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'Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus': To Adore or Abhor?


Jan 16 2012
What we can take away from the viral video that elicited such visceral reactions.

I'm guessing at least 15 of your friends have posted Jefferson Bethke's "Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus," and maybe yet another 15 of your friends posted response pieces. Don't worry: the phrase 'false dichotomy' will not appear anywhere in this article. And we will not discuss at length the merits of Christian spoken word as a subgenre (perhaps another time).

Bethke risks appearing supremely arrogant by claiming to love Jesus and hate religion—an arrogance of which, I must point out, I am as guilty as anyone. To separate Jesus from religion is to create a false dichotomy an untrue juxtaposition of two non-mutually exclusive concepts. Jesus did not come to abolish religion. He did not come to abolish the law. (Matthew 5:19) He came to do what he is still in the business of doing: to redeem all.

We do not get to separate ourselves from the Church, as Christians. We do not get to claim non-religiosity simply to fit in, or to feel better about ourselves. As a friend of mine put it, to say that you love Jesus but hate religion is akin to saying you love your best friend but hate his wife. That relationship will not last.

Making pronouncements about religion certainly isn't new. When Anne Rice 'quit' Christianity back in 2007, she said, "It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else." How else are we to respond, except to carry on in our quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious ways. Buying into this false dichotomy—err, wrong-minded thinking doesn't do anyone any good. It separates the individual from the group to which they belong in the name of Jesus Christ.

We aren't required to check our brains at the door, but we are to work together - all of us - to be more loving, more compassionate, more humble in our theology and gracious in our spirits. We do not have to like every Christian to agree with them. But we are called to love one another, and we do so with the power of the one who came to this earth and died for our sins and has redeemed our small and glorious world.

Here's the $64,000 question: What is religion?

Is it hypocrisy? By 'religion,' do we really mean the way of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the Westboro Baptist Church? Because if so, we are in trouble.

Is it absurdity? Is it, like Bethke said, "putting perfume on a casket?" Is it legalism - "behavior modification, like a long list of chores?" Because if so, we are in a lot of trouble.

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