Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus (A Response)


Recently, Jefferson Bethke did a video that he posted on YouTube, and that video has gone viral.  In his video, Bethke affirms his reasons for hating religion while loving Jesus.  His words have resonated with many people.  This “new” and “fresh” take on religion and Jesus, is really not new at all.  I’m old enough to remember some of the same rhetoric being spoken in the 1970’s.

The problem I have with Bethke’s video is that he has created a false dichotomy between religion and Jesus.  He pits the two at odds against each other on opposite ends of the spectrum.  The things that he identifies in his video that appall him, appall me as well.  But instead of addressing and opposing the abuses of religion, he opposes religion.  Instead of  contrasting “false religion” and “Jesus”, he contrasts “religion” and “Jesus.”  Thus he sets Jesus against what he came to establish (Matthew 16:18), and he labels as “worthy of hate” that which James says is “pure and undefiled” (James 1:27).

If I may, I would like to illustrate his mistake with a poem of my own.  Now I know I’m not young and hip, in fact I just turned 50.  So you won’t ever see me on YouTube in a leather jacket reciting the words to this poem.  But if you can identify the problem with my parody, you can identify the problem with Bethke’s video.

Why I Hate Marriage, But Love Intimacy
What if I told you that Jesus came to abolish marriage.
That in terms of seeking justice, saying “I do” is a great miscarriage?

Marriage is an institution that everyone thinks is right,
But from all I’ve ever seen it results in one ongoing fight.

Within the “sacred” bonds of marriage, “holy” vows are broken,
Saying to “love, honor, and cherish” are nothing more than tokens.

In marriage, honesty is scarce, lying and deception reign,
Jesus calls for a transparency that only marriage can feign.

Before you stand at the altar and say your “I do’s,”
You better consider first if you want Jesus opposed to you.

It’s love that Jesus seeks, not some formal institution,
Throw marriage aside, stand with Jesus, let’s start a revolution.

If Bethke wanted to call out and expose false religion, more power to him!  But if he wants to call out and expose false religion under the name of “religion,” then I for one must speak up in defense of what I love.  I would suggest that Mr. Bethke might retitle his video as, “Why I hate false religion, but love Jesus.”  Or even better yet, do a video telling us “Why I love religion and Love Jesus.”

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Comments 7

  • Good job with article. And the rhymes. Still would have liked to have seen a video though 🙂

  • Or…maybe, just maybe…he might have aptly named it “Why I Hate What 99 Percent of Churches Call Religion, But Love Jesus..” The fact is that there are a whole bunch of folks preaching and practicing the religion that Bethke rhymes about. There are a bunch of folks who’ve spent most of their lives building that facade of neatness that he talks about, and the first hint that they aren’t as perfect as people might have though, they’re often thrown into a category amongst the “world” and the “sinners”. I expect that many people will be angry or dismissive of my opinion on this poem, but I’ve sat on both sides of this, and have decided for myself which side (based on Jesus’ actions found in the gospels) that I see Him being on. When I look back to see who Jesus had the biggest problem with, it is clear to me that the religious elite gave Him the problems. People who are imperfect, but honest and aware of their need for grace can be molded and changed. Unfortunately, people who are unaware of their need for, or who have become inoculated against their need for grace have decided that we must do something to become worthy of God’s love. The way I read it, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…” It seems to me that he loves me, no matter what has happened in my life, no matter what bad decisions I’ve made, no matter where life has found me. Sadly, it seems to me that the church has become a light that is hidden in a box of mirrors that’s purpose is to reflect within, rather than a light placed within a box of windows that gathers some reflection within, but who’s purpose is to make that light known outside of it’s walls. I think it would be beneficial for us to take a look, not just at the provocative title, and scream like crazy about how wrong it is, but to examine the message and see just how accurately it describes a whole lot of groups that claim to represent Jesus Christ and his values. Sadly, it seems today that a lot of churches are merely social clubs for the people that seem to “have it together” rather than people gathering to recognize that the church is supposed to be what Bethke describes as a “hospital” for the broken. Just my two cents…

  • Steven, I’m sure we’ve all seen the ugliness of false religion, but to condemn false religion under the name of religion is irresponsible, and misrepresents the truth.

