Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus

Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus

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.

For counterpoint:

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.

Reducing God to a Magic 8 Ball

We’re all guilty of doing it.

It’s easy to reduce God to a magic eight ball.

As we approach crossroads in life, we remember, “Oh yeah, I’ve got God.” So we ask our question, shake really hard, and optimistically turn our magic 8 ball over.

Don’t reduce God to a computational machine.

But you may say, “What about knowing God’s will for me? What about knowing what I’m supposed to do? What school to go to? Who to marry?” These are all legitimate concerns no doubt. But they are not all there is to God.

Continue reading

Regeneration and Continuing in the Really Life

Our experience of regeneration determines our subsequent experiences of life.

The experience of regeneration initiates something that continues for eternity. Regeneration orients us for the rest of our life and becomes the standard by which we evaluate all other life experiences. When we are awakened to what transpired within us at the time of our salvation, we begin to value “that which is really life.”

…lay hold on that which is really life. –1 Timothy 6:19

Regardless of how apparently real or contributory others’ lives are without Christ, they live in a psuedo reality, a virtual world. They may be successful. They may be an activist. Their life may tell a compelling narrative. Yet in God’s eyes none of it is real, in a relative sense. Yes, it actually happened, but it happened all in the realm of shadows- pointers to another reality in Christ (Colossians 2:17).

Regeneration is a point of embarkation. It confers on those who experience it a prize and an authority (Colossians 2:8, John 1:12-13). The prize- we become among those privileged to enjoy Christ as everything. The authority- we have the right to continue in this all encompassing experience until Christ is all to us. He is our food, drink, breath, clothing, house. This doesn’t mean that we withdraw from the physicality of existence and become a hermit or nun. It means that every life event becomes a dual experience. We eat our breakfast and are reminded to eat Christ (John 6:57). We take a deep breath and simultaneously maintain our spiritual life pulse by calling on the Lord’s name (Lamentations 3:55-56).

However, it’s possible as Christians to live outside of the continuing experience of our regeneration. We should not receive this new life and then remain in our old context with life as usual.

4 views on the experience of regeneration:

1.  Remedial

You’re bad and need to have a change or improvement. This may be likened to having bad eyesight and getting corrective lenses. Regeneration then is a life-saver thrown to you in the sea of moral depravity. Regeneration is described as a washing but also as a birth. The cup is cleansed but also filled. This is the objective only view.

2.  Transient

As long as you  behave, do good works, and remain in God’s favor then this experience is yours. But just as it came, it could go. There’s no feeling of stability, power, or safety. This is the reversible birth concept.

3.  Nostalgic

You have your ticket to heaven. You received everlasting life but plan to live a long life, maybe until 80, and then at the end when you need it, this life will kick in and cause you to live forever.  This was an event in time past with no durative consequences. A distant moment of glory. Your come-to-Jesus moment. He came into your heart, but stays inert, the same, unchanging with passive indifference, like a lump of graphite embedded under the skin. Later you’ll say, let me recount to you my experience 20 years ago.

4.  Dynamic

This is what I tried to describe at the start. Another life, Christ Himself, enters your spirit and begins a revolution. This life is not static or inert. It moves, grows, and transforms you from within. This life becomes a realm in which you conduct your existence. This life is incorporated into all your daily ventures so that your experience of what you received at the time of your regeneration is as real and vibrant years after. Everything becomes a reminder and an opportunity to continue in your experience of regeneration.

This fourth description makes for a compelling and exciting Christian life. Being Christian then is not boring, blasé, or dull. And it is not merely a new title we adopt to commemorate a one time experience. It is a progressive and expanding endeavor of experiencing the divine life that we received, all the time.

The Ineffable Lightness of Being

“Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you for a share of the allotted portion of the saints in the light; who delivered us out of the authority of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”

-Colossians 1:12-13

Your portion as a Christian is “in the light.”

Gothic architecture may have been founded on similar theological notions, but the religious, creative mind of the day, in its attempt to materialize this truth in concrete terms, stripped it of its full import. Beautiful stained glass windows diffracted light into a kaleidoscopic metaphor of God and a whole new genre of religious art flourished. Medieval man’s experience of this ‘lux nova’ was confined to basking in the colorful glow of physical light. The resultant concept was that man could rise to the contemplation of the divine only through the senses- a physical experience of an immaterial abstraction.

The far reaching ripples of this objective or physical experience of God lap upon the shores of modern Christianity.

Continue reading