I wanted to ignore this. I really did. When a youth pastor friend of mine sent me a link to the YouTube page of Jeff Bethke, this quasi-rapping, Drake-looking, spoken-word poet, and asked my opinion, I said, “Lame.” The poem is called “Sexual Healing,” and in it Bethke gives his take on sex, using his own experience as an illustration. It’s not theologically unsound, I told my friend. It’s not wrong; it’s just lame. I told him it reminded me of this other Christian spoken word video. Lame.

But now, Bethke’s back. And he’s everywhere. First, over at the Sojourners blog, communications and new media professional Matthew Santoro posted Bethke’s latest video with the endorsement, “Bethke’s work challenges his listeners to second guess their preconceived notions about what it means to be a Christian.” Then, The Resurgence embedded it too, writing, “We don’t post poetry very often, but we do when it’s pretty good.”

This time, the video is titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus*” and, again according to The Resurgence post, the poem is about “how the gospel of Jesus is the good news that breaks us free from the chains of religion.” Ah yes, the chains of religion. For four minutes, Bethke rhymes his way around all kinds of false dichotomies and outright bad theology.

He begins by suggesting that Jesus came to abolish religion, a popular claim among evangelicals, particularly those of the non-denominational persuasion, but one that has no theological foundation. He then goes on to say that “Republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian,” which is true, if not slightly off topic. Then, returning to the subject of religion, he plays right into the hand of the so-called New Atheists by asking “if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?” There’s some stuff about single mothers, poor people, whores, and John the Baptist, all by way of showing the inconsistencies of religious people.

Religion, according to Bethke, never “gets to the core,” rather, he calls it “behavior modification” and says it’s like “a long list of chores.” Then he gets to what he’s actually talking about. See, he’s not actually on about religion, but about people whose expression of their faith doesn’t match his criteria. It’s not religious people he’s talking about, it’s what we used to call Sunday Christians. “It’s like saying you play for the Lakers just because you bought a jersey,” he says before digging into his own biography to show that he was once like you.

At just about 3 minutes, though, he returns to religion, claiming that “Jesus and religion are on opposite ends of the spectrum.” One is the work of god, he explains, and the other is “a man made invention” (slant rhyme). He continues, “one is the cure, and the other is the infection.” And now he’s on a roll, “religion says do, Jesus says done. Religion says slave, Jesus says son. Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free. Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see.” He is building toward this, “And that’s why religion and Jesus are two separate clans,” before his grand finale, “So for religion, no I hate it. In fact, I literally resent it. Because when Jesus said ‘It is finished,’ I believe he meant it.”

Where do we begin? The number of false dichotomies and ridiculous claims is astounding. Religion is an infection? Religion puts you in bondage? Religion makes you blind? Is he just quoting Sam Harris here?

I believe Jesus meant it when he said, “It is finished,” as well, but I’m sure the “it” he meant wasn’t religion.

See the problem is, Bethke doesn’t mean religion either, but he’s rehearsing a popular evangelical trope, that the freedom that Christians find through Jesus is freedom from structure, organization, and authority. Of course, Bethke, like all Christians, is a member of a religion, he holds “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs,” as Dictionary.com defines it. What Bethke is actually railing against is people whose expression of religion doesn’t look like he believes it should. Thus, rather than discounting religion, he is just discounting other religions, or even just other manifestations of his own religion.

Had this poem, with its dramatic music and epic setting, simply been called “Sunday Christians,” and if every reference to religion was replaced by something like “hypocrisy,” this video would have been as easy to ignore as his others. But, here Bethke is doing far more harm than good by playing into hurtful stereotypes about religion–his religion and mine, as well as the other major world religions. Denouncing this video takes stepping outside of evangelical subculture to see its actual implications beyond our little playground, but doing so, I think, is extremely important.

*The title of the poem was initially written as “Jesus > Religion,” which is displayed in the video, but is not the title.

About The Author

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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  • http://www.somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter}

    the whole Religion is BAD! line is tired.

    perhaps “religion” isn’t as warm as we like to think our faith is, but saying christianity isn’t a religion is silly and disingenuous. we can call each other away from american civil religion and moralism without pretending following Jesus isn’t a religion.

    (slant rhyme! made me smile:)

    • M. Brandon

      I want to provide some perspective and get your thoughts since a lot of people are talking about it and have felt more at peace about it after I’ve posted this. So here’s what I’ve posted:

      “What if he is using religion in it’s modern day understanding, which is akin to what the law was or what Jesus was against? I go to mars hill church, and we talk about the issue of Religion versus the Gospel, or formally, moral formation vs spiritual formation.

      I understand that if he is coming from this perspective, and with that in mind, he is actually correct.

      If we take it as religion in general, in the positive light and Christianity = religion, then yes, it’s wrong. But the perspective is not Christianity = religion, but rather following Jesus, not being bound to man made religious practices and feeling like we have to do things to be good, but realizing that we aren’t good. Jesus is and because of what He has done, we are seen as holy. How is that theologically wrong?

      Yes, Christians shouldn’t be a bunch of sheep. We need to challenge things and think, and it’s great that this is causing people to think critically and have a good discussion.

      To be a mindless sheep is counter to those that came before us, like Luke, who was a Doctor that was validating the ministry of Jesus and the the early Church. It’s also good to realize that Christians were the ones that started what we now know as the University.

      I will say that I have a good leaning that he is coming from that perspective because he does go to Mars Hill Church and a lot of what he is saying is very similar to what Mark Driscoll talks about often about the difference between Religion and the Gospel.

      Granted I can’t be 100% sure unless he states it. If it wasn’t for me going to mars hill myself and recently taking a spiritual formation class here at Biola that taught about the difference between moral and spiritual formation, I wouldn’t have taken this video as well.

      Side note: I was actually really surprised and convicted of how religious I was and still am and learning to live more in the freedom and grace of Jesus like the Gospel teaches.

      For more information on this perspective and examples of moral vs spiritual formation you can check out:

      http://orangecounty.marshill.com/religion-vs-the-gospel/
      http://theresurgence.com/2011/10/01/how-the-gospel-does-what-religion-cannot

      Do you guys feel like knowing it from this perspective makes it more “proper?”

      • John

        I can’t disagree more with your redefining of “religion”. Christianity is MORE than just a religion, but that doesn’t change the fact that it always has been (and always will be) a religion.

        When we as Christians decry hypocrisy by making the claim that we aren’t a part of a religion, we’re lying about our identity and are furthering the hypocrisy that fuels our frustration. The sentiment shouldn’t be “not a religion, a relationship”; it should be “not JUST a religion, also a relationship”.

        Yes, I know what the poet means, and yes I (mostly) agree. But it’s VITAL to not further people’s perception of our hypocrisy by distancing ourselves, not just from legalism and hypocrisy, but from religion itself.

        • Anonymous

          John, it’s both! It is a religion AND it is a relationship….AND so much more than those two words can describe.

          • Richard

            Yet someone of another religion also feels what to them is “that relationship”. To them their religion and its promised end-game (salvation, nirvana, moksha,…) is beautiful. A risk with this “Christianity is not a Religion” mantra when coupled with other evangelical beliefs is that it flatly denies that people of other religion can experience something of value too. If we are willing to say “Christianity is not a religion” then we must also by the same token be willing to say “Buddhism is not a religion”, “Hinduism is not a religion”, “Islam is not a religion”…..

      • Brian S

        pretty easy for a hipster to sit at his computer and blog about someone who puts themselves out there in the flesh. maybe this dude isnt a theological genius like yourself, but he makes some good points. so basically its impossible to love Jesus and dislike “religion” in your opinion? call it whatever you want, but i think what he is referring to is the BS that goes on in churches all over the world, mostly america. We do build the huge buildings while people starve ect.

        i agree with the other post about the tone of your article… “Lame”

        Oh, I like Drake and love Jesus too… guess im a second rate Christian :-X

        • M. Brandon

          Yeah, Brian, this whole thing actually brings up the very thing he’s talking out against. There are so many people being like pharisees or as the guy in the video would say, religious.

          In regards to everyone else that is against this, I’d like to bring up another perspective.

          Here’s something to take from Paul. Now I have to state this, and it actually really saddens me, but actually read it. Don’t just read part of it and fail to notice the other part, but actually read it.

          “Philippians 1:18

          18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

          If you actually read it, you wouldn’t have just seen “truth” and continued on your rant. Instead, you would have read “PRETENSE or truth” (emphasis to make my point).

          I think Paul would be rejoicing that there are so many people seeing this, especially non-Christians. In fact, tons of non-Christians are reposting this. There must be something going on. If only one person comes to Christ, can we say that this is stupid and should not be shared?

          • John

            No one is doubting Bethke’s motivations. Motivation is what Paul is addressing when he writes those words from Philippians. The thing that Paul is saying is that in spite of some people being motivated to speak of Christ through envy, strife, or contention, the proper message is still getting preached. The motivation is secondary to the message.

            My issue isn’t with Bethke’s motivation, it is with his message:

            Christ didn’t come to abolish religion: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” – Matthew 5:17

            Religion isn’t evil: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” – James 1:27

            If you are going to bring up Paul’s statements on accepting a true message regardless of one’s motivation, this should only be tempered by the contrasting view he provides when he says: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” – Galatians 1:8-9

            I’m not seeking to bring down condemnation on Bethke, but I’m very concerned with the inherent hypocrisy of decrying “religion” while being a part of a “religion”. I have many secular friends who point to this discrepancy as yet another example of the same hypocrisy that all of us abhor.

            I’m not preaching condemnation on Bethke, I’m preaching caution.

          • Ed

            This response is actually to John’s response to M.Brandon:

            Your reference to Matthew 5:17 is dead on, except for the wrong reason. This actually supports the message of the video. Don’t be so quick to condemn the message that says that the religious must come to have a deep relationship with God. It’s God’s call to His church to repent and leave the hypocritical ways that mirror the Pharisees. This actually is the same exact message in the law and the prophets that Matt. 5:17 refers to. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:” and then it is the same message that Jesus came to fulfill on the cross at the hands of the same hypocritical bunch that the prophets spoke against. The law was meant to bring God’s people to Himself, but the hypocrites clogged the pathway. Jesus then came to unclog it. Now in the Christian (catholic, protestant, methodist, orthodox, messianic, baptist, calvinist, lutheran…whatever) church the religious right has done the same exact thing…they claim to bring people to Jesus but they keep them from having a wonderful one-on-one relationship with God. Why do you think God tore down the wall of the Jerusalem church? Why do you think He used the Roman hoard to do it? Was this not prophesied? And yet God gave them time to repent. He tore down the wall because it was a hiding place for the self-righteous hypocrites that housed themself there hiding behind the good works of a few but keeping many from God. This is the message today…repent! Come to know God only…not religious rules, but through the Holy Spirit and worship with others who know God, preach the true gospel of humility and mercy. Only holding true to some of God’s ways while holding true to man’s ways is adulterous and God will tear the walls of this Christian church down in this day if it continues. Make no mistake, He will use a ruthless hoard to do it. And since much of the Christian nation resides in America, the US, a country blessed by God will suffer the consequences. If on the other hand, the people come to God through the Lord Jesus, then God will bless this nation that houses it’s true people. Who are His true people..the one’s who know God in their hearts one-to-one. And the only one’s who knows who that is would be God and that person. Isn’t He wonderfully mysterious?

          • B. Williams

            Yahshua didn’t condemn the keeping of the law. He condemned those who claimed to keep it and didn’t (Matt 5:17-19). We must understand that we are not saved by obedience to the Commandments, but keeping them is an expression of our faith and devotion to Christ.
            A man is not justified by faith only James 2:24. There is this theology today that says we are saved by grace and somehow that excludes obedience to the law. This is absolute absurdity. Additionally somehow religion has become a dirty word in the evangelical community.

            Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
            Religion, in its most comprehensive sense, includes a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of his will to man, in man’s obligation to obey his commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man’s accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties.

            How can this be wrong? When he uses the word religion alone he casts a negative light on the word itself and taints its true meaning.

        • MarcusDS

          I hope for his sake and your sake that talking on the video isn’t the only thing he does.

          Take this video to Cambodia. Take it to Laos, Vietnam, China or the Middle East. It has NO relevance there.

          This is a reminder to the American, European and churches that actually own buildings or have large congregations – Wake up! Your religion has become your idol. Christ is no longer present in your Church. Arise to your true calling in Him and put your money where your mouth is. If you say you love Him, you will stop chasing the American Dream of tranquillity, personal happiness and wealth. If you say you love Him, YOU WILL OBEY HIS COMMANDMENTS! You will be interested in His what His heart beats for and what He is doing. Wake up. Put on your garments of praise and ready yourself for your Bridegroom, for He is returning. And He is seeking faith. Will He find it?

        • Richard

          If more people give up the Pharisee-ing then I think the world would be a better place. This was the initial interpretation I’d given to the video. There is a lot of dogma though, and a lot of very heated debate in the world about that dogma.

          The person in the video may have something wonderful in his religion, which is great for him. He doesn’t seem to mention other religions for better or worse. That debate seems to have come afterwards. I don’t know whether people on both sides of the debate are putting words in his mouth.

      • bgarrison

        Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill the Law. That is key to remember in this whole debate. I get where he is going with this and where you are going with this, but Christ’s work abolished the curse of sin and put us in an ‘already but not yet’ state of renewal and redemption. It did not abolish religion. The book of James is clear that “faith without works is dead” and “true religion is this: to take care of widows and orphans”.

        We cannot deny that Jesus’ death and resurrection has given us the highest calling…that of holiness. The epistles are full of the call to holiness. However, we must understand that God’s grace revealed to us in Christ has saved us, first and foremost. Relationship with Christ is everything. “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”. But the fruit of the Spirit goes deeper into relationship in that it bears the fruit of true religion.

      • http://beginagain.mobi winston tyau

        spirituality and religion seem to be mixed up in our minds. In my mind it was never clear, and in the course of the suitable study references i purposefully hanged on to a false liberty, and thought therefore i am something special because i claimed to know what jesus christ came to this world to do. I know that the differences was confusion as wisdom divorced of common sense was to the greeks of the many isms or religious icons. Personal experience about god is spiritual experience, but religion is about the organized cosmos of which man recognizes and collectively worships and is eventuated a concept of who god is, most often it is worded, and common practice of rites and rituals that man thinks he has found religion. However the spiritual must be balanced and the inter life must be in balanced with the outer. this is a religious concept that i believe that my primary motive is to find god and become like him. The fact of the matter is spiritual and the favor or breath of my ability to turn my will over to doing the fathers will is the meter of my soul. My realization is a spiritual context of true meanings and values that make up my religious experiences.

    • julia

      jonathan everything in his rap was correct.
      please read the bible. all of the pharisees where religious folk and they hated jesus. come on dude. jesus is not a religion he is a relationship. religion will tell you you have to do this or do that and jump through hoops. jesus already jumped through those hoops for us. i think you just don’t get it but im hoping the good lord will help you see. he did it right, its all good!

      • TMAN

        Julia – you might want to read your own Bible before telling others to read theirs.

        1. The Bible is replete with examples, commands and requirements for people to be religious, both OT and NT. As many here have pointed out, James’ epistle is more than sufficient to make this point. Bethke’s video, while well intended, is quite clueless of this point.

        2. All this pining for religion, however, must come secondary to a loving and obedient relationship with God. We cannot love man until after we have learned to love God, and we are not truly loving man unless we are first loving God. No two ways about it.

        Thirdly – why on earth does everyone keep picking on ONLY the Pharisees? Have we not read in the scriptures how Jesus insulted Pharisees
        …AND believers (John 8:29ff)
        …AND followers (John 6:37ff)
        …AND disciples (Matt 16:23; Luke 24:25-27)???
        Yet we walk away thinking He only belittled the Pharisees. Weirdness!

        Q: How can we possibly read all this and think that Jesus was only out to offend Pharisees?
        A: If we can blame “those” Pharisees, then we don’t have to worry about the possibility that He might have been talking about *US*.
        (We might want to re-read John 9:40-41 and ask ourselves if we really see what Jesus is saying)

        What Bethke should have said was “FALSE religion”, not “religion”. The two are not the same.

    • Ed

      Really? Is having a relationship with your child, mother, father, or loved one a formal event that requires an intermediary? Is it a relationship that lasts an hour a week, at best? Is your relationship one that you keep hidden away in a big expensive building and share with very few if any friends? No, there is a big difference between having a relationship with God and religion. And if hearing that makes some tired & sleepy then be careful that you may slumber….the alarm clock is ringing…don’t hit the snooze button!