    In fact, consider that he is doing what he condemns others for doing. He condemns religion for misjudging people, among other things, yet with a broad stroke, without any qualification, he condemns religion.

    I would no more hate religion because I saw an example of false religion than I would condemn marriage because I saw a bad one.

  • Thank you, Steve, for posting and responding. I guess that I am defining the word religion by how it is practiced in real life, rather than what it is aspired to on paper. And I believe that most people who view the video will be hearing the phrase “religion” in those terms, by reality instead of idealism. I am very much for, and a part of “organized religion”, but I think that in general, we have done an incredibly poor job defining it by our actions and how we truly function. To follow your analogy, when the term “marriage” ends up being so cheapened by reality, regardless of it’s dictionary definition, it ends up being a phrase that represents the failure of the ideal. Sadly, it seems that the phrase “religion”, as many people experience it, has come to represent a failure of an ideal. I wouldn’t dare argue the biblical definition of religion. But the reality of that definition has fallen pretty far short.

  • Steve,

    Thanks for your comments about this video. Someone sent it to me several days ago. This is roughly the reply I made to the person who sent it to me:

    The premise of the video (and its message) is off a little. I know what people are doing when they say Christianity is not a religion (it’s a relationship), but the truth is—it is a religion. It is the true religion to be sure, but by the dictionary definition, it is a religion. So the argument the young man makes is not an intelligent one to me. Don’t know why people are so determined to be anti-religion. To be against religion because some religions are bad (okay, all but one), is a lot like being against relationships because some relationships are bad. He also says that he “ain’t judging.” Well, yes he is. While he decries and disavows judging, he plays right into the hands of hypocrisy by judging. What’s so wrong with staying true to Jesus and going ahead and making judgments about things? Judging is not a bad thing when it is done right (John 7:24).

    Videos and messages like this just seem anti-intellectual and nonsensical to me. I just don’t know why we have to surrender our language to be acceptable or hip. Do I get the point of the video? Yes. Jesus—yes; man-made religion—no. But I still intend to practice the true RELIGION of Jesus Christ (Christianity), and I still intend to JUDGE sin and evil (just like the young man does; even though he says he does not).

  • What can be dangerous about a video such as this, is that the majority of it is true, though based on a false premise. Therefore since the main idea is presented as true (though false), it causes people to be anti-religion.

    People are anti-religion enough already these days – for the very reasons this artist is stating. But in his efforts to provide something good, he is actually doing a great deal of harm because in his compassion for people he has lost his way in truth.

    I have one major issue with this video (and some minor issues I will not take time to discuss). The major issue is that he continually states that Jesus was anti-religion and that he himself hates religion. Jesus was not anti-religion. He kept the Law of Moses without sin. He died to establish God’s perfect religion of Christianity. The Scriptures teach that the Son of God not only loved religion, but He gave His very life for it. How can anybody claim to be a true follower of Jesus, while hating the very thing that Jesus came to establish?

    It is the age-old argument – “give me Jesus, but not the church.” Jesus is the head, and the church is His body (Eph. 1:22-23). You must have both or there is no entity, and there is no life.

  • Dear Brother,

    I am Ribqa James from Pakistan . I have studied your web site, and I found it the most wonderful site to get right to the True Word of God. My suggestion for you is to create your material in my language of Urdu and Punjabi also. It will bring lots of blessings of the Word of God for the Pakistani and Indian Urdu and Punjabi speakQing people. For that purpose I as a translator will bring your material into Urdu languages and into Punjabi language as well.

    Although it will take your low expenses as well, as fund for the Word of God to reach out to the deserving people.Many times it becomes difficult for us to keep doing this because of being minorities and because of the lack of the financial resources. I will wait for your response.

    . Sincerely,

    Ribqa James

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