot force myself to use the same term which– to most of the world– generally brings other worldviews such as Islam, Hinduism, and Mormonism under the same umbrella as a relationship with Christ.

    They are all worldviews (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc…) because they each describe a particular outlook on about the world. They all, however, are not religion.

    There is religion, and there is Christianity.

    Regardless of how a standard, politically-correct dictionary might define it, religion is a manmade system of works trying to please a higher power. Do you call that a relationship with Christ? I don’t. And Paul didn’t either. “For it is by GRACE you have been saved through faith– and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:8

    I understand as well that some are concerned that viewers may not be able to make this distinction for themselves– that they might see no difference between religion and Jesus. If that’s the case, then I love this title even more.

    What I believe is so genius about this title is that it causes people to stop and think.

    There may be surprise at the onset, but ultimately this truth will drive people to understand it more clearly. They will be able to see for themselves the good news of the Gospel contrasted against all the humanistic religions of the world. They will see God’s grace in stark opposition to mankind’s desperate attempts to be good enough. And THAT will make the Gospel all the more wonderful to see.

    I’m glad that this video is causing so many Christians– as well as non-Christians– to feel troubled somewhat. If everyone agreed with this video, said “that was nice,” and moved on with their lives, I would be much more concerned.

  5. Mark says:

    Consider the use of hyperbole. It is one of Christ’s favorite tools.

    Why the angst about what Bethke means by “religion” and what he hates about it? Watch the video — he is describing exactly what he means. Bethke doesn’t attempt to trick anyone and if he’s anything, he’s exceedingly clear in his examples. He is giving multiple examples of how we confuse religion with Christianity.

  6. Tyrone says:

    My thoughts, Its just a bunch of cliches mixed with ignorance and tied together, not by ideas but by rhymes.
    Lets start at the start
    “Jesus came to abolish religion.”
    Not primarily. He came to save mankind (duh). Jesus did abolish false religion by introducing true religion. Other religions are a shadow of what Christianity is (Think about everything a religion tries to do, then compare that to Christianity).
    Republican stuff…irrelevant, its just a way to keep the American viewers and introduce a kind of rhyme.
    “If religion’s so great, why’s it started so many wars?”
    Simple. The leaders or members of that religion were human, they wanted some better land, which was already occupied by people with entirely different world views. There coexistence due to the differing ideologies would be made quite hard, therefore those with similar worldviews grouped together.
    “Why does it build huge Churches, but fails to feed the poor?”
    Islam – they give 5% of their income to alms, anything more is interfering with the will of Allah. Other religions believe that those who are poor did something (perhaps in a past life) to deserve it. Where as Christianity, yes it does build huge Churches, but it also funds massive amounts of aid work. However, Christianity isn’t primarily a social justice club, its a bring-you-out-of-sin-and-into-life club.
    “Tell single mums God doesn’t love them if they’ve ever had a divorce…”
    I’m not sure about other religions but in the religion of Christianity, God loves everyone.
    “…but in the old testament God actually calls religious people whores.”
    Three things, (1) it sounds like there is the implication that divorced single mothers are whores, (2) it sounds like whores aren’t worth his love, (3) I don’t get the transition from single mothers to religious people, it doesn’t really follow (I’d also like a reference to check the context).
    Need I go on?

    • Albert says:

      you said, “Christianity isn’t primarily a social justice club, its a bring-you-out-of-sin-and-into-life club.”
      Love that statement!

  7. While Christianity does not mean Republican, this party does tend to be more pro-life/conservative, and in line with Christian values.

    Religion vs. Jesus boils down being personal with God.

    Hebrews 4:14, NLT: So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.

    Even prayer tends to be religious. Before depending on our High Priest, it is “Christian” to recognize our wretchedness, bowing before our heavenly Father. Do our actions firmly show that we believe that our High Priest is first?

  8. Mike Thps says:

    He already repented of making this video and not clarifying what he meant by religion. I’d say just let it go.

  9. Cindy says:

    Mike, this isn’t about attacking Bethke – it’s an exercise in critical thinking. We are all practicing our apologetics skills. And when a video goes viral with over 13 million views on YouTube – it behooves us as Christians to have a response to it for our Christian and our non-Christian friends.

    From reading some comments above, the video seems to have accomplished its purpose – evoking an emotional response, especially from people who have been hurt by some folks in “organized religion” – a church of some sort.

    But logical discourse can’t happen unless we define our terms and address the specific assertions Bethke makes. The reason this is important, is that he has actually made a lot of erroneous claims in this video that paint the Body of Christ as a hurtful, ineffective, empty, man-made institution. In fact, the Church (big C) is the Bride of Christ, and is doing much more to bring God’s kingdom to the world than Mr. Bethke gives it credit for. I’m all for rooting out error and evil in the Church, but when you hack indiscriminately with your words, you tear down the very vehicle the Lord left here on earth to accomplish his will.

    My concern, as the mom of a 15 year old, is this trend I see in young believers to ditch the Church and try to live some kind of private, individualistic Christianity – which is an oxymoron. The Church has problems because the church is made up of human beings, and God is faithful to correct and prune it. But it is not, in itself, evil. Doctrine, when founded on the Word of God, is not evil.

    Thousands of churches DO help the poor. Thousands of churches DO transform the neighborhoods around them. Millions of Christians DO love Jesus and work to follow his will. This video, in its immature railing, sprays the Church with friendly fire.

  10. I thought what he said was pretty good, from a christian perspective. But if you put it on a place like youtube and that many people see it, a lot of atheists and non-believers or believers in another god or gods whatever that belief may be are going to see that as very intolerant. But maybe that’s not the kind of critique we’re looking for…

  11. Chris says:

    Since Brett is probably recording his insightful, and entertaining response as I type this, I will make only a few brief observations. Overall I like the presentation of the video. It has made a huge impact in generating discussion, which is often the most difficult part in presenting Christianity to a hostile world. It does try to separate Jesus and religion which I’m not sure is possible. Both believers and non-believers see through this. The intent of the poet (if I may discern it) is to cut-off preconceptions to Christianity that is evident in most discussion and distance Jesus from the attacks on “religion” in general. With the “new-athiests” grabbing the social media with books like, “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”, by the late Christopher Hitchens or even critics like TV personality and film maker Bill Maher, they venture to make those with any type of religious idea stupid, gullible or even wicked. Although the video is not as accurate as may be hoped for, I think it has accomplished one of its goals: to put the gospel into discussion in the marketplace of ideas so some may be saved.

  12. rockturner says:

    I find it valuable to sift through words and identify the speaker’s intended message and its impact. It is notable that much of the recent blogosphere discussion is prompted by commentators’ “written” words about an “audio” word “video” presentation. The video is actually a “poetic” compilation of sound bites. It is very effective at entertaining our emotions but not as effective at informing our intellect.
    The media culture in which we’re immersed can condition us to absorb “text” void of “context”. IMO Ravi Zacharias spoke well when he said, “We are living in a day when people are listening with their eyes and thinking with their feelings.”