Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hating Religion... Loving Jesus. Are these the only two choices?

 Jefferson Bethke. The most controversial figure in the world of Christian blogging since last week's tizzy over Mark Driscoll's latest book.

If you haven't heard by now, there's a little spoken word video made by a young Christian named Jefferson Bethke of Washington state that's making the interwebs go all aflutter. If you haven't seen this on your Facebook news feed yet, you will. You can also go ahead and click "Like" to this blog's Facebook page by clicking here if you have not done so yet. Go ahead, click it.... CLICK IT!

Ahem, anyway, the video:

Of course, Mr. Bethke's video could not be a bona fide hit without critiques. Like this one. Or this one. Or this one.

I posted this video on my personal Facebook page and received a lot of great comments. My brother Joe wrote:

I believe this is a wonderful poem, a great discussion starter, and if this piece can get anyone interested in knowing more about the Christ, his life and what he did; I say job well done.

Then I believe it is up to us to the church (which this young man said he loved during his clarification verse) to educate them in more detail. After all how much can you pack into a four min. poem (and still make it flow)

Finally I think this was inspired. If we through out all of our thoughts on what he could have further clarified, or we wish that he included, I believe what he actually said has weight. Now that this video is going viral, in our discussions I hope that our conversations can be as honest, and fresh, and inspired as this young mans.
...  The word religion itself is pretty much a blank slate, dependent on how one uses it. I think to say that "Jesus loved religion" in the context of the religious orders of that day, would be false, and since this young man draws his references from Jesus's Life and death, then I see no great contradiction in what he has stated. After all, the church that the early disciples would build was not yet created, but he does warn against the dangers of being like the leaders of that time. Hypocrites and elitist law loving judges.

 Another friend wrote:
To me it got out the fact that religion as we have come to know it is man made and really has very little to do with Jesus and His intent. I love it because though there is so much debate, that video has over 9 million and rapidly growing and this guy got the main message across and every pair of ears that heard it is accountable for the information and it will spark discussions about the topics relayed which is much needed within the church and religious sectors. GOD is going to get the glory anyway because JESUS as SAVIOR is mentioned! God is still doing His thang! I'm impressed! :)
A third friend took issue with the Kevin DeYoung rebuttal in particular. He wrote:

Sorry, but Kevin Deyoung and others like him need to get a life. I mean, really... you're going to analyze this kid's poem line by line? How about trying to come to grips with why this thing went viral in the first place? This poem has clearly tapped into something deep in the hearts of many, many people who are truly dissatisfied with what they've been experiencing as "church." E.g., the cult of leadership, pastor as CEO, abusive authority, the Sunday morning "showtime," organizational priorities trumping the needs of people... I could go on but you get the idea. People today are desperately looking for something real, and the only reality that will ever satisfy is an actual full-blown encounter with the living God. More and more people are simply done with church as we have known it because that kind of reality just ain't happening there.

Anytime I hear people defending organized religion, or the church as we have known it, it's usually because they have a vested interest in play. And lo and behold, there it is on his webpage: Mr. Deyoung pastors a Reformed church in Michigan. And for someone who mentions Matthew 18 in their critique without actually following Jesus' words there (i.e. how about contacting Jefferson first before tearing his work apart?), well, it's just typical of the mindset: I'll tell you what to do but don't expect me to do it. Nothing against him personally, he seems like a nice guy, but the intellectual equivocation over the real issues just gets a bit much to take sometimes.
I contemplated writing a response, but... nah. I'm wrapping up maternity leave and heading back to work on Tuesday. Plus I have much to discuss (I spent a third of last month in the hospital...!). BUT, please feel free to comment here. Do you agree with the video? Or do you have reservations about it? Share!

And Happy 2012! To my 3 new followers, welcome abord!


Don said...

I agree with the video and hold no reservations whatsoever. I've often questioned how something as promising as religion caused so many wars throughout the history of mankind.

Like Joseph stated, I too wish that Johnathan could've went into greater detail and clarified his controversial position.

In the end, his message (if that's what it is) is one after my own heart. I believe we'd shared this discussion our selves.

Thanks for sharing the post. One of my faves since I began reading your blog.

Don said...

Jefferson, not Johnathan. My bad. Doing too many things at once.

Alisha De Freitas said...

From what I've read around the internet, Jefferson does in other videos on his YouTube channel. I haven't checked them out yet, but I believe he clarifies that this is based on his personal experience of calling himself a Christian yet nothing about his life supported it. But what convicted him was the realization that God STILL loves him just the same.

Newy said...

I agree with him. The "church" as in organized religion is it's own worse enemy at times. This is because the people inside of the organized religion often hold a measuring stick by which all new "members" are measured while forgetting where they came from.

