At 10,587,270 views at 11 pm on only the fifth day since it was posted, the “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” YouTube video can officially be dubbed viral.
It’s amazing to me that 685 words with the right video editing and some perfectly timed musical swells can attract such a flash flood of attention. The entire video lasts but a brief 4 minutes and 4 seconds.
Martin Luther’s 95 Theses was 2,633 words and were nailed to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg. No lute was playing in the background for dramatic effect.
The United States Declaration of Independence was 1,458 words.
Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, the third longest novel in Latin or Cyrillic alphabets, stands at 1.5 million words and is today creating considerably less a stir. Apparently then, length does not necessarily equal impact. The internet is a different kind of physics.
In fact, it’s very probable that if Jefferson Bethke’s video had been much longer, many people wouldn’t have watched it to the end. But the visual stimulus and moving music appealed to more than just the “relevant” followers of Jesus.
Beyond the appeal to the senses there is the more significant appeal to reason, history, and the Bible.
The thesis sentence seems to be “Jesus came to abolish religion.”
Notable themes are: judgmentalism, self-righteousness, objective teachings that don’t transform, mere rule-following, hypocrisy, works and self-merit. Jesus and the apostles surely touched on all these themes in the New Testament (Matthew 7:1, Romans 2:1, 21-23, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Matthew 15:7-8, Galatians 2:16)
In the deluge of blog responses and their comments, some have come to the defense of religion. Clearly we need some definition of religion in mind then to proceed.
What is Religion?
My working definition of religion comes from Witness Lee and is “the attempt to do something for God apart from Christ.”
Thus, not only is legalism religion but loving people apart from Christ is religion. Zealous works apart from Christ is religion. Patience apart from Christ is religion. Kindness apart from Christ is religion. Anything that is not the result of the subjective experience of Christ living in you may very well be religion.
Galatians is a book that combats religion, and here Paul uses such expressions as “reveal His son in me” (Gal. 1:15-16), “Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20), and “until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19).
In this sense, Jesus did not come to abolish one religion (Judaism) to establish another religion (Christianity). Christ came to release His divine life into His believers to form the church as His organic Body for His practical, corporate expression. This is His eternal purpose and it is absolutely outside religion.
Let us therefore go forth unto Him outside the camp… –Hebrews 13:13
The History of Judaism
To trace the history of the children of Israel is a lesson in religion. It’s beyond the scope of this post but it’s an enlightening survey- how man went from direct fellowship with God, to indirect fellowship (yet still genuine and in faith) with God through the tabernacle with the offerings and the priesthood, to (generally) degraded traditionalism without much heart for God. What began as a vital contacting of God in faith ultimately became a religion of man.
The synagogue itself became the epicenter of the persecution that Jesus and the apostles experienced.
And departing from there, He came into their synagogue. And behold, a man who had a withered hand was there. And they asked Him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, What man will there be among you who will have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep! So then it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath. Then He said to the man, Stretch out your hand. And he stretched it out and it was restored, as sound as the other. But the Pharisees, going out, took counsel against Him as to how they might destroy Him. –Matthew 12:9-14
And all in the synagogue were filled with anger when they heard these things, and they rose up and cast Him out of the city and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built so that they might throw Him down the cliff. –Luke 4:28-29
His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be the Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. –John 9:22
And beware of men, for they will deliver you up to sanhedrins, and in their synagogues they will scourge you. –Matthew 10:17
Ultimately Judaism became formal in letter, deadening in quenching the Spirit, killing in man’s communication with God in life, and contending with the gospel of Christ in God’s New Testament economy. If it happened with Judaism in the Old Testament could it happen with segments of Christianity in the New Testament?
What should we do about it then? What do you want to change? Do you want people to do more to reach out to the homeless? Do you want people to be more tolerant and accepting of others? Do you just want people to unwind a little and not be such sticklers? These may all be good things. But the only thing that can save us from religion is the subjective experience of Christ as life.
Wow. I was just thinking yesterday, “I wish Kyle would write about this video. Maybe I’ll suggest it to him”. Well, looks like I didn’t have to. I do, however, hope that you would write more. I believe this is a loaded topic that needs to be unpacked! Praise the Lord we can go outside of the camp with Him. Praise Him that we can know Him in a subjective way!