      • Ed

        ^^ msg is response to Suzannah’s post.

      • MarcusDS

        Do not forget. God is our Father. But He is still God. He is still King. The awe and fear of the Lord MUST be within us. The only fear we should have is the fear of the Lord. And it is the awe and respect and honour and weight of His glory in our lives!

        I am all for the video. Just the part where he says Jesus came to abolish religion. Check Christ’s mission statement. If the context and concept of Religion is the enslavement and bondage in Isaiah 61, then we are ALL enslaved, even the man who wrote the poem (Sorry, I do not know his name).

        How can we fight the enemy when the house of the Lord is un-united. At the end of the day, we BELIEVE in Jesus and we LOVE Him! Shouldn’t that be a good enough reason to serve Him? You’d be surprised how many religious people DO love God and how many self-righteous people ARE trying to come back to Him. When we pass judgement on or so much as shake our heads at them, we ourselves are guilty of self righteousness.

    • Katherine Heuser

      Semantics…this video resinates with many believers who were saved by grace. leave it to Christians to see it as an opportunity to create further division by focussing on his imperfection. God help us.

  • Zach

    You might be worse than young reformed guys. Its like every person who even mentions the name Jesus is a complete and utter fool to you. That should tell you something.

    • Jared Haskell

      ?

    • Evan

      I second the “?”

      You’re missing the point entirely

    • Luke

      I think you should reread the article…

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

    Jonathan, I could not agree more with your headline — and your first sentence. People were posting this all over Facebook — people I trust — so I thought it would be good. It is, in fact, a piece of shit.

    • http://www.dranthonybradley.com Anthony B. Bradley

      Tony, thank you!

    • Richard McCullen

      You elitist intellectual liberals, I know you are above it all… but please come down from your institutional ivory towers! The world is still hurting…

      • bob c

        thanks Richard, for the honest “critique”

      • Mike

        Who are you referring to?

      • Evan

        Yes the world is still hurting, such a shame we can’t help it by being liberal.

      • John

        So what you’re saying is that anyone who think critically is an “elitist?”

        • Ed

          Yes, and Richard is saying that being critical is also “intellectual” and confined to “institutional ivory towers”, seperated both from God and from his people, aka the “hurting” world. There is not much of God in the elite, the intellectual, nor in the wealthy for they do and say what is right in their own eyes. They find it necessary to protect their own best interests. But even the blind can find God amongst the lowly, for He is serving all around. Whether you like it or not, God’s true message to His church is in this video, for those who wish to come down to hear it….otherwise it will just sound like annoying noise to the lofty self righteous.

      • Anonymous

        AMEN TO THAT!!!!!

    • Daniel

      hahahaah totally agree!

  • http://www.dranthonybradley.com Anthony B. Bradley

    Jonathan, the title of your article sums it up nicely. Thanks for displaying reason. I can’t believe people think this “poem” is awesome?

    • megan

      it’s not about the poem… its about the message. People are sick of the “sunday christians.” And it was a breath of fresh air to listen to what he had to say. I don’t understand why it is our right to criticize people who intentions were good. Would you want God to criticize you (which the LORD NEVER does)? The LORD says forgive and then He will forgive you. He is the true judge so you don’t have to worry :). yay

      • Mike

        A “breath of fresh air” ? I wonder what other messages I could scramble with music and rhyming lyrics to have you persuaded…

        Possessions are bad and ruin your life. Gimmie your bank account number to remove your strife.

      • Evan

        Everyone has the right to criticize, If we didn’t we would never move forward. It was our good intention to do many things as humans which have caused pain and suffering. If we stop re-evaluating our situation we will shrivel up and die.

      • Laura

        You don’t think God is critical? God doesn’t criticize? Which Bible are you reading? Many of the pharisees had good intentions. They were trying to protect the Torah by developing oral law. They were responding to God’s righteous judgement. But they took things too far. Their good intentions were corrupted by sin. And Jesus criticized them. Big time. The same could be said of Peter when he told Jesus that he should not suffer in Jerusalem. Peter was looking at the person he recognized as the Messiah, a person he revered and loved. Why should such a person suffer unjustly? Peter had good intentions, but he was wrong. He failed to see the full picture. He fell short of God’s expectation for him. And Jesus responded to this failure by saying “get behind me, Satan!” Christianity is about a loving God, but He is righteous and sovereign. And, in my opinion, the young man who created this video has done a tremendous disservice to God’s mission. Yes, his intentions may be good. But he approached this project with a lack of humility and spiritual maturity. God forgives and loves him. And I seek to forgive and love him. But criticizing things of this nature, pushing back against stereotypes and false dichotomies that harm the Church and it’s mission are things God does and calls us to do.

        • Nicole

          Laura,
          The Pharisees did not have good intentions. They didn’t want to protect the Torah – they wanted to add to it because it made them feel righteous and justified and they liked feeling better than other people.

          Peter did not have good intentions – He didn’t believe Jesus when He said He would suffer. If he had trusted Jesus, he would have believed His words, considered them carefully. Jesus responded to him as to Satan – and Satan does not have good intentions.

          I have personally seen some positive responses to this video from people who needed some encouragement in the Lord – and this was it for them. The Lord can still use this in the lives of other people for good. And really, the only completely reliable and infallible source to persoanlly learn about God is the Bible…”2 Timothy3.16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”

      • Autumn

        Amen!

      • Ed

        Megan, I praise God for your humility and mercy. It’s not just people that are sick of “sunday christians,” but it is God who is sick of it. He hates the adulterous who claim to know Jesus but after many seasons still have no fruit to show. The fruit of the Spirit…humility, mercy, lovingkindness, gentleness, hope, joy, a bridled tongue, generosity can only give life. Within our own churches today it is either, non-existent or among the believer’s, rotting on the tree.

        The message of the video depicts this very truth and the many who contend with it reveal the fruit of their own hearts. God is alive and well. And have comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit is on the move to strengthen the true church (the ones who have a relationship with God Himself) but first there must be either repentance by the pew-warmers or God will clean house Himself. It’s going to get a little crazy but remain humble to God and continue to share God’s grace. :)

  • bob c

    what a bizarre critique:
    he is just discounting other religions, or even just other manifestations of his own religion

    3 things come to mind:

    1. Bethke may be guilty of a strawman, but you seem to know much more than even Bethke know about what he is saying
    2. your writing seems much more about his own journey out of an experience of evangelicalism. certainly a powerful topic, but a little disingenuous to project onto this video
    3. glass house ? before you criticize lame poetry, he may want to improve his skills as a prose writer, or even as a blogger

  • http://www.susanisaacs.net Susan

    Word.

  • Greg Wack

    Thank you, Tony! Jesus said He’d make us fishers of people, but He never said we’d use anything but reality to fish with. No room for the rubber worms of attractive poetry.

    • Nelson

      Why not?? Do you not think that Jesus was a charismatic speaker?

      • Tarbox

        Jesus Christ was a charismatic speaker because He is God, and the beauty in what He spoke is the beauty of Eternal Truth.

        Jesus was not marketing or being a sophist who speaks pretty words with empty meaning. He wasn’t making God and Heaven sound better than they really were. He had no need for embellishment. He spoke 100% substance.

        The video in question benefits from aesthetics though it lacks truly reliable substance. Confidence is persuasive to people who feel impressed by it and let it influence their thoughts. If the guy in the video had not clothed his meaning in poetry and presentation, and instead boiled it down to pure substance, it would have been torn to pieces for its fallacies and errors and few would have seen it.

        Pray for the guy in the video because he just stepped out to influence peoples’ lives as Christians, and he did so with a great deal of error. Assuming a position as a teacher or leader brings down strict judgment, and he’s put his soul in danger. Pray for all false or misguided teachers and leaders, while you’re at it.

        • Colin Campbell

          Tarbox,

          First,

          Interesting position about the state of this guys soul. Have you just assumed a position as a teacher or leader by exhorting us to pray for all false or misguided teachers and leaders?

          If so, then you may have put your soul in danger if your life is not in accordance with the strict standard of judgment that is placed on teachers of the law.

          Wanting to avoid that strict standard, I will state that I am not a teacher of the law or leader. This post is an open dialogue.

          So, second: I take issue with your statement that “[Jesus] had no need for embellishment.”

          I don’t think we could have handled nor understood the 100% substance of Jesus without embellishment.

          Jesus’s teaching is not full of “I am” or “It is finished” but with embellishment. Jesus could have simply replied to the young man who asked him, “Who are my neighbors” with the answer “Everyone, even those you are enemies with.” Instead, He tells the parabel of the Good Samaratin.

          What is the kingdom of heaven like?
          Jesus explains that it is like a mustard seed, or a treasure buried in a field.

          Jesus warns his disciples against the yeast of the pharasees.

          Jesus says that you have to be born again.

          The sermon on the mount continually repeats “Blessed.” Substantively true statements rhetorically embellished by the use of repetition.

          And the parabel of the sowers.

          And Jesus says that he is living water.

          All of these are embellishments of reality. Was Jesus living water, or was he speaking metaphorically?

          Jesus had need of embellishment because
          1. He used embellishment. And
          2. The more nuanced point of my post, we need embellishment to better understand Jesus’s substance.

          • TMAN

            Colin – I think you may have missed why Jesus spoke in parables: They are not “embellishments”, they are “obfuscations”. Jesus spoke in parables in order to hide His message from the masses that initially rejected Him, so that they wouldn’t see, hear and repent, and He should forgive them. Please read Matt 13:10ff; Mark 4:10ff; Luke 8:9ff. All 3 Gospels offer this obfuscation as the reason for Jesus’ use of parables.

            FWIW, you may want to check out how the Apostles treated their “enemies”. They most certainly did NOT treat them as neighbors (Rom 12:19&20 – be sure to read Deut 32:35-43, since that’s the passage Paul is quoting!!), so we either need to redefine “enemies” or we need to see the Apostles as hypocrites.

            Tarbox is merely rephrasing the warning of James 3:1. That doesn’t make him self righteous or condescending about Bethke’s soul.

        • JOhn

          Wait a second.

          If Jesus was God, then he wasn’t a man. Then he couldn’t have died.
          Then he didn’t die for our sins.

          So it was all a joke.

  • Jonathan

    There’s a lot wonderful things you said in this piece, but I can’t help but be turned off by the tone of superiority this article takes. Just as the wedding kiss of two virgins on TLC more resembles a mother bird feeding her young than it does pure passion, I can understand why an initial poem of sexuality might be considered lame by our cultural standards, but I didn’t find that to be in the “Jesus>Religion” video. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As far as his bad theology goes, there are some excellent points you make, but what’s great about our faith is that it doesn’t make you any better or worse than Bethke. It becomes immediately obvious that instead of the word Religion, Bethke most likely means Institutions, and worse, Institutions which presume to judge people; I think a case could be made that the agendas of our world are something Jesus did indeed want us to cast aside, repent, and then follow his agenda. While I agree there are a variety of missteps in this production by way of performance substance (ie., religions did not START wars, they were a convenient means to define the reasons outside of “I’m a king, I want more stuff,”), this is touching a lot of lives with what I feel overall is a Godly, and positive message. Namely, our labels can be used for destructive reasons or good reasons. It’s not the labels that matter, but the good that can be done.

    • Nelson

      Whole-heartedly agree. There may have been some poetic liberties taken, and he most likely meant institutions or religiosity. I think that sometimes we are so quick to throw things out because of slight misnomers or missteps, when I believe that our God is bigger than that and is obviously using Bethke to spread messages that are Biblically pertinent. Over 3,000,000 views in less than 2 days. I’d say that’s incredible. And if nothing else, it makes people step back and think!

      • Kevin

        Exactly! I totally agree with Jonathon and Nelson.

        Thank you

    • Tarbox

      I think few people who see this video will correct the poet on their own, as you did. Instead, they will miss those distinctions. The young, especially, will take up the tagline “religion is bad!” and run with it, because naturalistic humanism is so comfortable and easy. Atheists and humanists simply gain a handhold over Christian youths when they are influenced to adopt the message in this video.

      They will say to Christian youths, “I think religion is bad, too!” I don’t care how much anyone likes this video. There are enemies of Christianity, and our youths should be armed to intelligently stand against them by the grace of God. They will not have zeal if they are confused because this popular video says the same things atheists and naturalistic humanists say.

      I don’t care how much anyone likes this video. A billion beautiful poems that could make us weep with pure joy are not worth one single soul.

      Pray for Bethke. He just set himself up for harsh judgment due to the influence this video will have and the confusion it introduces and reinforces.

      • KElisabeth

        You haven’t made any comments about Nelson’s statement: “I believe our God is bigger than that” which he made in reference to the “missteps” and poor distinctions in the video. The beauty of a God who wrapped himself in culture (our ability to create and give symbols to our thoughts, beliefs, and customs) is that he allows himself to be found, even in the brokenness of our systems…and in our poor poetry. It is lucky for all of us that a requirement of grace isn’t sound theology OR perfect poetry. Actually, its lucky for us that God will use any of our poor attempts (poetical videos or intellectual blogs) to persuade people of all faith to consider Him for who He truly is.
        From my side of the street, I am a student of Jesus who watched the “religious” leaders in several religious institutions throw around accusations, create lies, and seek the “power” of their authority (which they assumed they had because of their education and their theological prowess) over the actual people and their relational, practical, and spiritual needs, causing untold numbers of people to rebuke God completely. It seems that Bethke’s intention, aside form the valid critiques that Jonathan offers, are to show the disinfranchised people (the “I’m never going back there to that institution” ones) that God is so far beyond the theologies and the doctrines. Is he in them? Yes, in one sense – but he’s not defined by them. Bethke’s experience isn’t meant to be a doctrinal statement, but an artistic piece through which God can still be used if He so chooses. While there are pieces of created culture pieces that can cause great harm, I’m not convinced Bethke’s work is one of them. Whether we like it or not doesn’t mean anything for the vast numbers of people who are seeing it, and finding something of Truth in Bethke’s words. While praying for Bethke, let’s include prayers for the people who see his work. If we believe our God changes hearts (Bethke’s), then we believe he can work through Bethke’s piece and change the hearts of those who are listening, yes?

      • TMAN

        Tarbox – you’re right on.
        My niece, who works at a scantily-clad sports bar, pointed to this video on FB and said “AMEN!” She, like millions of others, lack the discernment to navigate Bethke’s poorly-worded video.

        Clearly Bethke means well – his sentiments on sin and personal confession before a holy God is desperately needed in this iGeneration. But his presentation is far too sloppy, and this is not good!

        For the rest of you beating up on Tarbox, dismiss yourselves of the notion that God always lovingly glosses over ill-conceived and inaccurate Gospel efforts:

        Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matt 23:15, ESV)

        He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.’ (Matt 15:13-14, ESV [sarcasm]*Gasp! Leave blind people alone so they fall into the ditch??? I thought God was going to gloss over their bad theology and save them both!)

        “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt 7:21-23, ESV)

        If God treats His Word with such solemnity, we should likewise.

  • bob c

    Thanks for the wonderful posture you embodied in your comment, Jonathan. Wish that was something folks who critiqued Bethke could embody as well.

  • Taylor

    More people will understand the word religion more than any other word that he could have used, it is what sums up the meaning of what he is taking about. He challenging others to take a look at what God’s grace is, instead following the rules that Jesus ended. You may not like he’s style of saying it, but I believe you are being rude. While you have good points, how often are you challenging others to take a step back from what church culture is and to look at what Jesus came to do. I have to say I’m disappointed in this blog, you are tearing down someone who believes in Christ, and to you he may be off a little bit by using certain words but you should reach out to him about it instead of showing everyone one the negative parts of his beautiful outreach.

    • MsJane

      Amen! The theme of scripture falls on Loving God & Loving Others. Regardless of our disagreements on theology, you cannot deny that cutting each other down simply makes the devil smile. That’s right, I said it. Ya’ll made the devil smile by cutting the poet down. He loves Christ and therefore He is our brother. If you disagree with his theology, then as a brother you should correct him. If you’re a stranger, then you’re just gossiping. If you truly love God, then this one should come easier than some comments have made it sound.

      • sdf

        Sounds good and very loving. What do you think of Bethke gossiping about several billion of his brothers?

      • Rawness

        Beautifully said. His passion is clear and I find it sickening that other “Christians” are knocking him down. Once again, a clear indication of the continued judgement of religion. I wonder if he was not “rapping” to make it rhym, wore a tie and took out his “republican” comment, would there be such a disagreement, but instead a young man, who clearly loves Jesus, yet is tired of religion and the judgements made by it, is using a more modern approach to his theology, he is ridiculed. Let the religion go and embrace the passion people. He has people talking about Christ. That in itself, is awesome.

