“Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus || Spoken Word”
Video description on YouTube:
“A poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion. In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At it’s core Jesus’ gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair. Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can’t do your own list of rules and feel not good enough for God. With Jesus though you have humble confident joy because He represents you, you don’t represent yourself and His sacrifice is perfect putting us in perfect standing with God!”
There are two things we are told never to speak of during polite dinner conversation; politics and religion. The two “hot button” issues tend to spark lively and sometimes even hostile debate.
Jefferson Bethke certainly sparked some debate with his YouTube video titled “Why I hate Religion, but Love Jesus.” The video has gone viral, garnering more than 20 million views on YouTube and has been shared on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, across the belief spectrum including Christians and atheists.
Bethke, a cross between a spoken word poet and a rapper, said in the video “Jesus came to abolish religion” and that it has not been successful in helping the masses.
“Why does [religion] build huge churches, but fail to feed the poor?” he said in the video.
For some, the message that Bethke is presenting may seem counterintuitive. He professes the Christian faith, but said he despises religion.
Kevin Crawford, lead pastor of Brookside Evangelical Free Church in Bowling Green, said that Bethke is not in fact contradicting himself.
“It is important to define how he is using [the word] religion,” Crawford said. “The legalist would say that you have to earn credit with God.” Crawford said Bethke is opposing this legalistic view of religion.
“It cannot be Jesus plus anything like good works,” Crawford said. “It is just about Jesus.”
Kevin Stetter, a 2009 University graduate who works in the campus ministry for St. Thomas More Catholic Parish, felt differently about Bethke’s message.
“He is operating off of a biased definition of religion,” Stetter said. “Religion is more than empty rituals.”
Stetter went on to say that Bethke’s view is “misinformed” when he said Jesus came to abolish religion.
“It says in Scriptures that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it,” Stetter said. “Maybe he just missed that verse.”
Sam Schmitt, a junior at the University and a member of the Bowling Green Secular Society, is an atheist.
“Where [Bethke] is saying you go wrong is when you believe in an institution more than Jesus,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt added that the number of hits the video has received speaks to how poignant the message is.
“I think the amount of views for this video proves that these are questions that are on the minds of young people,” Schmitt said.
Another point that Bethke used his cyber platform for was to talk about the state of the church.
“The church should not be a museum for good people, but a hospital for the broken,” Bethke said in the video.
There are no perfect people within the church, so it cannot be a museum for good people, Crawford said.
Schmitt agreed with what Crawford said about people’s imperfection.
“Real people are not perfect,” Schmitt said. “All people are flawed. You can’t think you’re good enough to hang out with Jesus.”
While Stetter said he mostly agrees with what Bethke said about the church, he said what Bethke is saying is not a difficult point to make.
“Pointing out hypocrisy is like shooting fish in a barrel,” Stetter said. He added that what is difficult is showing Christ’s love to the masses.
Stetter said Christ wanted unity for the church and that is not happening between different denominations within Christianity.
“The church is divided,” Stetter said. “There are over 44,000 different denominations. Does that seem like unity to you?”
Stetter, Crawford and Schmitt all agreed on a benefit of the video: the creation of a venue for honest dialogue.
“The video causes people to think about the issues and self-reflect,” Schmitt said. “There is also an undertone of challenging authority. When you won’t take the bishop’s or priest’s or pastor’s word for it, you’ll go and seek out answers for yourself.”
While the video sparked debate among people, it vexed others, Stetter said.
“If he is misinformed he can offend people,” Stetter said. “Our pastor was quite offended.”
Crawford also felt that responses to the video were not all positive.
“It’s negative when Christians are being divisive within the Church,” Crawford said. “[Bethke] is communicating outwardly and trying to start a conversation between believers and non-believers.”
Another “hot button” issue addressed by Bethke in the video is politics.
“What if I told you voting Republican really wasn’t [Christ’s] mission? What if I told you Republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian?” Bethke said in the video.
Crawford said politics will not change our culture and only the message of the Gospel will bring about real change.
“Our culture has affiliated Evangelical Christians with Republicans,” Crawford said. “Christians are not always Fox watchers and Rush Limbaugh listeners.”
Stetter agreed that neither political party is necessarily Christian.
“There is no consistent ethic in politics,” Stetter said. “The church has a consistent ethic.”
Schmitt felt Bethke’s message could be an example of younger Christians trying to distance themselves from an older, more conservative generation.
“It could also be that the religious right is embarrassing,” Schmitt said.
Bethke’s video has caused a discussion in the faith community and the wealth of video responses, ranging from praise to staunch objection, as well as commenting in online forums, speaks to that.
Bethke stated on his Facebook page that he welcomes the input.
“I love the responses, suggestions and critiques,” Bethke stated. “I am thankful for healthy discussion.”