This IS a loaded topic and I feel like some basic parameters really help. Religion itself is a loaded term with a lot of baggage and even within the video it is a little unclear which religion that Bethke is talking about. At first it seems like Christianity but later on he distinguishes between religion and Christianity. Most of the statements he makes are similar to statements Christ made but it is not clear how he is trying to apply them or what he wants done about it. The funny thing is that he is not the first to say this, so it’s interesting that it is creating such a stir.
I’m glad you addressed this too. There’s been a lot of back and forth about this on Christian blogs. I appreciated Bethke’s message, but it is also important to know that being religious is not just self-righteousness, it’s anything apart from Christ.
It’s also good to remember that although Christ may be against self-righteousness He certainly made many statements positively about the need for righteousness. A rather demanding level of righteousness actually. Look at Matthew 5:20 for instance- “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” Same with holiness. Some people may prefer a God who is love only, but He is not. He is also righteous and holy and many other things. Here is where religion and God’s purpose split though. The footnote in the Recovery Version Bible on John 1:17 is helpful. Religion “makes demands on man according to what God is; grace supplies man with what God is to meet what God demands.” So the requirement is still there but the means is totally different. Grace doesn’t mean that there are no requirements anymore. And like others have commented on their blogs, yes the church is a hospital, but eventually people in that hospital get better. The church is also the kingdom in reality. So without some further explanation the whole thing is hard to gauge.
Well said kyle!
We all need the supply of grace! All we have to do is be open to the Lord and receive the grace! (Rom. 5:17)
I actually watched this video from the very beginning, and more than 100 of my friends on facebook – some seeking and many not-so-seeking – have re-shared it again and again. It was indeed one of those things that goes viral, especially since many of the things the guy says are so real!
But amen, brother, it is one thing to expose it and speak in a nice way about loving the Lord, and it is quite different to have and develop a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ!
The video definitely resonates on many levels. What the song attacks is hypocrisy and that has been around since … well, since Jesus’ time (see Matthew 23.) I think everyone is taken aback by how commercialized some segments of Christianity have become and how political people (mostly conservatives and Republicans) opportunistically wear it on their sleeve to cater to different segments of society. To be honest, I have been surprised by the overwhelming response to the video mainly because there is so much Christian activity today. The facts that the video would resonate with so many people is an indictment of sorts. People are looking for something real and genuine and what this video is saying is that it’s in short supply today.
It’s interesting but within every person there is a baloney detector and we know to some extent when we encounter the real and genuine thing in a believer and conversely, when we do not. I think the thing the video targets and the thing we have to look at is why with so much Christian activity today do we still feel there is something lacking. I think that is one of the main things the video is pointing out and to that end it is a welcome corrective.
I agree. The fact that the video has attracted such attention is really interesting considering it came from just a regular guy. In a sense, Jesus was in a very similar situation- unknown, not a “professional”, from a small town, and yet spoke with authority and definitely stirred the pot. The recent declining trend in the megachurches may be further evidence of the longing for something more genuine and less commercialized among believers.
Thanks Kyle, The Lord is a person not an organization….so we must have a personal relationship……from Mike-Gladys Dahlkoetter
Jefferson Bethke is like John the baptist, a voice of one crying all over the internet, preparing a way for eachonehas.com to go viral and fill up the lack his video created.
Hallelujah! Praise The Lord.. Our God didn’t build any religion rather He built the Church that which His Body.. amen.. remember the Lord said in Matthew16:18 – Peter upon this rock I will build up my church… O LORD JESUS.. God is calling for His building..How we need to go out from religion and hear God’s calling.. amen amen amen..
I would love to give Bethke a copy of “Christ vs. Religion.”
I personally thought the video was unfortunately quite dark and dramatized by the hip-hop theme. But, I began to appreciate it a bit more when I heard that he never expected the video to go viral.
Either way, praise the Lord that he sees what many Christians have no chance of seeing on their own, even though it’s so incredibly punctuated in the Bible. He’s a sharp guy and I pray the Lord would really use him and this video to further gain His bride.
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