        • Anonymous

          @Rawness Actually I liked the comment about Republicans and agree that we need to make sure faith in Jesus is not reduced to a political party or how someone dresses. Clearly the guy has a real passion. Those who like the article though are concerned about a toxic trend that rejects the church.. the gathering of the followers of Jesus. Personally I think the answer to problems with the church is not to criticize others, but to simply offer an authentic expression of Jesus’ life in us. So I would not criticize “religion” or we end up judging others in their attempt to follow Him.

    • sam

      did Jesus not say that whoever is not against us is for us? (Mark 9v40)

    • megan

      amen!

  • DeLyn

    Hm. Critics, artists, snobs, sinners, and saints: I would ask you to examine the use of the word “lame” to describe a work of art that does not move you, or anything else you find to be “bad” or “stupid.” Just like it is inappropriate to use the term “gay” or “retarded,” as a pejorative term out of respect for those who are gay or mentally retarded, how about if we don’t disrespect people who cannot walk by using the word “lame?” Thanks!

    • Rawness

      Thank you :)

    • megan

      AMEN.

    • qwerty

      Lame is lame; there’s no need to be so thin-skinned.

      He did make some good points in the video, but the poetry was definitely lame. Maybe he should just stay away from poetry and preach the message a different way.

  • http://rainandtherhinoceros.wordpress.com R.O. Flyer

    How is this bad theology? The abolition of religion is at the heart of the gospel (there is neither Jew nor Greek; neither circumcision nor uncircumcision). In fact, the critique of religion is precisely what drives the theology of Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer–probably the two most important Protestant theologians of the twentieth century. The idea that this can be dismissed as bad theology is really strange, especially coming from an evangelical.

    • Justathought

      I think the heart of what Jesus was doing was saving us from our sins and our shortcomings. He was abolishing the law when he came, telling us that we didn’t have to do anything to receive the grace he was giving. He wasn’t abolishing religion. And also when he speaks of Jew and Gentile he is speaking of differing races (or ethnic groups), not different religions. He was making known that God’s love is for all people! He spoke in synagogues and so did Paul. Do their methods not seem to be inline with organized religion and not against it? The curtain was torn in two because he wanted to show that through Christ he reached down to us and redeemed us. That wasn’t a sign of abolishing religion. I feel like he would have destroyed the entire temple if that’s what he was going for.

      • Thomas

        Actually, you have that exactly wrong. Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. His words, not mine.

      • megan

        Jesus wasn’t abolishing religion, which is true. But, of what it became. He came and spoke truth to the Pharisees of the church. When the poet said “religion” I don’t think he was taking it quite literally, yet in a stereotypical view point of the word. I think now how religion brings segregation which is not in the heart of the LORD, because the He is all about relationships.

    • http://wearebecoming.org Cody Stauffer

      It’s interesting, and ironic, that you reference two labels in this comment in a (seemingly) positive light- Protestant and Evangelical.

    • TMAN

      > How is this bad theology?

      To say that Jesus came to destroy religion is simply unbiblical, ergo, bad theology!

      Unlike this video, Jesus *commands* us to follow His religion.

      *Regeneration* is not about works, it is about grace.
      But *sanctification* is all about works! If you have no works, you have no faith (James 2:17, 26)

      We are *made* for good works (Eph 2:10)
      We are commanded to practice “pure and undefiled religion” (James 1:26-27)

      “Works” is religion.

      If Barth & Bonhoeffer don’t understand this, have them read Jesus, Paul, James, Peter, Hebrews, etc. (or perhaps you didn’t understand them??)

      What Bethke meant, I’m sure, is that Jesus came to abolish “FALSE religion”. I trust we can all see that “false religion” and “religion” are *n*o*t* the same thing (especially since the Bible commands one and condemns the other).

  • Hollie

    You have a right to your opinion, which also lacks theological foundations. If only every word defined by dictionary.com were adherent to their definitions.. But they’re not. Culture is what really defines videos that are making statemenrs like this. Religion, outside of its Webster definition, is primarily cultural. If you haven’t experienced the American culture of religion that Jefferson is referring to then I am not surprised you chose to offer such an “educated” rebuttal.

    I think this article is lame and you are lame. Good news for you, Jesus heals the lame

  • http://www.brynnabegins.com Brynna (Brynna Begins)

    THANK YOU. This video made no sense to me. I strongly agreed with his presentation of the gospel and calling out “Sunday Christians,” as you call them… but nowhere do his blows to religion line up with either each other or to religion as we know it.

  • Rachel Maes

    So, all I would say, is right or wrong, or in- between,whatever you see as wrong with this guy, how does being an arrogant ass fix it? My 2 cents…

    • Jason L.

      Mrs.Racheal Maes ,

      The blogger vehemently denouncing notions advocated by someone and NOT being namby-pamby does *not* make them an arrogant ass .

      Where do you get such weird postmodernist thinking that alleges that denouncing the notions that people advocate is somehow tantamount to arrogance ?????

    • David

      Rachel,

      All I would say is right or wrong, or in-between, whatever you see as wrong with this blog post, how does being an arrogant ass fix it? My 2 cents…

  • M Burke

    “The abolition of religion is at the heart of the gospel ”

    Not according to James the brother of Jesus.

    James 1:27
    Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

    But that’s just the Bible.

    • Hannah

      Gotta say…I’ve been to a lot of churches. None of them do that. They take care of there members to an extent, but the community? Not unless there’s a disaster, like an earthquake. And even then…

      • bud

        you’re going to the wrong churches.

      • http://wearebecoming.org Cody Stauffer

        I have to agree with bud. There have been many churches that took Jesus’ (and the Bible’s) call to help/identify with the poor very seriously. If I’m not mistaken, they were derided by the Evangelical and Fundamentalist church not that long ago (historically speaking) for pushing “the social gospel.” Now that the Evangelical church is growing a conscience about these kinds of things (after growing many, many mega-churches first), it seems a bit unfair to claim “ownership rights” and put down others who have already been doing this stuff (sacrificing time and resources aplenty to help out humanity) for at least a century as “mere religion” because they may also perform some rituals (as all faith traditions do, Evangelical’s included).

    • megan

      That is what Bethke said in his poem… He quoted scripture too.

  • Rachel Maes

    “There’s a lot of wonderful things you said in this piece, but I can’t help but be turned off by the tone of superiority this article takes.” Gotta agree with Jonathan here.

  • The Jones

    I think the Jesus > Religion comes out of a larger theological point. That point is summarized when he says in the poem/rap,

    “the problem with religion is that it never gets to the core, it’s just behavior modification like a long list of chores.”

    What he brings up has been brought up by others including Mark Driscoll (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqcPqtfU-eo), Matt Chandler (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQBMMQmSFUs), and John Piper (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG3ibFULktE) in a very articulate manner.

    Religion sees Jesus leading to action which leads to being made right in the sight of God. But the gospel or Jesus or whatever you want to call it is different. The gospel sees Jesus leading to being made right in the sight of God, which in turn leads to action. This is a very important point, and it is expounded upon by others including J. Gresham Machen (in Christianity and Liberalism) and others.

    I don’t think it is bad theology, although some may disagree. I also do not think all of it contains false dichotomies, although there are some, and I assume that is fostered by the artistic constraint of making his theological treatise rhyme and stay under 5 minutes. I won’t speak to the artistic quality of the video, but I think we first need to cover the fact that the author of this article does not seem to understand the issue being covered in this Youtube video by Jeff Bethke.

    • M. Brandon

      Spot on!

  • A. B.

    This article makes you sound like a modern day pharisee.

    • GS

      Best 10 words on this entire feed.

  • M Burke

    Dear Paul,
    While we appreciate your letter to us, but we must take issue with your tone. You come off arrogant and superior to us and our brethren the Judiazers. We hope in the future you might seek to find common ground with those who are ignorant of the truth and preach a gospel leading to hell.
    The Galatians

    • Anonymous

      Ahahaha, I have to agree completely

  • Ricardo

    Should someone remind him that God gave a description of pure and undefiled religion in His Word?

  • Sojourner_Truth

    I have to agree with the other posters, so tired of the Christian theological one-upsmanship. There is a proper way for Christians to disagree, and articles like this always cross the line.

    I totally agree with you on the poet’s abuse of the term religion. I almost posted this video on FB myself, but realized before posting that a whole spectrum of Christians could interpret this in the wrong way.

    Baby Christians decide they don’t want to attend church anymore because it’s just a bunch of hypocrites anyway. The more mature Christian questions the poets theological bent toward tearing down the walls of religion, but fails to grasp that he’s talking junk about Christ’s bride. Albeit imperfect, but spotless in His own eyes, due to Christs’ redemptive sacrifice on the cross. All of these images danced through my head and blocked my index finger from hitting the post button. LOL

    Also, to call it lame because he jumps off topic negates the concept of artistic freedom and what we find in arts like spoken word, freestyle rhymin and hip-hop. I’m black so I know what I’m talking about. LOL – Just messin’. It’s free expression man, lighten up!

    I think you went a little too heady and theological on this piece. It really touches some people, but not others. That’s art bruh.

    Kind of reminds me of what was touched on in the last Elephant room debate. Too much focus on theology and doctrine creates theology and doctrine nerds, and not enough people who translate that doctrine and theology into love.

    • MsJane

      I like your last sentence, well I love the whole comment, but its so true. Theological nerds pushed me away from the church. It was CHRIST who brought me back, not the religion of do this & don’t do that. All we need is love. All we need is love, love, love, love is all we need.

    • Emily Polci

      Amen to that! Christ is what it is all about, and any one who has the guts to publicly proclaim the love of Jesus has it right, no matter which way they go about it.

    • Anon. love

      YES! Your last sentence….”Too much focus on theology and doctrine creates theology and doctrine nerds, and not enough people who translate that doctrine and theology into love.” LOVE IT!!! I fully AGREE! Some have mentioned that yes this blogger makes a point, but his tone, or him approaching it on a high horse, and the use of “lame”..etc.. was wrong and I agree. I’m thinking, “Aren’t we all Christians here?” Yet we’re tearing each other down, smh. Let’s not forget another verse, 1 Corinthians 16:14 AMP
      “Let everything you do be done in love (true love to God and man as inspired by God’s love for us).” I wonder if he, the blogger, was lead by love on this one? Well, like someone else posted we need love, love, love, love!!! God is love!

  • Pingback: Lame | Adam G. Fischer

  • jeff

    where did Jesus call the religious whores? While Jesus did not put up with the false teachings/actions of the religious of his day, He did not come to abolish religion. he came to set captives free, to heal the broken hearted and to die in our place so that we could live eternally. he came that we would have life ABUNDANTLY.

  • Patrick M

    I think you’re misunderstood, taking it personal, and probably a lukewarm Christian. He’s right, a religion is a bunch of chores a person ought to do to get to Heaven. Christ told us to follow, believe, and Love Him. There is no ‘jump through this hoop and don’t eat that and do not EVER slaughter a cow!’ … I think you missed the whole point of his poem dude, sad for you :/ The poet is trying to encourage people to seek the tender and gentle love of Christ. You ought to take this article down. It’s just more ammo for more negative people…

  • http://www.seeprestonblog.com Preston Yancey

    This is excellent.

    For those in the comments who like to to take the approach that we should criticize fellow Christians because we’re “all the same,” we may do well to recall that all having the righteousness of Christ has not made us all, at the same time, equally right when it comes to moral, ethical, and ultimately theological questions. Some were given the gift of prophecy and teaching, others were not. Let the teachers teach.

  • Abi

    Matthew 18:15-17 ESV

    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses

  • Lena

    Humble yourself, you are not better than anyone else, ok so you might know more than this boy, and clearly he used the wrong word here, but please, humble yourself.

    • sdf

      Tell it to the boy who deemed himself qualified to condemn billions of people as white-washed tombs.

      • megan

        He wasn’t condemning them he was telling them the truth…. If you feel offended are you insecure over the truth he was speaking? God does the same thing He will encourage, but He also tells you the truth that will help you grow. Why would he be condemning them? He admitted he did the same thing in the past, yet now he is enlightened.

        • sdf

          You’re obviously a heretical Evangelical who is going to hell. If you feel offended by my saying that you should understand that I’m not condemning you, just telling the truth. I admit I used to be the same thing, but now I’m enlightened.

  • jeff

    if Jesus came to abolish religion, then he failed, right? there is as much religion today as ever. thankfully for us, he didn’t/couldn’t fail. He came to conquer death and sin and to provide a way for us to live with him in heaven eternally. Glory to God for that.

    • Matt

      By your logic then Christ failed, because there still exists death and sin in the world, in fact there’s more now than before, check yourself! English is a living language, the use of religion by modern people most frequently refers to a set of rules related to faith, ie: What the Pharisees were good at, and Christ did condemn them for it!

      • megan

        Actually Matt, what you are saying is that Christ failed… Christ did NOT fail. He died for our sins, yet there is still death and sin in this world His blood covers our sins so that when God looks down on us He sees us spotless. And Pharisees were judgmental towards people and arrogant. If you thought the Pharisees were doing what was good then you have a wrong biblical understanding of how they were. Jesus didn’t condemn the Pharisees, but He told them the truth. God loves the the Pharisees He created them and knows them deeply, and he told them the truth because He loved them and wanted them to get rid of their negativity to draw them closer to Him.

  • http://mrssmithcooks.wordpress.com Traci

    I think this article is extremely harsh and does nothing to further respectful dialog among Christians with differing views. The post is dissecting the theology of this kid as if the poem came from a world class theology scholar. It came from a young kid, (what is he? 20? 25?) who is expressing how Jesus changed his life and is feeling now disillusioned with some of the pitfalls of organized religion. Can we critique the theology in here? Sure. I might even say that we *should* dialogue about it, but saying that it’s lame, it’s shit, it’s all of those things that are said in this article (and the comments on it) are, in my view, shameful. If this kid were in my youth group, I’d be proud… of the artistry, of the attempt to encourage dialog… of the honesty. I might think “eh, let’s chat about some of your theological views sometime” but I’d stand up and clap first.

    • sdf

      He’s obviously talking as much or more to those who have made this silliness go viral than to the kid himself. Evangelicalism’s knee-jerk reaction against “religion” is theologically indefensible and dangerous.

    • Justathought

      The way some people have interpreted this video though would lend itself to say that he’d never be in a youth group because they equate religion with church. Definitions are crucial here and everyone has their own. The blog says, “‎See the problem is, Bethke doesn’t mean religion either.” And to dismiss him as just a kid in the youth group seems harsh to me, too (1 Timothy 4:12). He has many videos that are influencing many people. And everyone is a theologian in their own way because we all have our own thoughts on who God is. Many people are just falling in line with this guy’s theology.

  • Colin

    Both Jeff’s video and this article are arrogant in nature.

  • Mark L

    im sorry, but I think this entry completely misses the point and comes off as kinda smug. If you assume he uses the word “religion” colloquially, literally this whole entry is moot. So he’s using arguments that “New Atheists” would, so what? Aren’t they the ones we should be spreading the message to most? He sounds like a genuine Christian, so I don’t know why so many want to tear this down. There *are* a lot of inconsistencies between how Christians act and how they are called to act (and Christians *have* started wars which is much more extreme than “Sunday Christians”), and I don’t think bringing attention to that is a bad thing. A lot of people’s complaints (including above) seem to be about inadequate arguments… its a 4 minute video produced to spread the Gospel and inspire, not a dissertation. Even still, the whole blog entry fails to realize that his usage of the word is not websters, but how the word is actually being used by most people I know outside of church. Just saying…

  • jeff

    Traci, you make a really good point,he seems like a very sincere young man. but the concern is that over 2.5 million people have already viewed this and while it is really interesting, it is loaded with things that arent in the Bible. in addition, he now has other videos out there with even more flawed theology. i agree that words like shit are not necessary and attacking but i do think we are responsible to dissect truth in EVERYTHING we read and measure it against Gods word. if the theology isnt strong isnt it ok to point that out (albiet in a kind way)?

  • Michael

    What disturbs me is that this guy sets everyone up claiming to embody the non-religous Gospel of Christ — but I’m fairly certain he would reject same-sex couples.

    I think he’s just another burdensome Evangelical in non-religious clothing.

    • qwerty

      He’s not saying God’s law doesn’t matter…he would object to murder, too, as would you.

