Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus

There is a video going around facebook and twitter you may have seen. It is called Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus. Young people resonate with this kind of thing. That is why the video has 5 million views and 60k comments. Young people don’t want a shallow faith. They don’t want to go through the motions. They want a place that is a hospital for the hurting and where you can be genuine, not “hiding my sin.” That all makes sense and is more the meat of the video. But the video isn’t all just solid, biblical meat. It has it’s issues. There were times I wanted to shout “Amen, amen!” during this video and times I wanted to shout “Oh no!”

This is nothing new:
It really isn’t anything new. This video is basically a catchy rehash of views of Christianity that have been voiced over the last 30+ years. The old saying was “I want the man, not the plan.” Dan Kimball addressed this a few years ago in curriculum called “They Like Jesus but Not the Church.”

But before all of that, God expressed some of the views of this video in Jeremiah 7. What God said there is a little lengthy but worth the read. I would encourage you to go ahead and click that link and read that chapter because it will shed light on how God views all of this so we can take His word on it. A few things stand out to me in Jeremiah 7. The first is that God hates empty religion. God hates when religion becomes an end to itself. God hates when religion is used almost like magic. You go through the motions and say the rights words to ensure something for yourself. But Jeremiah 7 never says what this video says…that religion as a whole is to be hated. In fact, God says that he gave commands and he wants them to be obeyed,

“For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.” – 7:22-23

I don’t think this guy hates all religion either. In a minute I am going to quote his description of the video where he brings out a few points that would have been helpful to clarify in the video itself.

The problem of broad generalization:
The big problem I have with this video is that it broad brushes religion when really the video is condemning a certain type of religion. He says he hates “religion” and that Jesus hates it too. Is that true when spoken of so generally? Is all religion to be hated and seen as evil? I don’t believe that is biblical. Instead we should be upset about false religion just like God is. Yes, Jesus was called a drunkard and a glutton by “religious” men. But that doesn’t make religion bad or evil. Those men relied on their religion and practice rather than relying on God but that doesn’t mean religious practice is wrong or evil. It just needs to be understood and practiced from the perspective of how those practices are relational with God and others. Pure religion is not about jumping through hoops. Religion is an expression of following God by following the things He has taught us. Religion is not an end to itself. Religion must be about relationship.

Jesus and Religion on Opposite Spectrums?
In the video he says that Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums. I guess that is why Jesus and Paul both went to great lengths to observe the law during their lifetimes? Maybe that is why Jesus said that he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17). Hardly a statement describing the “two different clans” he says divides Jesus and religion. Also, how much of the sermon on the mount was about practicing pure religion from the heart rather than going through the motions and rationalizing sin. My point is, Jesus believed that religion could be good and lead to good things when understood from God’s perspective and true to God’s intention for religion.

If you look at the description he wrote of the video, he nails it. He just never explains this in the actual video!

“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!”

Now that is a little better. I would add a third option to what religion ends in. Religion can end in pride, despair or in a closer relationship with God. It ends in the later when religion is understood as a part of approaching God in all of his holiness and obeying his commands out of a response to God’s grace. Once religion becomes all about earning things or about self it becomes false. But there is such a thing as pure religion. “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.” – James 1:27. I wouldn’t call that an infection and I am sure he wouldn’t either.

To sum it up, the big problem with this video is the broad generalization of lumping all religion into a stereotype and ignoring what the Bible actually says about it. It muddies the water too much for me and lacks clarity as well as biblical support for the broad generalizations he makes. People who want to hear a Christian say things like that are going to jump on board and make it even harder to reach them.

I want to make one last point here…catchy has replaced content. If you turn on the top 40 songs in America today the content is terrible but the tunes are catchy. It all sounds good. You can dance to it. It has a nice beat. But the content is deadly. I am not putting this in the camp with all that raunch. But I think there is a similar principle here…make something catchy and people will overlook a lot and put more stock in it than it might be worth.

What is your take on this video?

HT: Philip Cunningham – Thanks Philip for mentioning this and sharing your thoughts. I would love for you to share some of them in the comments.