I admire Bethke for taking a stance, and being a witness of his beliefs. Certainly standing for something means standing against something else – you can’t pick up one end of the stick without picking up another – and that takes courage.
That being said, there are some serious theological missteps in this video. I’ll admit, I do agree with some of what Bethke says; yet, most of his comments are representative of a popular (and dangerous) sub-cultural movement in Christianity, and as such I thought they merited closer examination. While I can admire Bethke for taking a stance, I cannot admire his theology (which he wraps up emotionally in rhymes, fancy direction, and moving music). Bethke wrests the scriptures to fit his meaning (2 Peter 3:16). His thesis, that Jesus came to abolish religion, is a wild claim that he fails to substantiate.
Did Jesus come to abolish religion? We’ll look at (Part 1) some important guiding principles to keep in mind while discussing the poem; (Part 2) some of my own thoughts; and (Part 3) some thoughts of others who have responded to this video.
The below sections are just snippets of the fantastic responses. The responses linked here I highly endorse.
The Thoughts of Others
- Abolishing Religion
- Faith in Jesus is Religion
- God is Love
- It is Finished
- Fr. Claude Burns’ Video
“What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?”
“Then I’d say you probably haven’t read the New Testament very carefully.”
Look, for example, at Matthew 5:17-20, where the Savior literally says the opposite:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
The Law, or the Law of Moses, was the embodiment of religion and religious rites and observances. The Savior did not supplant this law; rather, he fulfilled it with the higher the, the gospel.
What’s more, as part of the gospel, the Savior instituted various rites which were very religious. As he instituted the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, he commanded, “This do in remembrance of me.” The Savior himself was baptized, and this rite continued after his resurrection. The Savior ordained apostles (for more on this, see here), and they were a part of the foundation for his church (Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 2:19-20).
Jesus didn’t even come to abolish what might be referred to as legalism. What does Paul say?
“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31).
In fact, many times the Savior affirmed upholding the law.
Faith in Jesus Christ is religion. It’s true that the author is playing a word-game of sorts, and doesn’t necessarily mean “religion” like it’s traditionally understood. But to assert that Christian faith is distinct from religion is immature and illogical. It is not possible to have a belief system without religion.
Tim Neufeld writes,
“A religion creates a whole culture in which one lives and worships. The notion that someone can have Jesus without having religion is a bit like the person who wants a contemporary music-driven worship service because he or she doesn’t like liturgy. Yet even the most charismatic and spirit-led church undoubtedly follows a pattern for worship that is repeated again and again on a weekly basis. This is precisely what a liturgy is — a way of “doing” church. Religion is a way of “doing” faith. It is the system which allows faith to be expressed and passed on to all of its adherents.”
Can our “religion” be a belief that gives preference to “relationship” over formal worship with a church body? Perhaps. But such a belief separates us from the body of Christ, and we exist in isolation. The truth is that we need each other. Neufeld continues,
“We need the gifts, talents, skills and contributions of all people in the church, not just from those with whom we agree. Church should be the safest place on earth to be different, to disagree and to offer countering ideas. True community encourages fresh ideas and new practices. If you are a young pastor, leader or member of a congregation thinking about leaving the institutionalized church because of disagreements, please don’t — we need you!”
God is Love – Patheos
According to the author, religion tells single mom’s that God doesn’t love them due to divorce. These, and other accusations, make no sense, and are related to a misunderstanding of the relationship between God’s love and God’s law (see Part 1).
It is a basic tennant of Christiainity not only that God is love (1 John 4:8), but that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39). It’s true that God gives us commandments and expects obedience – in this case, you can read for yourself the Savior’s opinion on divorce from the Sermon on the Mount – but disobedience does not keep God from loving us. Rather, because God loved us so much he gave us his only Son so that we could repent and come unto him (John 3:16).
It is Finished – Patheos
This was a reference to the sacrifice of the Savior, the atonement he had made on our belhalf. It was finished; or, in other words, it was acceptable to God. This statement has no bearing on any religious organization or need for formal priesthood ordinances or leadership. In fact, both ordinances and apostolic leadership continued beyond the resurrection.
Fr. Claude Burns’ Video
“Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” Transcript
What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?
What if I told you voting Republican really wasn’t His mission?
What if I told you “Republican” doesn’t automatically mean “Christian”?
And [what if I told you that] just because you call some people “blind” doesn’t automatically give you vision?
I mean, if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?
Why does [religion] build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?
Tells single moms God doesn’t love them if they’ve ever had a divorce?
But in the Old Testament God actually calls religious people whores
Religion might preach grace, but another thing they practice
[They] Tend to ridicule God’s people – they did it to John the Baptist
They can’t fix their problems, and so they just mask it
Not realizing religion’s like spraying perfume on a casket
See, the problem with religion is it never gets to the core
It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores
Like, let’s dress up the outside, make it look nice and neat
But it’s funny, that’s what they used to do to mummies while the corpse rots underneath
Now, I ain’t judging, I’m just saying, quit putting on a fake look
Cause there’s a problem if people only know you’re Christian by your Facebook
I mean, in every other aspect of life you know that logic’s unworthy
It’s like saying you play for the Lakers just because you bought a jersey
See, this was me too, but no one seemed to be on to me
Acting like a church kid, while addicted to pornography
See, on Sunday I’d go to church but on Saturday getting faded
Acting if I was simply created to just have sex and get wasted
See, I spent my whole life building this facade of neatness
But now that I know Jesus I boast in my weakness
Because if grace is water, then the church should be an ocean
It’s not a museum for good people; it’s a hospital for the broken
Which means I don’t have to hide my failure, I don’t have to hide my sin
‘Cause it doesn’t depend on me – it depends on Him
See, because when I was God’s enemy I was certainly not a fan
He looked down and said I want that man
Which is why Jesus hated religion, and for it he called them fools
Don’t you see so much better than following some rules?
Now let me clarify: I love the church, I love the Bible, and yes, I believe in sin
But if Jesus came to your church, would they actually let him in?
See, remember he was called a glutton and a drunkard by religious men
But the son of God never supports self-righteousness – not now, not then
Now back to the point, one thing is vital to mention
How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrum’s
See, one’s the work of God, but one’s a man made invention
See, one is the cure, but the other’s the infection
See, because 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
And that’s why religion and Jesus are two different clans
Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God searching for man
Which is why salvation is freely mine, and forgivemess is my own
Not based on my merits, but Jesus’ obedience alone
Because he took the crown of thorns, and the blood dripped down his face
He took what we all deserve – I guess that’s why they call it grace
And while being murdered, he yelled “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Because when he was dangling on that cross, he was thinking of you
And he absorbed all your sin and he buried it in the tomb
Which is why I’m kneeling at the cross saying “Come on, there’s room”
So for religion, I hate it; in fact I literally resent it
Because when Jesus said “It is finished,” I believe he meant it
“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5)