  • jd

    When I first saw this poem, I thought some of the same things you did. His attacks on religion, acting as if religion is inherently bad and Christ came to destroy religion is simply wrong… (Paul clearly states religion can be good, it is just that it goes beyond just religion)

    …but I must also constructively criticize your article. By calling him lame, along with other petty insults and a sense of superiority and arrogance in your writing, it is clear that the article lacks love. How will this article benefit someone who enjoyed the poem? It will only cause them to get defensive and reject your message due to the negative tone of your article. In that sense your article fails its purpose.

    Instead of talking down to people, talk with them with a strong feeling of love and explain the flaws of his video. But love is not in this article.

    • bob c

      what a gorgeous reflection jd – this is particularly resonate:

      Instead of talking down to people, talk with them with a strong feeling of love and explain the flaws of his video. But love is not in this article.

  • Andrew Mason

    Jonathan,

    I thank you for your post. There’s nothing I love more than a good critique. You make some good points here; however, I think it may be important to note that Bethke has made no distinction between other world religions and Christianity. It seems that Bethke is making a critique within his own “religion.” In the same way that Christians misinterpret the words of Jesus, it is not too far fetched to think that you have done the same with Bethke’s. You state, “Thus, rather than discounting religion, he is just discounting other religions, or even just other manifestations of his own religion.” I would argue that it’s not “or even just other manifestation of his own religion,” but simply, he IS strictly discounting manifestations of his own religion. That’s my interpretation.

  • Connor

    Honestly, I have been bothered by the numerous posts and reposts my friends have been making on Facebook concerning this clip. To me, this video feels like just another emotion-driven bandwagon that makes many generalizations to appeal to a large crowd. A crowd either not carefully examining the actual message, or one that comes from a similar life experience as Bethke. Yes, sadly, experiences like this do exist. I’m not trying to deny that or slyly avoid the subject, but Ido know so-called “religious people” who have deeper relationships with Christ than I’ve ever seen. I don’t believe that attacking religion as a whole will fix the problem. I appreciate your candid response to Bethke’s video, at least someone did it.

  • Shirley Ostrander

    Please do a bit of research on the word ‘lame’ as it relates to ableism. I agree with many of your points, but you lost credibility (and my support) because of your word choices…

  • Curtis

    Jonathan, thank you for posting this.

    And Shirley, research denotes looking at more than one source. Lame has several connotations depending on the context in which it is written.

    lame: weak; inadequate; unsatisfactory; clumsy: “a lame excuse.”

  • not important

    It’s funny because your critique has about as little substance as the poem you claim as lame.

    You’re really reaching and this comes off as a personal vendetta more than anything.

  • Andrew

    Jonathan Fitzgerald and you too Tony Jones (God knows I love you both),

    After reading some of the responses to your blog post and comment, I must say, you both have really f***ed up. You have dichotomized and alienated your argument. Why would anyone who doesn’t see it as we do listen? The truth is, they won’t! I appreciate your honesty; however, people who may have been open to periodically reading your blogs, comments, articles, books, etc. have now been turned off by your arrogance. The chasm that exists between “liberal” and “conservative” Christians alike has been widened. Quit perpetuating the problem.

    Love,
    One of Your Fans

  • Cam

    Even being a Reformed Christian I agree with you.

  • Sheila

    You know I liked this poem. Not because he’s a perfect theologian. He comes across full of heart…I’m not sure if he was trying to appeal to the masses in a self aggrandizing way…I kind of “listened between the lines.” And the only thing I really heard is that Jesus is crazy about me. If feels to me that your reaction is more “personal”, and that’s ok. Your reaction kind of amazes me. I mean, we all see in part. I wouldn’t try to shut this young man down because of what you think is imperfect theology. We’re all on the path…I happen to feel he is pointed in the right direction…pointed toward Christ Jesus. We all see in part, prophecy in part. The students I teach would listen to him and be drawn to look for this man Jesus he speaks of…they wouldn’t be microscopically tearing his words apart. Not lame or inadequate to me.

    • sdf

      Those who put themselves forward as teachers are held to a higher standard.

      • A

        The video guy doesn’t put himself forward as a teacher. He puts himself forward as a poet.

        • Colin Campbell

          ^^YES!

  • Jonathan Merritt

    I think a case–an exegetical one–can be made that the gospel calls us away from religion. Not religion in terms of formalism or rituals (both can be redemptive) but in terms of a way of being that seeks acceptance or spiritual fulfillment outside of Christ (either explicitly or implicitly). At the same time I thought the video was bad poetry. Just bad. And the second I watched it I noticed the glib and inconsistent theologies. Good thoughts. Much needed.

  • Pingback: (Its ok To Critique) Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus « Let's Talk About It.

  • Anonymous

    The biggest problem: every word has a certain connotation attached to it. To some, Bethke especially, the connotation that “religion” brings tends to be negative– consisting of ritualistic practices which change outward appearance but do nothing to change the inside. To others, the word “religion” has a strongly positive connotation. Certainly dictionary.com defines the word one way, but the way in which that word is actually received by society is far less concise. Just as using the word “lame” was offensive to some readers, I truly believe the Fitzgerald had no intent to offend people with such diction. Rather, I believe his intent was to express his disgust with Bethke’s video by using words that he felt would strongly express his frustration with the video and thereby get the attention of readers.

    Furthermore, I believe Bethke’s use of the word “religious” and Jesus’s attempt to abolish it has far more truth than is credited by Fitzgerald. Jesus constantly rebuked the religious leaders of the day, saying that they essentially care more about outward appearance than inward change. I think it’s safe to say that there are numerous Pharisees and Sadducess living in today’s world professing to be righteous, but having no inward change. This is the “religion” that I believe Bethke is speaking of. Perhaps those who look at his video strictly from a scholarly perspective are missing the point: the video wasn’t intended for scholarly audiences in the first place. As someone early wisely said, this isn’t a disseration. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t credible. Albeit it may be misleading to those who are scholarly but lack a grasp on the slang and verbage of modern culture.

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  • Joe

    The biggest problem: every word has a certain connotation attached to it. To some, Bethke especially, the connotation that “religion” brings tends to be negative– consisting of ritualistic practices which change outward appearance but do nothing to change the inside. To others, the word “religion” has a strongly positive connotation. Certainly dictionary.com defines the word one way, but the way in which that word is actually received by society is far less concise. Just as using the word “lame” was offensive to some readers, I truly believe the Fitzgerald had no intent to offend people with such diction. Rather, I believe his intent was to express his disgust with Bethke’s video by using words that he felt would strongly express his frustration with the video and thereby get the attention of readers.

    Furthermore, I believe Bethke’s use of the word “religious” and Jesus’s attempt to abolish it has far more truth than is credited by Fitzgerald. Jesus constantly rebuked the religious leaders of the day, saying that they essentially care more about outward appearance than inward change. I think it’s safe to say that there are numerous Pharisees and Sadducess living in today’s world professing to be righteous, but having no inward change. This is the “religion” that I believe Bethke is speaking of. Perhaps those who look at his video strictly from a scholarly perspective are missing the point: the video wasn’t intended for scholarly audiences in the first place. As someone early wisely said, this isn’t a disseration. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t credible. Albeit it may be misleading to those who are scholarly but lack a grasp on the slang and verbage of modern culture.

    • sdf

      We have a word for such people and you had to use it to talk about them. It’s not “religious,” it’s “pharisee.”

      • Joe

        Would you care to elaborate on your point? I’m missing the critique, if there is one.

    • Brian

      I think regardless of whether you hold a theological degree or not, everyone who has posted here will agree that Jesus consistently rebuked the religious leaders of his day for their hypocrisy. But that does not equate to abolishing or even critiquing religion. I think that is what sdf is getting at hypocrisy is what Jesus was against, and we now have the term “pharisee” to refer to any form of religious hypocrisy, rather than just calling them “religious”.

      • Joe

        All religious people are hypocrits to some degree. No one on this planet apart from Jesus was or is able to perfectly abide by their religion perfectly. So pharisee or religious person, the terms mean the same thing. In comparison to modern times, the Pharisees were far more religious than many of those we would consider to be religious today.

  • K

    Why is it that anything that gets the general public interested in Jesus *immediately* comes under attack by the Christian community?

    • sdf

      This hasn’t gone viral among the general public. It’s gone viral among Evangelical Christians. It’s this video that is an attack on the Christian community, not the negative responses to it. Evangelicalism is schizophrenic.

      • Joe

        “Schizophrenic”? If you are going to make such a brash claim, why don’t you at least defend it?

      • K

        lol I’m not an evangelical Christian. Not sure what schizophrenia has to do with this though.

        • Joe

          Not you, K. Sdf is the one who made the comment about schizophrenia.

      • K

        Also, you didn’t answer the question. Since you’ve taken it upon yourself to do so all throughout this thread. Just thought I’d mention.

        • Joe

          I don’t think you are refering to me, K, because I am the one who asked the question. But, since I’m the one who is in dialogue with you, I’d just like to point that out.

  • http://roadtothecross.wordpress.com laurengracie

    One thing to remember is that language evolves. Words take on new meanings. And to this generation, “religion” does not equal its dictionary definition. The word “religion”, for 18-25 year olds of today, has come to be synonymous with “pharisaical.” the issue is not with his intent, but with a miscommunication of word meanings. I wrote a blog post a while back discrediting the whole “no religion, just a relationship” viewpoint. but since then, hearing more about it and seeking to understand, I’ve come to realize that they’re not being heretical. they’re trying to say something that matters to THEIR generation, and people of the previous generation who know the real definition of “religion” are getting all up in arms because they don’t understand the transition.

  • http://www.sacrificialpoet.com Jesus Poetry Slam

    Let me get this straight. Some young poet goes viral telling people all over the known universe that Jesus is the answer to everything and you write a blog quibbling over details. Are you serious? Jeff is my brother.

    Give me one good reason to believe in this fairytale God-story that raises more questions than answers.

    Give me the one word—lock, stock, and barrel.

    Give it to me point blank,
                fired;
                a one shot, forget-me-not, over-the-top, high caliber, rifled word,
                slamming truth past treadmills;
                run-of-the-mill, lame excuses;
                poured out hotter than lukewarm objections.

    There are more questions than answers.

    Give me an opportunity,
                because I’m willing to take it.

    Give me an opening for hoping,
                because death isn’t just a monster I imagine,
                crouching under bedtime stories;
                lights out fairytale-gory
                with no real danger;
                it’s coming.

    We’ve all got it coming.

    There’s no hiding quietly under the covers;
                no holding our breath, listening to others;
                no falling asleep, waking up rested;
                it’s coming—give me one word.

    Give me something so absurd
                that I have a reason to reason;

    Give me a too-close-for-comfort, comfortable epiphany—
                one I can dig in and grow from;
                something I can walk on and know I’m
                getting somewhere.

    Something simple, to keep me coming back for more,
                so I can fall down
                and get back up
                and stay alert.

    Give me the dirt.

    Give me the dirt, becoming alive;
                turning dust into dreams
                because this is what it means to be human.

    Give me the dirt, suffocating seeds,
                making rotted hulls into fruit and weeds;
                then grass chewed into bone and muscle;
                a bloodbath, meat-machine,
                feeding brainstem impulses with lightning bolt instinct.

    Give me the dirt, twisted into double-helix recipes for mud-pie transcendence;
                a paradise of sadness, and beauty;
                lost, snake-whisperers from the garden;
                rejection, falling;
                no protection—calling for help now.

    Because here is insanity ;
                dirt, holding thoughts of eternity—like broken promises;
                like an accident waiting to happen;
                a soul-factory run amok
                counting on luck
                and throwing blame like rotten apples at everything that moves
                because death isn’t ready for life yet.

    So give me the dirt
                winded into minds,
                folded into thoughts growing older than bodies,
                making souls out of memories and mystery and
                still missing the point

    That we are absurd,
                we, spoken words,
                written into dust;
                poetry in proteins;
                amino acid adventures;
                prose, still waiting for answers.

    This is my reason to believe, a fairytale God-poet
                writing souls on eternity
                with dust.

    And just because we read it wrong
                doesn’t mean it’s bad poetry.

  • http://www.sacrificialpoet.com Phil Long

    Let me get this straight. Some young poet goes viral telling people all over the known universe that Jesus is the answer to everything and you write a blog quibbling over details. Are you serious? Jeff is my brother.

    Give me one good reason to believe in this fairytale God-story that raises more questions than answers.

    Give me the one word—lock, stock, and barrel.

    Give it to me point blank,
                fired;
                a one shot, forget-me-not, over-the-top, high caliber, rifled word,
                slamming truth past treadmills;
                run-of-the-mill, lame excuses;
                poured out hotter than lukewarm objections.

    There are more questions than answers.

    Give me an opportunity,
                because I’m willing to take it.

    Give me an opening for hoping,
                because death isn’t just a monster I imagine,
                crouching under bedtime stories;
                lights out fairytale-gory
                with no real danger;
                it’s coming.

    We’ve all got it coming.

    There’s no hiding quietly under the covers;
                no holding our breath, listening to others;
                no falling asleep, waking up rested;
                it’s coming—give me one word.

    Give me something so absurd
                that I have a reason to reason;

    Give me a too-close-for-comfort, comfortable epiphany—
                one I can dig in and grow from;
                something I can walk on and know I’m
                getting somewhere.

    Something simple, to keep me coming back for more,
                so I can fall down
                and get back up
                and stay alert.

    Give me the dirt.

    Give me the dirt, becoming alive;
                turning dust into dreams
                because this is what it means to be human.

    Give me the dirt, suffocating seeds,
                making rotted hulls into fruit and weeds;
                then grass chewed into bone and muscle;
                a bloodbath, meat-machine,
                feeding brainstem impulses with lightning bolt instinct.

    Give me the dirt, twisted into double-helix recipes for mud-pie transcendence;
                a paradise of sadness, and beauty;
                lost, snake-whisperers from the garden;
                rejection, falling;
                no protection—calling for help now.

    Because here is insanity ;
                dirt, holding thoughts of eternity—like broken promises;
                like an accident waiting to happen;
                a soul-factory run amok
                counting on luck
                and throwing blame like rotten apples at everything that moves
                because death isn’t ready for life yet.

    So give me the dirt
                winded into minds,
                folded into thoughts growing older than bodies,
                making souls out of memories and mystery and
                still missing the point

    That we are absurd,
                we, spoken words,
                written into dust;
                poetry in proteins;
                amino acid adventures;
                prose, still waiting for answers.

    This is my reason to believe, a fairytale God-poet
                writing souls on eternity
                with dust.

    And just because we read it wrong
                doesn’t mean it’s bad poetry.

  • Anonymous

    Tony, this expressed so many of my thoughts in a coherent manner. When I initially listened to it I found it so hard to follow because he was moving so quickly through biblical images as well as topics that I was like….. Hold up! I think you hit what was really bothering me though: His casual dismissal of organized religion. He is a part of that, he is a part of an organization that supports a certain set of beliefs and enables him to put out videos like this. One of my friends Cullen Tanner put it like this, “But for most, religion is simply a system of belief. It gives us practical ways to make our faith tangible. I don’t want people to get so hung upon the word “religion” that they turn their back on the church, which is Christ’s body, and without it, you’re faith can’t last.”— Without the Porch community and other bodies of faith like it, it’s possible that my faith too would flounder.

  • Alexander Ehrich

    Tony, this expressed so many of my thoughts in a coherent manner. When I initially listened to it I found it so hard to follow because he was moving so quickly through biblical images as well as topics that I was like….. Hold up! I think you hit what was really bothering me though: His casual dismissal of organized religion. He is a part of that, he is a part of an organization that supports a certain set of beliefs and enables him to put out videos like this. One of my friends Cullen Tanner put it like this, “But for most, religion is simply a system of belief. It gives us practical ways to make our faith tangible. I don’t want people to get so hung upon the word “religion” that they turn their back on the church, which is Christ’s body, and without it, you’re faith can’t last.”— Without the Porch community and other bodies of faith like it, it’s possible that my faith too would flounder.

  • Chuck R

    You sir, are all law, no gospel.

    • sdf

      The video, sir, is all emotion, no gospel.

      • Spencer

        awesome :)

        • daniel Ter Haar

          There is freedom in the Law, thats why God gave it to us.

      • megan

        To SDF– im in Christian Doctrine class… And I every class we point out the law and gospel in many verses in the Bible. This video had gospel in it. I do not understand what you are talking about… prove it maybe? Some words to prove it is that the guy said

        “Religion says do, Jesus says done.” (the gospel in that is that there is nothing we have to make him love us more.”)

        “Religion sets you free.” (The gospel in that was quite obv)

  • Noel Orellano

    1) So the article starts off in typical form….the looking at the outward appearance of Jeff Bethke. (pathetic) Secondly, to me at least it is pretty clear that Jesus preached a message contrary to the religious formality of the day. He came and preached that he was the Saviour of the world. 3) He is correct when he says that Bethke is bashing religion aka the churches “list of behavior modifications.4) “Far more harm then good…? Get real.

  • Noel Orellano

    1) So the article starts off in typical form….the looking at the outward appearance of Jeff Bethke. (pathetic) Secondly, to me at least it is pretty clear that Jesus preached a message contrary to the religious formality of the day. He came and preached that he was the Saviour of the world. 3) He is correct when he says that Bethke is bashing religion aka the churches “list of behavior modifications.4) “Far more harm then good…? Get real.

  • That Guy

    This is honestly the most pointless response to a video. My guess that the only reason it was written was because of the popularity that this video achieved, and you are attempting to piggy back off of its popularity. Sure it is not theologically sound, but it is poetry, so who cares. No one is creating a religion off of this video.
    I may just be that guy, but i honestly laughed at how ridiculous all the things you wrote were.

    keep it real

  • Marcelo

    I keep seeing people saying that religion doesn’t start wars. What about the Crusades? Those were horrible, enduring, bloody wars, and they were created by religion. By a simple misunderstanding of a few verses in the Bible. The Church supported them, funded them, and based them. That sounds like a war started by religion to me. “Kill the Heathens”? Yeah. Can you say Jihad? The Muslims have been instructed by their religion to kill unbelievers. Their religion rewards it.

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  • http://setfreefromtheic.wordpress.com Set Free Indeed

    I think this post is just mean-spirited. You really haven’t addressed any doctrines which are incorrect in the video with bible, this is just an uneducated rant where you just choose to insult this BROTHER IN THE LORD without seeing where he is coming from.

    One you know what this brother means by “religion” not only is he correct, he can PROVE with with a proper handling of the scriptures.

    SO WHAT IS RELIGION?

    So glad you asked!

    Merriam-Webster defines religion as:

    1a : the state of a religious

    b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural

    (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

    2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

    3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness

    4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

    In the bible whenever the word is used (In particular James 1:26-27)

    thrēskeia (From Blue Letter Bible)

    1) religious worship

    a) esp. external, that which consists of ceremonies

    1) religious discipline, religion

    The word “religion” in English is used again in Galatians 1:13-14 as Paul talks about his Jewish faith…

    Ioudaïsmos (From Blue Letter Bible)

    1) the Jewish faith and worship, religion of the Jews, Judaism

    In today’s world, and certainly when I refer to it in modern day terms, religion simply is a set of religious principles, works and ritualistic customs which center around efforts to worship a super human power or (G)od(s), OR these same set of rituals, works and customs to obtain some sort of enlightenment, higher consciousness, nirvana etc.

    Religion collectively in this context is seen as a divisive and destructive practice by Christian and non-Christian alike, mainly because each religion has it’s own assertions about their higher power which logically conflict. Religion is blamed for wars, strife, death, and much suffering throughout the world. Every major religion can name professors of their faiths who have perpetrated bloody, brutal atrocities throughout the centuries in the name of their religion.

    The WORLD considers these the main religions: (From About.com 2011)

    1)The “Christian” Group – 2,116,909,552

    which consists of:

    a) 1,117,759,185 Roman Catholics

    b) 372,586,395 Protestants

    c) 221,746,920 Orthodox and

    d) 81,865,869 Anglicans

    2) Muslims – 1,282,780,149

    3) Hindus – 856,690,863

    4) Buddhists – 381,610,979

    5) Sikhs – 25,139,912

    6) Judaism – 14,826,102

    And…

    a) Others – 814,146,396

    b) Non-Religious – 801,898,746

    c) Atheists – 152,128,701

    Keeping these definitions in mind is VERY important, especially concerning how many view religion TODAY, to make sure that when someone makes a slogan like the one pictured, you know where they are coming from.

    TRUE RELIGION

    What PURE and UNDEFILED religion is in the scriptures?

    James 1:26-27 (NIV84)

    If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

    1 Timothy 5:4 (NIV84)

    But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.

    Jesus himself tells of the things we will be commended for when we see him in Heaven:

    Matthew 25 (NIV84)

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

    35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,

    36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?

    38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?

    39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

    Unfortunately in FALSEHOOD we all have seen too much defiled, and impure religion around us, the kind of religion our brother in the Lord recently did his poem entitled Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus which is quite the sensation online.

    THIS kind of religion, FALSE RELIGION is the kind of religion which KILLS, which emphasizes rules and regulations vs. genuine right relationship with the Father through Christ. It’s what I believe Jesus came to destroy.When many people think of religion they aren’t thinking of it in terms of pure religion in the scripture but how the world has seen DEFILED AND IMPURE religion… The kind of religion I and others in Christ HATE… hence the confusion over whether Christianity is religion or not. *smile*

    IS CHRISTIANITY A RELIGION?

    The answer to the question is dependent on which definition you are going to use. Are we talking Merriam Webster? The Bible’s definition? The WORLD’S definition? The answer? Well… I will leave that up to the person who reads this to draw their own conclusions.

    So in my effort to renew my mind and make sure that I am embracing biblical concepts, and not just clichéd jargon, what do I believe? YES Christianity is MORE about your relationship with Jesus Christ, because this is from where TRUE RELIGION… those OUTWARD, EVIDENT, AND EXTERNAL good works which God has prepared for us in advance… flows. To be in Christ is to be reconciled to the Father. That is the best and most edifying relationship… HOWEVER one’s relationship with God can be one of enmity and separation, and that ain’t good at all.

    Important to also note: One can feed the poor, fatherless, widow, visit those in prison AND STILL GO TO HELL. One can do all of these external acts of righteousness and still have DEFILED RELIGION because as the scriptures teach us, it is not what goes into a man (external) which makes him unclean, it is what comes out. (internally) One can do those works, not to the glory of Christ, but to glorify themselves… It has always been about the heart and motives when it comes to the Lord, and it is only a heart which is devoted to Christ, desires to love him and love their neighbor from which TRUE BIBLICAL RELIGION can flow.

    Just another perspective. Grace and Peace to the brethren.

    • Aaron

      I agree with this: “The answer to the question is dependent on which definition you are going to use. Are we talking Merriam Webster? The Bible’s definition? The WORLD’S definition? The answer?”

      But what do you mean by “The Bible’s definition”? The Bible does not define the English word “religion.” Various translators have chosen to translate certain Greek words (with their own shades of meaning) as the English word “religion,” which has it’s own set of meanings, and, as your citation of M-W shows, has historically had other meanings which it no longer retains.

      The debate about this video, and the evangelical trope of “relationship, not religion” comes down to how people are choosing to define the word “religion.” The “relationship, not religion” mantra comes from a narrow definition of “religion,” focusing on the negative aspects of religions, particularly liturgical/Catholic/orthodox Christianity. But when people say “I have a relationship (with Christ), not a religion,” they are ignoring a more complete definition of the word “religion,” which is not only “religious worship, esp. external, that which consists of ceremonies,” but also:

      “(1): the service and worship of God or the supernatural

      2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

      4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”

      These definitions accurately describe my relationship with Christ. I assume they describe Bethke’s as well; I don’t understand how they could not. By the most standard, current definition of the English word “religion,” Bethke practices a religion, as do basically all self-proclaimed Christians, Christ-followers, and “believers.”

      We can’t pretend the standard definition of the word “religion” doesn’t exist in order to make a point about how our religion is different than other religions. I think it is different, I think it is true, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a religion.

  • Joy

    just because it may not line up to you doesnt meant it doesnt line up for other people. He is taking a step out of faith and proclaiming the gospel. He is getting on a level where college guys like himself can understand what he is trying to preach, and he is also trying to say Its not about religion its about the Relationship with Christ thats what matters in the end. Thats what he is saying, along with God is love and that he accepts us and loves us and has a plan for us .. if anyone has a problem with that take it up with God.

  • Val

    To me your response comes off as more of a literary critique than anything. While I was watching this video, I had a little trouble with Bethke’s metaphors and I agree that at times he misused his terminology. But despite all that, his message came through. It’s a fact that in the past, representatives of the religion of Christianity have acted hypocritically. There are plenty of people who would like to distance themselves from the idea of Christians as hypocrites in an effort to live out Jesus’ calling to love better than those who came before them. Bethke simply fails to utilize terms that could more accurately convey this idea. And with side comments like “(slant rhyme)”, your argument only carries as far as to criticize this failure. I agree that the delivery could have been…less lame. I have a feeling that with a little editing and a few performance tips, Bethke’s delivery would improve and we wouldn’t even have your article to discuss. For me, his message is clear and I am ok with thousands viewing his performance if they take away his counter-hypocritical message. For most people who don’t take the time to be knit-picking intellectual critics, inconsistent metaphors, improper terms, poor diction and style don’t matter. The rest of us? We get the point.

  • BenWentz

    The “religion” Jeff is speaking of is how the world sees religion as a list of do’s and don’t. There is nothing we have to do to earn Christ’s love besides believe that He died and rose again to save us from our sins. If we are covered by God’s grace, we acknowledge that with our lifestyle. I don’t like this guys view much, seems more attacking Jeff Bethke than encouraging him. The beginning description of how he viewed Jeff as “this quasi-rapping, Drake-looking, spoken-word poet”, didn’t sound all to loving. None of us have it all figured out and none of us ever will, honestly the author seems to be leaning toward a stretch of legalism which is just as dangerous as living with grace as a license to sin. I just believe it is a odd for him to say Jeff has bad theology, if he wants to talk bible then he can go look up 1 Thessalonians 5:11 and Ephesians 4:29 and he can answer himself if that is what his article is lining up with. If he seriously thinks Jeff has mixed up theology, calling Jeff’s video “Lame” will immediately turn off any chance he had of ever “getting through” to him. I find the article very discouraging to Jeff, I’m not a fan of discouragement within the church and honestly believe it gets nothing accomplished besides separation. We are called to encourage one another and how else is the world going to see that we are all one Church if we are too busy debating whose theology is better than the others. Just my take, I am not a fan of this guys article but just my personal view.

    • Anon. love

      Amen! Amen! Amen!! I agree with your personal view ‘BenWentz’. Where’s the love where’s the encouragement. I highly doubt (if Jesus would even have an issue with the video)that Jesus would have response to it like this. People lets please WALK IN LOVE!

  • http://rosenzweigshmuesn.blogspot.com/ Daniel Imburgia

    I am with you, this has been going around again about not being ‘religious but spiritual,’ about how Jesus hates the religious and came to “destroy religion.” Oy Veh!, and all of this is offered without anyone ever defining “religion.” Is religion just defined as “church going,” or is it saying one’s prayers or brushing one’s teeth “religiously” before bed? Is it dragging oneself to friday night prayer service or saying the rosary robotically while thinking about work or that women/man in those tight jeans? Is it rules of order for worship, or having someone in charge of wednesday potlucks; who brings hot-dishes, who brings deserts? Is it fancy buildings, pompous titles and Popemobiles? Is the opposite of religion, some sort of automatic, mobocratic, spiritual bliss? Does religion have an opposite? Are these things really so mutually antagonistic? Is it “religion” that is the cause of our materialism, Christian war-making, political racism, hypocrisy, idolatrous nationalism, and abandonment of the sick, poor and hungry for ideologies that affirm the privileged in their wealth? ‘The opposite of love is not hate, for God is love, and God has no opposite.‘ I reckon y’all need to think through a bit more about how Jesus related to the religious traditions and structures (biblically mandated? 613 Halachic rules?, attending synagogue religiously? hmmm…) of his day and then maybe make a more insightful and less hipster video. Now I ain’t defending “religion” as such (I eschew titles, but I could rightly pass as a Mennonite/Roman Catholic/Anarchist/Marxist if the Obama administration was water-boarding me into it), I’m just trying to separate among strains of teenage angst, Atlas Shrugged, rigorous biblical analysis, traditional and contemporary theological insights, and the wisdom of Baba whats-his-name (who was our ‘spiritual avatar’ at our hippie commune in 1969), concerning this blip on the information super hiway. blessings and obliged.

  • http://rosenzweigshmuesn.blogspot.com/ Daniel Imburgia

    Let me add that at least half of my friends have now posted this video, and are swooning over this born-again M+M, and acting all–word, we hate hypocrites with phony facades and aluminum siding. And everyone of them, goes to church every sunday at 10 o clock, reads (select portions) of a bible handed down for centuries, and uses ancient concepts and credal languages that our forefathers killed a lot of innocent people to preserve for us! Yes, I am a hypocrite and I have a multitude of facades–of which this is just one–(and it’s getting harder and harder to maintain them all), and I don’t know squat about what Jesus was talking about, and I am selfish and self-deceiving; but, I do recite the rosary RELIGIOUSLY, and I sometimes go to a building to light candles and have a cross-dressing dude in a frilly frock do magic tricks with burning spices, tap water and bread and wine, in short, I am the worst of all pharisee’s (only with bacon and cheese). So maybe that’s why this video is getting to me. Y’all want to abolish religion, fine, let’s go for it, and when the metaphorical bodies are all buried and the analogical blood has been hosed off the allegorical guillotine, I’ll see y’all again down at the church of whatever at 11:00, with a potluck brunch after. A-F bring a hot dish, G-M bring salads, and N-Z bring a desert, and we’ll start plotting the next revolution. Like we used to say down south, hasta la victoria siempre comrades!!! Obliged!

  • Coffee on Sunday?

    I work for a well known coffee shop and yes, I work on Sundays. I often see church people in a rush to church. Most are very rude. They have no time to say thank you. They want their drinks remade or complain because it was not “stirred” long enough. In fact on one Sunday morning, I actually had a man hand me his church card to invite me to church. He and his family left the biggest mess in our cafe. I do not want to argue about theology or debate whether I am a sinner because I work on Sundays. Instead consider that I was once like that Sunday church-goer and now I am ashamed that I ever looked like you. I can tell you that no one in our store ever wants to go to a church because of “church people”. Everyone absolutely hates Sundays! So while you all are debating your high and mighty ideals, just remember that people all around you are watching and not many are coming to Christ. I recently led a young lady to Jesus at work! I still go to church, usually on Wednesday or Sunday nights, but I don’t want to look like you, because when I did, no one was led to Jesus through me. If this video reaches the hearts of young people, that is a good thing, because you coffee crazy church people are certainly not getting the job done!

    • megan

      true that.

  • http://www.truthsource.net Dane

    Christianity IS a religion. Check out Voddie Baucham’s awesome post on the subject: http://web.me.com/voddieb/vbm/Blog/Entries/2008/8/11_Is_Christianity_a_Religion.html

    • BenWentz

      The “religion” Jeff is speaking of is how the world sees religion as a list of do’s and don’t. There is nothing we have to do to earn Christ’s love besides believe that He died and rose again to save us from our sins. If we are covered by God’s grace, we acknowledge that with our lifestyle. I don’t like this guys view much, seems more attacking Jeff Bethke than encouraging him. The beginning description of how he viewed Jeff as “this quasi-rapping, Drake-looking, spoken-word poet”, didn’t sound all to loving. None of us have it all figured out and none of us ever will, honestly the author seems to be leaning toward a stretch of legalism which is just as dangerous as living with grace as a license to sin. I just believe it is a odd for him to say Jeff has bad theology, if he wants to talk bible then he can go look up 1 Thessalonians 5:11 and Ephesians 4:29 and he can answer himself if that is what his article is lining up with. If he seriously thinks Jeff has mixed up theology, calling Jeff’s video “Lame” will immediately turn off any chance he had of ever “getting through” to him. I find the article very discouraging to Jeff, I’m not a fan of discouragement within the church and honestly believe it gets nothing accomplished besides separation. We are called to encourage one another and how else is the world going to see that we are all one Church if we are too busy debating whose theology is better than the others. Just my take, I am not a fan of this guys article but just my personal view.

    • BenWentz

      The “religion” Jeff is speaking of is how the world sees religion as a list of do’s and don’t. There is nothing we have to do to earn Christ’s love besides believe that He died and rose again to save us from our sins. If we are covered by God’s grace, we acknowledge that with our lifestyle. I don’t like this guys view much, seems more attacking Jeff Bethke than encouraging him. The beginning description of how he viewed Jeff as “this quasi-rapping, Drake-looking, spoken-word poet”, didn’t sound all to loving. None of us have it all figured out and none of us ever will, honestly the author seems to be leaning toward a stretch of legalism which is just as dangerous as living with grace as a license to sin. I just believe it is a odd for him to say Jeff has bad theology, if he wants to talk bible then he can go look up 1 Thessalonians 5:11 and Ephesians 4:29 and he can answer himself if that is what his article is lining up with. If he seriously thinks Jeff has mixed up theology, calling Jeff’s video “Lame” will immediately turn off any chance he had of ever “getting through” to him. I find the article very discouraging to Jeff, I’m not a fan of discouragement within the church and honestly believe it gets nothing accomplished besides separation. We are called to encourage one another and how else is the world going to see that we are all one Church if we are too busy debating whose theology is better than the others. Just my take, I am not a fan of this guys article but just my personal view.

    • Brian

      thanks for posting that, love me some Voddie!

  • Anonymous 2

    I honestly didn’t see nothing wrong with the video. When he talks about religion, he means being under Law. When in a relationship with Jesus Christ, we are no longer under law but under Grace. When Jesus says “it is finish” meaning He fulfilled the Law and the prophesies of the prophets. To be under Law is to be condemned depending on works which makes you self-righteous. It is impossible to be justified by the Law or by works, its only by Faith. To be under Grace is not about a list of do’s and don’t, for we don’t depend on our works but the finish work of Jesus Christ. The disciples ask Jesus, what is it that I must do, to do the work of God? Jesus replied, to do the work of God is to believe. The bible says to work out your salvation but if you look at the next verse it says it is God who works in you to Will and do of His good pleasures. So to do the work of God is to believe and to allow God to work in you and through you. Religion doesn’t help nobody but put them in bondage leading them to hell. For the strength of sin came from the law which brought death, making man spiritually dead. You want to know the difference between religion and Christianity? The difference is One has a God that’s alive not man-made the Creator of all things who so loved the world and gave His begotten Son so that whoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life, yet other religions if you look at the names of their god it has a meaning of a created thing. Example, Allah means god of the moon. In Romans 1 states how people turn away from God, rather worshiping created things and not the Creator. Religion came against Jesus Christ, even called Him the prince of demons. Religion and Jesus Christ has nothing in common. Religion is what brought Him to the cross yet it had to be done.. Jesus Christ liberates people from the dominion of sin making us alive unto God, no longer under condemnation for He took our place. Religion is an infection but Jesus Christ is the cure. That’s the difference between religion and Jesus Christ

    • BenWentz

      AMEN!

      • BenWentz

        The “religion” Jeff is speaking of is how the world sees religion as a list of do’s and don’t. There is nothing we have to do to earn Christ’s love besides believe that He died and rose again to save us from our sins. If we are covered by God’s grace, we acknowledge that with our lifestyle. I don’t like this guys view much, seems more attacking Jeff Bethke than encouraging him. The beginning description of how he viewed Jeff as “this quasi-rapping, Drake-looking, spoken-word poet”, didn’t sound all to loving. None of us have it all figured out and none of us ever will, honestly the author seems to be leaning toward a stretch of legalism which is just as dangerous as living with grace as a license to sin. I just believe it is a odd for him to say Jeff has bad theology, if he wants to talk bible then he can go look up 1 Thessalonians 5:11 and Ephesians 4:29 and he can answer himself if that is what his article is lining up with. If he seriously thinks Jeff has mixed up theology, calling Jeff’s video “Lame” will immediately turn off any chance he had of ever “getting through” to him. I find the article very discouraging to Jeff, I’m not a fan of discouragement within the church and honestly believe it gets nothing accomplished besides separation. We are called to encourage one another and how else is the world going to see that we are all one Church if we are too busy debating whose theology is better than the others. Just my take, I am not a fan of this guys article but just my personal view.

  • Joshua Blanchard

    Your argument against his video is based entirely on semantics. He uses the term “false religion” in his description, clearly specifying what he meant.

    Like it or not, the term “religion” can now be used with particular connotations because we lack a proper term to differentiate “the faith” and the relationship with God from the legalistic, building-focused-instead-of-hungry-feeding mess that so much of the church has become.

    You can fault him for his choice of words, but you can’t use his choice of words to dismiss his point.

  • http://kjoyvan@aol.com Kathy

    You are the exact reason I sometimes think about leaving “organized religion” and continuing to love my Jesus with out pious people like you always trying to complicate the simple message of Grace…I had no problem seeing right into this awesome young man’s heart and figuring out everything he was trying to say. I’m not sure why you can’t see it too….but then again religion does make you blind.

    • http://setfreefromtheic.wordpress.com Set Free Indeed

      Exactly Kathy… but people will pick the man apart because it makes them more righteous in their eyes. I knew EXACTLY what he was talking about when he spoke of religion.

    • Anon. love

      Amen! It’s sad! Where’s the love!

  • http://morganguyton.wordpress.com Morgan Guyton

    All right, so here’s my response. I think if the kid replaced the word “religion” with “doctrine,” he’d have a spot-on critique of American evangelical Christianity because we worship what we believe about Jesus rather than Jesus Himself and that’s the reason that we’re self-righteous Pharisees who like to crucify other people. Peace. http://morganguyton.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/why-i-hate-doctrine-but-love-jesus-response-to-a-similarly-named-video/

    • BenWentz

      agreed

    • Brandon E

      Well said.

  • Rawness

    I 100% disagree with this article. I’m no “Sunday Christian” and find a lot of clarity in this mans video. It speaks to a modern age and rather compelling for non-believers to see Christ in a new light. I speak to my non believing friends often that I too, dislike “religion” but found following Christ and his teachings to be very uplifting without the “rules” and political aspects of some churches. I attended a church many years ago that if you were not a member, you could not take communion. If you were not a member, you could not marry within the church. Rules. Regulations. Unfounded by Christ and his teachings. So when he says “Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see”, if it gets people talking (which it has) about Christ, then that in itself, is powerful. The mere fact this has stirred the Christian/catholic “religions” and various denominations, speaks a lot to me and I will support this video as a former atheist that was shunned and told “you’ll go to hell if you don’t go to church”, the fact i have tattoos and piercings and looked down upon because of that, I’m thankful this man is speaking up. People don’t have to go to church to follow God, in fact, most churches are intimidating and newcomers feel judged, but if a man can find God in his home and find peace instead of feeling judge in a place called church, then good for him. I believe church is good,it teaches about Christ, but I’m thankful I have a church that ACCEPTS ALL, and welcomes everyone. We need more places such as this. Our pastor even talks about the negativities of religion. So kudos to this guys for opening up the conversation of Christ and religion, i love that people are talking about it.

  • http://thetabernacle.us Kurt

    just watched this video… “Sexual Healing” saw nothing that wrong with it… I mean it wasn’t great… and maybe it was a shortened version or something… but I’m missing what the theological debate is here… if i wanted to be way way too critical i guess i could make a lame case for how his using a rape victims trauma the way he did to illustrate that sex is more than just recreation has maybe a few holes in it… but other than that… Basically he’s just saying (paraphrased) Sex outside of marriage is wrong… but Jesus offers forgiveness for our wrongs… Which theologically is correct… So what am I missing here?

    • Judy

      He mistakenly referred to this video as “sexual Healing’ He’s actually talking about the video entitled ‘Why I hate religion, but love Jesus.’ Watch that video and this will make a lot more sense :)

      • http://thetabernacle.us Kurt

        thanks judy… i replied to the right video below under the name “the great dane” check it out… lemme know what you think :)

  • Judy
  • Judy

    I pretty much agree with everything you said here. Just because there’s truth in this video doesn’t mean that there isn’t a whole lot of error as well.

    However, this poem is not called Sexual Healing, that’s a different video. I think it’s just called, ‘Why I hate Religion, but love Jesus’

  • JD

    So you have a better handle on theology than a kid on YouTube. Congratulations? This article does more harm than the video. Approach your brother in private first, don’t set out to divide believers. I forgive you, of course, because this is a minor disagreement and not worth dividing over.

    • Anon. love

      Amen!! I agree with you ‘JD’! Where’s the love of Christ in the article!?

    • Judy

      This is a public video and this man is a public figure. Many people are watching it with an uncritical eye, and need to be cautioned against it. Calling all religion bad is a pretty big deal, and this kid has a huge audience.

      • Brian

        This is true. When someone makes a public statement that is not true there is no problem with setting the record straight. The Matt 18 text is referring to a brother who sins against or wrongs you personally, such as stealing from you or offending you. Then you go to him personally. There is no basis to suppose that Paul spoke individually to the Judaizers Individually, then took a friend. He simply wrote to the churches to set the record straight.

        Also please note that my statement in in support of what Judy said, not the tone of the article which began with personal attacks and failed to correct the errors it claimed.

  • O.O!

    So let me get this straight…
    You start off with a title that contains neither a pinch of grace or love, but rather cynicism and hypocrisy, and you’re not even satisfied with that. You go ahead and judge him for his looks and reputation before even wanting to listen to what he has to say.
    I wonder what that reminds me of… Oh wait the Pharisees. Good job splitting hairs over nothing.

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  • Beth

    You just wish you had come up with something this influential. Wether you agree with the words of the poem or not. Its catchy and entertaining. The fact that you call it lame tells me your just jealous it isn’t yours. There are things he says I don’t believe to be true either and those are good to point out but to completely bash him is unnesecary and you are EXACTLY the person he is talking about when referring to religion. Im not trying to start an argument but please humble yourself, as it is something we can all agree God has asked of us. Also remember his beliefs and actions are between him and God and ONLY God can’t make judgement.

  • Al

    Great article. It would be one thing if Fitzgerald was here to judge the poet for being a sinner; that would be similar to the Pharisees. But Fitzgerald is correcting the bad theology in this video, something Christians have a duty to do. The video is both incorrect (Jesus came to complete religion, not abolish it) or technically correct but so obvious it doesn’t need mentioning (apparently people think he came to vote Republican? In addition to being off topic, I’ve never heard anyone say political conservatism and Christianity are equivalent.) The poet furthers the message that religion (including Christianity) is bad, not something that’s good for a faith that is losing adherents.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry.

  • http://thetabernacle.us The Great Dane

    just watched “I hate religion”
    ok… So I don’t believe what this guy is saying is spot on in every way… but to me the bigger issue… I also don’t think what this guy is saying is being really accurately processed and heard by a lot of people who’ve commented all over facebook every where I look on facebook right now… so religion, I understand can in a lot of ways be a word we love to hate on… and I understand why… But… I do believe there is a proper and acceptable form of religion… to say that religion is the opposite of Jesus is like saying that sex is the opposite of Jesus… Sex is not bad… it’s sex done outside of marriage that is bad… and in the same way religion isn’t wrong… it’s religion practiced incorrectly… but if you listen closely religion isn’t really even what he’s addressing… what he’s really ranting against specifically is… (Paraphrased) hiding your sin and pretending like your righteous… he also addresses the belief some people have that you’re a Christian because you do the good things on your “Christian do list” and abstain from the things on your “Christian list of don’ts”… So really the 2 things this guys gripe would be more accurately aimed at are legalism and hypocrisy… Religion can certainly lead someone towards legalism and hypocrisy… and money can also lead someone to “the love of money”… 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil… But to make the same point with a different comparison= it’s not money that is a sin… it’s “the love of money” or i would define it “greed and idolatry”… so in summary… I guess I agree and disagree simultaneously with this guy… Legalism and Hypocrisy bad ←I Agree) Religion bad ←I Disagree)

    • http://thetabernacle.us the
    • http://thetabernacle.us the great dane

      I will also say I think this topic is to be had between Christians as a closed forum… it’s another “christians arguing with christians” topic that can be so detrimental to a biblically uneducated believer as well as unbeliever… this kind of bickering can be dangerous for non-christians to over hear… That’s why I believe this video can be dangerous… because it blasts religion in a way that I believe would lead a lot of people away from viewing church attendance as a priority in a believers life… I also believe it slightly points Christians to a sloppy grace where there is no personal accountability to attempt to walk out the proper Christian behavior that Christ called that very same adulterous women the video referenced to… If you read the whole story of the adulterous women all the way to the end you’ll hear Jesus himself saying to her after her accusers had dropped there stones “Now go and sin no more” A request we all after receiving his grace and forgiveness should not ignore but respond to… If you leave this final command Jesus gave the adulterous women out of the story when you share it then you’ve done those your sharing it with an injustice… Which I believe on a certain level this video has done… I get what He’s saying… and i agree with a lot of what he’s saying… and I honestly don’t believe his hearts in the wrong place… I believe God’s going to use this guy big… I’d bet he’s a great guy… passionate about Christ… but… Over all… It’s hard for me to give this video a thumbs up…

  • http://live-pure.org shane carroll

    find something more productive to waste time on…like caring for the poor, hungry and hopeless

    • James

      so caring for the poor hungry and hopeless is a waste of time?

  • http://theaguirrebulletin.wordpress.com/ Mark Aguirre

    I do agree with this post. I’m actually okay with religion, because the Bible is too (James 1:27). Just might want to be more graceful with your response. Kind of messed up calling Jeff’s work “lame.” He may just need to polish up on his theology, and some other things but I’m sure he had the right intentions (I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt). Thanks.

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  • http://www.solidfoodmedia.com Mike Boardley

    “Religion is man searching for God; Christianity is God seeking man, manifesting Himself to him, drawing Himself unto him.” – Martin Lloyd Jones

    “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” – Paul, Titus 3:9

  • Corey

    Okay, the only real problem this guy has is the distinction between true and false religion. He is referring to false religion- hypocrisy and all else it goes with. He hates that. But to say that he hates religion is a silly claim if you don’t make the distinction, but if he did, his video wouldn’t really work.

  • Raymond Morehouse

    A good critique marred by a host of useless and pointless ad hominem

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  • Scott M

    Perhaps part of the bloggers concern (perhaps) comes from the message James shares in James chapter 3 about teachers. “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
    Of course, this is not referring to man’s judgment, but God’s. Also, it is likely Bethke is not intending to be a teacher, but an artist sharing and perfecting his craft. However, when something like this is posted on the internet, it holds not only the power of art, but also that of an opinion and as religious/faith teaching.
    I think this may be the blogger’s point (as well as James’). When you take hold of an audience, words hold power. When they state that “religion is ____” or “Christianity is _____”, it can very easily sway others’ opinions or beliefs, whether we intend them to or not.
    We cannot speak to Bethke’s intent, but it is likely that he IS trying to influence and sway others. If he is trying to address Sunday Christians, then he needs to specifically let the audience know.
    Also, in his medium of rhyme and rhythm, an artist MIGHT forsake some of the substance in order to continue the form. When talking about God, this can be dangerous. In Ecclesiastes 3:2, we are reminded to be fairly choosy about not only what we say, but how we say it. “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” This is certainly no simple task, ESPECIALLY when when as an artist, it is shared as an art form. Was Bethke using this to influence, perhaps even to shock others with his choice of words? That is a tough call, since none of us are him.

  • Heather

    One concern for me is that hopefully this video doesn’t create animosity toward the Church. By that I mean, people thinking somehow the only thing they need is a “relationship with Jesus” and attending worship with brothers and sisters isn’t a necessary component to that relationship. Often times videos like this while pointing out things that overshadow the message of the Gospel and trying to focus back, end up swinging the pendulum to far to the otherside. Temperance and caution in all things, critiques included. Even Luther didn’t come out with a bang, he merely made a list of things he was thinking and posted them on a bulletin board. Not too equate the 16th century Catholic church with this video.

  • Richard

    David Ebert and Kevin Bennett showed me this warm and fuzzy spoken poet in the car the other day. It felt a little off but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around why very quickly. Blaspheming the role of the church just because there are a few good intentioned hypocrites amongst us or because a few wars are fought under the disguise of religion is like saying Sunshine is bad for you because you once had a bad sunburn when you were 12. And when this is your message and you claim to be a Christian, you are doing more harm than good. Don’t just (returning to my metaphor) rant about sunshine, suggest some sunscreen. Make things better than you found them.

  • P. Ngwolo
  • Josiah

    Eh. This article is taking issue with his use of the word “religion” to mean “religious-behavior-with-no-spiritual-foundation-much-like-the-pharisees-were-criticized-for”. It’s kind of a valid point, but I don’t think anyone really took his video as meaning “let’s get rid of established religion”. He even says “I love church.” This article, ironically, smacks of the more-theologically-sound-than-thou nitpicking that the original video is speaking against.

    • Barts

      Amen!

  • Anonymous

    Homeboy plagerized Propaganda’s “G.O.S.P.E.L” video. He states,”It’s like spraying perfume on a casket.” Propaganda states, “It’s like spraying perfume on a corpse.” The video is just about the suckest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

  • http://blogprophet.wordpress.com brian

    so, in summary

    the author was arrogant, on a high horse, elitist for criticizing the video,
    and all the commenters are __________ for criticizing the author.

  • iNate

    I agree. You can’t equate attacking the negative connotations of an idea with an attack on the idea itself.

  • Davison

    I think this video was meant to do two things: Start a conversation, then you either like it or hated it. Now whether you like it or hated it, as a ministry leader it gave you a chance to reinforce your view point on your denomination’s theology. There are now 181 posts on this site, and it has gone Viral. It is allowing you a platform to talk. Don’t you think it should be perceived as an opportunity to witness or talk to your youth/adult group and discuss? Too many times people don’t discuss, they listen to sermons and go on their way. Engage, talk, discuss!

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  • Anonymous

    I think it’s amazing how impetuous and insensitive people are on blogs and the internet in general. It’s as if because one is behind a computer screen they have assumed the liberty to bash others regardless their credibility. Firstly, I think that this blog post says some things well, but some others need reconsideration.
    Though I do agree with many of those who responded that the blog can sound lofty or “hob-knob” at times, you’ll find that many of those who comment on how “hair splitting” this blog is, reciprocate the same lack of compassion toward the blogger. The title as well as the introduction are rather affront and should have been more calculated when attempting to shed light to fledgling believes regarding the poor theology used in this video. However, one must not go so far as to harass Mr. Fitzgerald in a same or more impolite way for posting.
    The blog does present many relevant and valid arguments regarding the rap video. (1) The video is not that great in it’s poetic qualities, but does adhere to the slam-poetry aesthetic very well so in that way it is good. (2) There are quite a few miscalculations in word choice similar to saying novel when one really means to say book.
    The bottom line is that the blog makes several good points, but just as the author of the video made several miscalculations in his choice of wordage, so too did the author of the blog. Similarly, those who are posting in an equally offensive way are doing nothing more than reciprocating the same hypocritical tone they suggest is inherent within the author of the blog. Calculate before you speak.

  • Stop Trolling

    I think it’s amazing how impetuous and insensitive people are on blogs and the internet in general. It’s as if because one is behind a computer screen they have assumed the liberty to bash others regardless their credibility. Firstly, I think that this blog post says some things well, but some others need reconsideration.
    Though I do agree with many of those who responded that the blog can sound lofty or “hob-knob” at times, you’ll find that many of those who comment on how “hair splitting” this blog is, reciprocate the same lack of compassion toward the blogger. The title as well as the introduction are rather affront and should have been more calculated when attempting to shed light to fledgling believes regarding the poor theology used in this video. However, one must not go so far as to harass Mr. Fitzgerald in a same or more impolite way for posting.
    The blog does present many relevant and valid arguments regarding the rap video. (1) The video is not that great in it’s poetic qualities, but does adhere to the slam-poetry aesthetic very well so in that way it is good. (2) There are quite a few miscalculations in word choice similar to saying novel when one really means to say book.
    The bottom line is that the blog makes several good points, but just as the author of the video made several miscalculations in his choice of wordage, so too did the author of the blog. Similarly, those who are posting in an equally offensive way are doing nothing more than reciprocating the same hypocritical tone they suggest is inherent within the author of the blog. Calculate before you speak.

  • Sal Martinez

    It’s a shame that all you received from that video is, Religion this, or Religion that….Politics and name calling….But you seem to have missed the entire scope of the video…..”A PERSONAL AND MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST”…..

  • Pamela

    Exposing falsehood, and speaking the truth in love is important. However, the people of God seem to be spending too much time finding fault with others and being critical instead of repenting, trusting, esteeming others more highly than self, and working in unity towards a common goal, namely, making Christ known to the world. Jesus said that the world would know His disciples by their love for one another. If we keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or we will be destroyed by each other.

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  • Anonymous

    It doesn’t do much good to completely dismiss the video. Lets at least try to find something redemptive. Christianity demands a charitable response even if the video deserves a serious critique.

  • Sara

    I loved the video and I’ll explain why. He articulated the gospel better than most churches I’ve been a part of. This is something I’ve been trying to get a hold of in my own life. God’s been doing a lot with my heart and soul lately and I’m glad for it. Historical “religion” is about what we do to win our way to God. Christianity, of course, isn’t about that at all. It’s about what God did to bring us into a right relationship with Him. He says it right in the video description.

    The video is about “false religion.” This is the kind of “deadly doing,” the kind of Pharisaical rule-making that breeds a kind of self-reliance and self-justification that inevitably breeds self-righteousness and contempt toward those who aren’t following the “rules.” This kind of rule-making drives us away from the creator. That’s false religion.

    Paul talks about this fine line over and over again in his letters. It’s impossible to live the life that God made us for if we don’t have our eyes on Him. We love God first and God changes are hearts, He changes our loves until He’s all that’s left. When we love Him with all of our heart, sole, mind, and strength, we don’t have a desire to sin.

    “Lay your deadly doing down
    Down at Jesus’ feet
    And stand in Him, in Him alone,
    Wondrously complete.”

  • Barts

    I feel like your almost being a pharisee here. Even though he may be a little overbearing on other religions, the whole reason why this video is going so viral is because the message is powerful and it’s full of truth. Your only argument seems to be that he didn’t quite stay right on topic with the title, so are you suggesting that it is wrong to digress? The whole message this spoken work poem relays is powerful and I think it’s convicting a lot of people about how they treat the christian faith. Might I also add that being a “cultural Christian” or a “Sunday Christian” isn’t much different than being a Buddhist or part of Islam, the’re all just religions that are performing all the rituals and spiritual traditions they were told to do in order to “save themselves”. So stop dichotomising and trying to make it sound like this guy is wrong. He’s doing his thing, and moving many hearts in the wright direction.
    K thanks.

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  • B Buell

    Yeah, like I’m going to listen to some guy who uses Dictionary.com
    :) Love ya fitz. This video was wicked lame. The lines that get me are what I like to call the “Biz Markie inversion”. Eg.
    “But a year to make love she wanted me to wait.”
    Anyway, sure, Christianity’s a religion. Sure, he probably is referring to institutions. I do like his line about the lakers though.

  • Greg M

    Jonathan,

    I think really the only thing wrong with the video is the false dichotomy he sets up. I picked up on that the first time I watched the video, but I still found it helpful. I don’t think you can write the whole thing off.

    In terms of your review, I bet you lost 90% of your audience with your first paragraph. If there is nothing theologically unsound about his sex poem, why feel the need to publicly call it lame? Have you ever struggled with pornography? Have you ever known the guilt from messing up with your girlfriend? All I’m saying is that I’m married now, and I found his sex video helpful.

    All I’m saying is, from one christian to [I’m assuming] another, your introduction makes you sound like a real asshole. This article is not edifying.

    • Greg M

      For clarification, I don’t think you sound like a pharisee. I’m involved in reformed circles and I have many close friends who are seminarians that take theology very seriously. I’m well acquainted with theological critique, and I think it’s vital to flourishing as a Christian. I know how to properly apply the the term “pharisaical”, and I’m not using that to label your article. I think you have good points, but you don’t care about helping the guy understand truth in a deeper way. You just sound like an intellectual elitist.

  • Landon Springer

    Isn’t it ironic that dismissing his message over using the word “religion” instead of “hypocrisy” might be the exact “religion” to which he refers?

    The only turn off for me is that viral videos suggesting “everybody’s doing it wrong” might be more divisive than unifying. I don’t believe all the things you believe, which is why you have a different platform than I do. Let’s find a way to work together…

    At the end of the day, I can’t remember the last time I posted a viral video about Jesus that got people talking. (Never)

  • Michael

    I agree with Greg. Simply put, you come across as a dick. You are pretentiously trashing someone’s work (that is helping people).. What do you have to offer? (honest question)

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    • Greg M

      Awesome. I love his last comment, “But the question remains why is it an internet sensation? What nerve has it touched in people that it would generate 6 million hits in two days and countless responses? ”

      This video has gotten about 6 million people thinking about the gospel. Mission accomplished as far as I’m concerned.

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  • http://csaproductions.com/blog/ Brendt Wayne Waters

    I am genuinely happy for you that you have not been exposed to (what is actually) religion being passed of as Christianity. For the rest of us, the distinction is vital.

  • http://www.OutOfAshes.tv Josh Husmann

    An entire article and the end point is just one of semantics? Are you sure this wasn’t an attempt to drive traffic to your blog? This “argument” could have been made in one sentence.

  • http://www.sacrificialpoet.com Sacrificial Poet

    Five Points…

    1 – Shamelessly hitching a ride on the popularity of the video

    2 – People who don’t “get” poetry still like to critique it

    3 – Bloggers like this guy feed hatred toward “religion”

    4 – “Jesus is the answer” IS correct doctrine

    5 – Jefferson Bethke says that

  • Erin

    The video is making people think about Christ. I see my daughter paying attention and I praise God for that. Although the theology might be “poor” or the verbiage may not be 100% accurate – I believe if Jesus were on earth and saw the video, he would take him and gently speak to him – maybe even using parables – to help increase his biblical knowledge and what God expects and requires of us and to help him grow as a Christian. I assume the guy is a Christian and if this is how we are to rebuke Christians, I don’t think I want to take part in that kind of teaching/nurturing. “Lame” does not seem Christ-like to me. But heck, what do I know? I’m a republican. =)

  • Brian

    John, your response to Bethke’s work comes off smug, elitist, and pharisaical. The message of this video has touched the hearts of hundreds of thousands who may have longed to feel loved by God, but never felt worthy enough because of judgmental idiots exactly like you. I hope you’re proud of yourself that in your arrogant intellectual pride you get privilege of looking down on the work of Jesus followers and calling their efforts “lame”, yet offer no hope for people in return. Bethke draws people in to Jesus, you clearly shut them out. Your brain may be big, but your soul is very, very small, my friend.

    • Tony Smith

      The question is not about God’s love to us but about our rebellion against Him…the selfish heart is one that see’s that it’s about me getting God’s love. In reality we are God’s enemies because of our constant rebellion against His law. But even in our unfaithfulness God displays His love to His elect in the pouring out of His wrath for our sins upon His beloved Son Jesus.

  • Trey

    Alot of valid points have been made in response to this blog and this “hot” video. Should we expect that a 4 minute poem venture into perfect theology and exacting statements of faith? I do not believe that the intent of this was to drive people toward the type of theological discussion I found in my Religion classes but rather get people thinking about JESUS. (After all, he is the epitome of, and driving force in, Christianity right?) I see this as a valuable, attention-grabbing video that I could use as a lesson series opener for my youth to explore what Jesus says authentic Christianity is. Just because there are some theological assumptions and errors in the poem (according to many) doesn’t mean that it cannot invoke a response; which it obviously has. (And who among us hasn’t misread or misstated theology at some point). In the end, lets take this video and use it as a point to drive ourselves and others toward a biblical exploration of Christianity. What more could we ask of 4 minutes than to create an interest in JESUS?

  • stickbugg

    So, if it’s just a matter of semantics, than what’s the huge deal? Isn’t he still getting his point accross that simply being a nominal Christian and attending church is not what God had in mind. Gee, if the entire post is simply about his use of religion to describe hypocrisy, then this post serves to do nothing more than to GIVE POWER to words over and above embedded meanings and actions.

    Lame video, even lamer article about it.

  • http://brian-is.un-fallen.com Brian Lucas (@brianisunfallen)

    I didn’t get a chance to read all of the comments, but in scanning on my way to this comment box, I see that this has hit some pretty heated debate.

    My one argument against this post is that you have to look at cultural context. Just as we have to look at the historical/cultural context of verses in the Bible to understand what they meant, we have to take this guy’s culture into account when judging what he said. You started off well, admitting that he is regurgitating the [wrong] idea that religion is bad. But then you attack everything else he says as poor theology. That may be. But if he is coming from a church that has promoted looks and actions (religious judgementalism) over the grace of God and salvation by FAITH, then I can totally see where he is coming from.

    I went to a Christian hardcore concert called “Scream The Prayer” last summer. One of the bands cut a song out of their set to go on about how they are not going to hell because they: have tattoos, have piercings, listen to heavy music, dress however, etc. I was at first a bit offended that he never brought it back to Jesus is our salvation. He just left it at, “This stuff won’t send you to hell.” I was serving as a youth pastor at the time, and our church culture would never judge someone on those things. Our kids didn’t struggle with that. They didn’t “struggle” with much at all. Because they were on the opposite side. They needed to know that sin earns hell, and that our only salvation is in Christ. That was my context. But this guy has been all over the country and talked to kids who got a Jesus tat, and the church prayed for their salvation. He told me he was sick of having kids who love Jesus get told they are going to hell because of the music they love (Christian hardcore). Given that context, his words meant something totally different.

    I still disagree with the way he presented it, because it was easy to lose his context and not hear the message properly. But it is similar to this video. It’s a great starting point.

    I think it’s easier to bring back in a healthy concept of religion after coming to Bethke’s position, than to let go of the rule-mongering and bad taste of religion on your way to Jesus.

  • Greg M

    Jonathan,

    I think this guy say it better than you. He points out Bethke’s error, while still lifting up the heart of his message (without the intellectual chip on his shoulder).

    http://gospeldrivenchurch.blogspot.com/2012/01/jesus-was-religious.html

  • Marie Wieneke

    This video helped me. Why would you bash something that is helping a lot of teenagers like myself. This touched my heart and you had to bash it saying that this is lame!? Can you ask me one question? How is it “lame” that it has helped thousands and thousands of people open their eyes and see it through a true believers’ eyes?? It says in Genesis, in the beginning, that we are all created equal. If you call his work lame, I guess that goes for your work as well. And who are you to critize someone’s hard work like that? If it pleases the Father it should please yourself.

  • Tony Smith

    How would the person in this video or those who agree with what he is saying answer the following question. How do you know the Jesus you have formed is the True Jesus of Scripture. Or more importantly how would you know that Jesus knows you.

    Here are the words of Christ warning hypocrites: (Matt 7:22-23) – On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

    • Erin

      So, Tony – you are able to judge who is actually a Christian and who is not? WOW! That is truly awesome!!! =)

      • Tony Smith

        Could you explain how that addresses my question?

        • Tony Smith

          My basic point is that there is a dangerous movement within Christianity particularly dominated by the non-denominational movement that seems to negate sound doctrine from the Christian faith.

          There are many who have formed an idol of Jesus, not understanding that sacred blood was shed to redeem a soul for the purpose of supernaturally working holiness into them. Without a true inward regenerating work of God the Holy Spirit to change a carnal heart to that of vital holiness it is impossible to enter heaven. For the book of Hebrews states that without holiness it is impossible to see the Lord.

          Thus it is vital that one is part of a sound biblical church namely those that adhere to reformed theology (i.e. westminster confession of faith, canons of dort, heidelberg catechism, all of which are faithful exposition of the truth contained in scripture).

  • Andrew

    Why u so mad bro?

    Jonathan, just accept that you will never have a video that goes viral so quit being jealous of this guy. No one read your blog. No one cares what you have to say.

    This guy is confronting people with a biblical truth … deal with it.

  • confused

    do you even have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? it seems to me that you are quite defensive about the ‘worldly’ matters that Bethke is addressing in his video. hard to believe but he may not be making videos to please you! these videos address a crowd of unbelievers. Many unbelievers are hardened to the truth and freedom of Jesus Christ because they can only see the ‘religion’ that we as Christians surround our beliefs with. We truly are modern day pharisees! we are trying so hard to be righteous by our own means and by all the things we can say about ourselves and what we have and haven’t done and what we should and shouldn’t do. This ‘religion’ that is created by man in regards to christianity is exactly what puts walls up and causes people to turn and run from Christianity. This is what Bethke is trying to address to those who are in need of the truth and freedom that Jesus Christ brings! it is not about you and as for you feeling the need to attack a fellow brother in Christ based on his efforts to spread the truth (in considering just how popular some of his videos have become)…I can’t understand why you would want to be something to cause a fellow Christian to stumble. Praise God for working in His life and for giving Him the courage to address this and possibly reach into the cracks that many arrogant Christians (who attack and criticize) wouldn’t be able to. I hope that one day you find the contentment in Christ that you are truly yearning for and that you experience His grace and blessing in a way that truly sets you free to not be so defensive towards those who are fighting in the same battle that you claim to be fighting in…no wonder we’re so far off …we create wars within ourselves…within the very body of Christ! how can people encourage or support this blog post!?!

  • Tiff

    I can understand the underlying meaning of the video, however, as passionate as it is and the responses has been astounding. We cannot ignore the fact that there is some twisting of the Word to make this poem work.

    And I think this is what this article has been trying to convey.

    Don’t get me wrong-interesting poem but…if someone has to twist the Word of God to make it fit their poem to beat on their chest with a “look at me, I’m not a false Christian”…then it is best that they didn’t use the Word at all.

    How can one say “mission accomplished” in Behke’s poem? Yes, people are looking at the Gospel but in my opinion, it just may intensify the turning away of those 6 million who will shrug it off and say, “Another one of those “Christians” (referring to Behke) twisting their so-called belief to promote THEIR views.”

    Another thing, included in that supposed six million are youths being raised in the Church, which will most likely become disillusioned and believe that this poem is speaking to them because they are still trying to find their grounding or questioning their faith, which may result in them turning away from God as well or deciding to serve God on their standards and not God’s.

    Alot of things to ponder with this video as well as article. Bottom line, the Word of God and His message to the world was distorted in that video.

    Like one of the previous commentors (John) of this article, shared in his comment, “I’m not preaching condemnation on Bethke, I’m preaching caution.”

  • dude

    christians and christianity are hilarious. heck, there’s over 33,000 sects of this one religion. how ridiculous is that? may as well let this guy make one of his own, eh? it has changed incredibly over the past 2000 years and the core of the religious thought (jesus’ teachings) are far from practice by a single member of any of the sects, and his teachings were never ever about the “theology of it”.

    they were just about being a good person.

    • Michael

      :)you should look into some of the things you’re saying a little more. Especially the good person part

  • Adrian

    This is extreemely judgemental. All of this theological sword fighting is pointless and completely against what the bible says. It is what the pharisees did and Jesus hated it. Who is right, who worded it the right way, who said it the best, who had the best point…it is all a waist of time and it is sad to see so many “christians” participating. WHO CARES about the correctenss of the poem!!! Go and give money away, love on the outcast and poor, feed the hungry and thirsty, love others because Christ loved us…That is the entire point of life!

  • bgarrison

    Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill the Law. That is key to remember in this whole debate. I get where he is going with this and where you are going with this, but Christ’s work abolished the curse of sin and put us in an ‘already but not yet’ state of renewal and redemption. It did not abolish religion. The book of James is clear that “faith without works is dead” and “true religion is this: to take care of widows and orphans”.

    We cannot deny that Jesus’ death and resurrection has given us the highest calling…that of holiness. The epistles are full of the call to holiness. However, we must understand that God’s grace revealed to us in Christ has saved us, first and foremost. Relationship with Christ is everything. “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”. But the fruit of the Spirit goes deeper into relationship in that it bears the fruit of true religion.

    The Church is Christ’s chosen mode of making God’s glory known to the nations. We as a chosen people are called to shed God’s light on the poor, mistreated, and un-loved. That, in my opinion, IS religion. Entering a relationship with Christ is much more than a personal devotedness; it means entering into a community and reflecting God’s glory amidst it.

  • Greg M
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  • Travis

    this “poem” was juvenile at best… after he said a line, I was guessing what he would say to rhyme with it… I was right about 90% of the time… it’s like church nursery rhymes… also, it is just another example of Christians picking and choosing what they want from the bible… we don’t want to be called a religion, because there is a negative connotation, so it’s not a religion anymore… even though it very much is… look at the meaning of the word religion, and Christianity fits it to a tea. I agree… change the title to “Sunday christian” and change his word choice, I’m ok with it.

  • brett

    Jonathan Edwards to the rescue… he always discussed Christianity as true religion. The term “Religion” is an almost meaningless term these days. It is always best to define our terms before we argue.

  • Paul Walker

    Jesus did shut down religon….

  • http://impactmiami.org Jack Hakimian

    My Quick Response To The Video: “Jesus > Religion” by Pastor Jack Hakimian

    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150699066038065

  • Rachel Vanderveen

    A perfect example of why I hate religion but I love Jesus! The author here only underscores the point of the video. The entire article just takes a high-handed, mocking tone towards the video and does very little to refute the claims in the video except sneer and act annoyingly religious. Not even a single passage to be seen in this blog. So funny how the two prongs of sinfulness are clearly legalism and license, and this author is no better than the artist as he sits atop his perch in legalism thinking he is just so darn much better. There’s not even a theological qualm to justify his judgement and snobbery. He looks at this video and whines because the artist is stereo-typing. I look at the video and see subversion and Christ was subversive.

  • mne

    there is more bondage in religion than Jesus. I think that’s the point. this blog post is bringing division and it’s sad. We are arguing over religion. We are not arguing over a video. Just a bunch of Pharisees trying to prove our points. Know Jesus. End of story.

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  • Jeff Kursonis

    I find the video and discussion interesting because of how it seemingly creates surprising bedfellows. The ideas in the video are 100% exactly super-totally the same as ideas me and my friends and mentors espoused 25 years ago when I was a young very evangelistic Evangelical. I’m pretty sure this talented young artist is also an Evangelical of the same breed.

    But what is different is that today we have so many young people leaving USA Christianity and identifying as spiritual but not religious, marking their religious category as None. Many sociological religious commentators remark that many of these people are very interested in Jesus, but not organized religion.

    So what I find interesting is how this classic Evangelical “trope”, (to use a word I learned from this blog post, proving the internet doesn’t make us stupider!), might find sympathetic ears from the Nones. It fits their need of spirituality without religion and is pro-Jesus.

    But even more interesting would be for those Nones to encounter this artist in person, along with the folks he gathers in rooms with for Jesus experiences (not religion – and I’m sure no one organizes their gatherings or pays money for the real estate they gather in) and see how long the Nones feel sympathetic when they discover certain naturally organic manifestations of this group like not allowing women in certain leadership posts and going to rallies against gay marriage…all with no organizing whatsoever…and by “posts” I’m not implying structure…

    …And further discover how important beliefs and doctrine are to them…these are of course, non-religious beliefs, they are beliefs about having a relationship…and doctrines about how that relationship should develop…very clear paths of development are called for…and if the relationship doesn’t develop upon those clear paths, you may be asked to no longer gather in our rooms with us…what if, for example, my Jesus relationship makes me want to help gay people enjoy the spousal benefits of legal marriage? Or, if I’m a woman, and my Jesus relationship causes me to want to become a leader of another group of Jesus followers that meet in rooms with no organizing?

  • Rosjier

    Just wanna say thanks for writing this.
    it sums it up nicely, and I’m re-posting it on fb.

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  • Dan

    I watched the Jesus>Religion video and liked it. Did I agree with it word for word ? No, but I did agree with Mr Bethkes general theme that religious institutions can seem far removed from the teachings of Jesus Christ and that the arcane dogmas of organized religion seem only to clutter the path to salvation. And now that some Bible boy bloggers have crawled out from their holy hole to criticize this young man Art work… I like it all the more. Gandhi when asked about Christianity said something like ”I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are nothing like your Christ’”. I think that’s what Bethke is getting at, the lack of Christ in Christianity.

  • Bonju Patten

    Your post made me laugh because you don’t understand what this dude is saying. You believe he is lame. I disagree. I believe he is powerful and he’s young and handsome. What are you going to do next writer? Crucify him? In the roman catholic church there is not god, there is no jesus and this kid is right. Religion is bullshit and if it wasn’t and it was what this kid is saying in his prose – I would be following it. Too much hypocritical crap in religion and in the cultures of today. Stop following the word – follow the message.

  • Rebekah

    I think the author of this article conveniently left out the line where Bethke says “let me clarify, I love the church, I love the Bible…” In Acts when Paul pleads his case to King Agrippa he says “I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee.” There are a few different Greek words for religion in the new testament. In this particular verse the greek word is threskeia. Threskeia means ceremonial observance. The ceremonial observance of the Pharisees is what Bethke is speaking against in this poem not a church or Christianity. Even a brief scanning of the Gospels shows us that the opposition Jesus met was from religious officials. They were too worried about going through all the rites and rituals to see that the Christ was standing right in front of them. The churches today (not all, but the vast majority) look exactly like the Pharisees.

    Side note: There are so many people in the world who do not know Jesus. There are also very many people who think they know Him, but are just going through the motions. This poem could have opened someone’s, or many people’s, eyes and intrigued them to look into this Jesus that Bethke was talking about yet here we are arguing semantics. This is exactly what he is talking about. If I were investigating this Jesus, and I stumbled onto this page… I would probably continue living like the world because if this is the way Christians act I wouldn’t anything to do with it.

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  • Sarah Y

    — FROM WHAT I HAVE SEEN, a lot of people have TOTALLY misunderstood the whole point of Jeff’s video! It saddens me to see that Christians are frustrated with this video and are ACTUALLY talking badly about it!! What they are FAILING to see is that Jeff IS NOT putting down Christianity, he is explaining it and he is “highlighting the difference between Jesus and false religion.” He is saying that what it’s all about is believing upon God’s word and HAVING AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS – works don’t save you. Sure, works are great and they show to others that you are indeed who you say you are as a Christian but that’s not what it’s all about and not what Jesus wants. Jesus wants your whole heart. Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment of the world’s sins… BECAUSE OF LOVE! That has been done for you, and you, and you…etc. Like Jeff said in his video “Jesus says DONE.” People need to listen to his video AS A WHOLE and not take little snippets and dissect it so much. This man’s heart is on fire for God and he clearly wants to get the truth out there. He is obviously wanting to clear up any confusion which is going crazy in this world today. Who is ANYONE to put down Jeff for that?! Praise God, his word is getting out there to everyone! Pray for those millions of times this video has been played and will be played that all of those individuals watching this video will let the words — the words that have been so carefully put together — minister to their hearts and that the Holy Spirit will work in their lives.
    Christianity isn’t about a religion, it’s about a relationship with Jesus Christ!
    Peace. God Bless. ♥

    • Anonymous

      EXACTLY. I couldnt have said it better. It seems that today is the day the church begins to split. People are beginning to attack others and condemn them. It seems the church has not changed much since Jesus’ time.

  • http://www.patrolmag.com Barry

    Religion is man made to begin with,it is mans way of trying to make himself look good and acceptable in the eyes of God,it will never fly in Gods economy of things and is an affront to a Holy God.True and honorable religion in the eyes of our God is to love widows and orphans and help them in their distres and to keep ones self unstained from the world,thats God saying that!Better remember it was the religious community that hated Jesus and conspired against him to murder him and they succeded didnt they.Religion saves no one,and in the trials of life it sustains no one,religion is about workin on the exterior and makin yourself look good,jokes to that!The world is full of it,and sad to say so is much of Christanity.I wouldnt cross the street to tell anyone about religion,but I would travel around the world to tell them about Jesus,this is a quote I read a long time ago.Religion is a nice subtle tool created by the devil with the help of men to oppose the gospel and its truth.Jesus saves not religion,Jesus sustains not religion,Jesus heals not religion,Jesus sets the captives free not religion.Its all about Jesus and not religion.

  • http://www.HeForgives.Org Steve

    It’s poetry. Like most poetry (even the Psalms) hyperbole and other literary devices are used to make a point. While it clearly has it’s problem’s I do hope and think it will move some to grow a little. As I said it’s poetry, don’t critique it too harshly or depend upon it too exclusively.

    • http://patrol matt

      very well worded.

    • St. Ralph

      ‘Tain’t poetry, it’s propaganda.

  • Haig

    On my first pass through the vid, i was more of your opinion but on second pass, I think I agree, or atleast, appreciate Jeff Bethke’s point. Faith has a structure (infrastructure), but it is amazing how quickly that structure can obscure what is essential about Christianity – and that is God’s action in Jesus to be in relationship with each of us. He draws us to him. I think that gets lost very easily.

    The other thing – I think Bethke is communicating to people who think/assume religion is about behaviour and moral codes (maybe many religions are about that – or maybe that is religion – Bethke’s point), but it is not Christianity. I don’ think it was Jesus primary message. How we live follows our relationship to God, is not the basis for our relationship. God’s presence in our lives is the only way we can honestly live freely, ethically, justly and morally.

    thx

  • Anon

    To stop all these similar posts, how about you read every single post BEFORE commenting.

  • Anon

    To stop all these similar posts, how about you read every single post BEFORE commenting.

  • http://patrol matt

    in any case, wether he is right or wrong, didnt he get many people to hear the gospel. and wether he is correct in his doctrines or beliefs, or just plain wrong and out of line. as a fact he has gotten many people to hear the gospel. i don’t agree 100%, but, i think to bring him down would be injustice. i mean unless your willing to take his place and reach the people who he is reaching for the Lord. ( thought for everyone, what have i done lately to get people the gospel of my Lord ) no he may not be perfectly right, but who is besides our Lord. so in the end, yes he could cause confusion to some people, but he is still giving many people the plan of salvation.

  • Noah

    EXACTLY. I couldnt have said it better. It seems that today is the day the church begins to split. People are beginning to attack others and condemn them. It seems the church has not changed much since Jesus’ time.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    John 1:17 “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

    Ephesians 4:14 “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”

  • Anonymous

    John 1:17 “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

    Ephesians 4:14 “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”

  • Nick

    John 1:17 “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

    Ephesians 4:14 “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”

  • david

    Bethke has a misleading message. He claims to love Jesus and hate religion. He confines ALL religion to the kind practiced by the scribes and pharisees of Jesus’ time. It is a bit cowardly to do that. There is far more to religion than the negative posture of Jesus’ enemies. It is political power that brought Jesus to his demise. Certainly the Jewish disciples and many Jewish people did not agree with what the leaders of Jesus’ time did in bringing him to the Romans for assassination. So how is it religion. There is so much good in religion, from Buddhist meditation to the prophets of the Old Testament to Christian charity.

    Bethke loves Jesus. But Jesus did not set up a Jesus-Me scenario. It has always been Jesus-we, or Jesus-us. When God calls one, he sends him to go fetch the others. It was true with Abram: the nation he became made him great. It was true with Moses: he was sent to go get the Israelites. It was true with Paul: he was told to go start communities. It has never been Jesus-me. Jesus chose Peter…to start the Church. He chose the apostles: to go and tell others the good news.

    Because of the Incarnation, God works through people to accomplish salvation, regardless of how we might feel about this. And he sometimes uses the people we don’t like, to get our attention, to get at our pride. because of the Incarnation it is no longer Jesus-Me. That is theism. It is Jesus-us. it includes flesh, and history, and God is able to work through these, in Christ.

  • Rebekah

    The point is, this message is for all of those out there that think all Christians are hypocrites. This was meant to show them that some of us are different, that TRUE Christianity is different, but mainly that Jesus is different because truth be told in comparison to the amount of people who CLAIM to be a Christian there is a very small percentage that reflect Christ. This message wasn’t for those of us you know some of us are different. This message wasn’t meant to some up the entire Bible. This message was meant to entice the lost to give Jesus a chance.

  • Katy

    Semantics…this video resinates with many believers who were saved by grace. leave it to Christians to see it as an opportunity to create further division by focussing on his imperfection. God help us.

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  • http://pursuedbytruth.blogspot.com Theresa

    72% of the millenial generation describes themselves as “spiritual but not religious” More than blog posts and critiques of this video, this trend needs to be responded to both aggressively AND compassionately among all Christians. My take on this – this video doesn’t need to be refuted, these kids needs to be engaged. I would love to have a beer with Jeff and have a real dialogue: http://pursuedbytruth.blogspot.com/2012/01/why-i-hate-religion-but-love-jesus-beer.html

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  • jp

    :)

  • Darlene

    Bethke’s video is just a regurgitation of the pop/hipster evangelicalism that so many young people have become enamored with. “Jesus and me-ism” that leads to antinomianism. A disregard for the authority of the church because authority is to be mistrusted. To set Christ at odds with religion is a display of ignorance. What would Bethke thought of our Savior’s religious observance? His entire poetic trope is filled with so many discrepancies that many have already refuted quite well. I suggest a gander over at roadsfromemmaus blog. Fr. Andrew does a good job of addressing Bethke’s distorted theology.

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  • Darren

    This blog posting is is not theologically unsound, or wrong, it’s just lame, and this thread of comments is way too long. So, I’m going to contribute to the mess and be the 312th comment.

    This kid is passionate and has some talent and I applaud him using his abilities for the glorification of Jesus Christ. I think Jonathan D. Fitzgerald needs to send this kid an apology for being a a bad critic, not an un-theological critic, not a wrong critic, just a bad critic.

    • HONKYSAUCE

      “bad critic” = a person I don’t agree with.

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