The thing that people have to remember is Christianity is about a relationship with God not about manmade religion.

Religion tells you what you have to do to get saved. Christianity tells you what has already been done. Kudos to him for recognizing the difference.

Don said...

Yes. I will check the rest of his videos this weekend while everyone else is watching football, since there will be no more football gatherings this year for me. Saints lost and, as far as I'm concerned, the season is over. Lol.

The fact that God loves us all is what struck me the most from reading the bible and speaking with elders and even debating scripture with preachers. Imagine that. So, although I'm a woeful sinner, I carry within the depths of my heart that just as a parent loves their own creation - amid disobedience, there is a spiritual love always present.

From earlier discussions we've shared on the blogs concerning religion or certain Christians ... the message coincides with the essay I once wrote for my daughter at a Sunday School class entitled Parting The Red "C", which basically spoke of their being two types of "Christians."

Your kind - the true believers who becomes pained by much of what is witnessed on Earth, loving nothing more than to share Hope with the accusers, perpetrators and victims.

And "their kind", those who refuse to speak to hardly anyone as you pass them by.

Sunny said...

My Lil sister put me up on this and I agree...but like Don said maybe this guy could explain further for us.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Hey Newy & Sunny! Thanks for commenting!

Joseph Flemming said...

Well, Since my comment has already been posted within the story, I will only add that I am happy that the discussion is still on going.

@Don, the format might be different, but the message of redemption is still the same ;) said...

So I'm exhausted & it's a bad day for my muscles but I must respond. (Please forgive me if I'm a but loopy.) Some of what Jonathan says is spot on, some of it is a big problem. The Church began caring for those in need & continues to do so. What the Church hasn't done is advertise itself very well so that people don't know that the Church (all denominations put together) feeds more people than all the other charities put together. Ditto housing & medical care & all sorts of other charities. But it's not a contest, those who are called to care for the poor care for the poor. As for wars, history just doesn't support the accusation of more wars in the name of religion. Yes, there have been wars in the name of religion but not many. Most wars have been for the acquisition of land & for power & have had nothing to do with religion. In modern times, more wars have occurred because of atheist ideology. I'm not interested in nitpicking. I am interested in saying that some serious lapses in the truth mar an otherwise excellent piece & cause people to agree w/ what is simply not true. If we're not telling the truth, who are we working for?

We can't separate religion from what it means to be human. When the earliest human beings come on the scene, they believe in god (or even God) & they have rituals to express that belief. Religion may be human but it's also something that God has given us, the need to worship Him as a community which first becomes the Temple & then becomes the ecclesia, the Church. Worship is prescribed in the Old Testament. The early Church just took the worship from the Temple & added the "breaking of the Bread" according to the formula the Gospels & Paul & Revelation sets forth. Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles & Revelation tell us what the early Church was like as do the Church Fathers who succeeded the Apostles. Jesus worshiped in the Temple. What He railed against was not religion but the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who failed to teach the people the truth, who made coming to know God difficult, who failed to shepherd God's people. It wasn't religion Christ hated but the corruption of the religious leaders.

We must understand that the members of the Church are human & as sinful & fallen as anyone outside the Church. As Jonathan indicates (though not at all clearly), there are still corrupt religious leaders. We get it wrong & make a mess of it BUT the Church belongs to Christ & He heals our errors & helps us back to our feet & uses our brokenness to make us more like Him. He brings us back home to true faith, true worship, true love.

I'll keep Jonathan in my prayers. He seems angry; I wish he were full of joy.

(PS: voting GOP doesn't mean voting for Christ. Unfortunately, voting Democrat, since the platform supports abortion, homosexuality & other sins condemned by God & the Bible means voting for death. That's where we need a third alternative.) said...

By the way, cool blog!

Don said...

@JosephFlemming Yes, indeed.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Thank you, Drusilla!

I didn't take Jefferson's tone to be angry... I read it as "passionate". I think it's pretty much a prerequisite of rap/spoken word.

I am a fan of his, even though I admit I am "religious". Yes, I am. I've been baptized. I try to attend church weekly. When I do, I take Communion. I read the Bible, a holy book, say the Our Father prayer. As an Episcopalian, I even light candles and make the sign of the cross.

At the same time, I understand what Jefferson is really attacking here. It's actually FALSE religion. It's those who have only a mere form of godliness, but are spiritually bankrupt inside.

As a part of the Millenial Generation (or whatever you want to call us, lol), I understand Jefferson's rap to be targeted at those who are seeking spiritually but view "church" with the crooked eye. We grew up hearing about Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson. Greedy pastors and abusive priests. Even still... the Christ draws us...

To be honest, also, there is nothing TRULY novel about what he says, either. Coming from an evangelical Protestant perspective, it's pretty much par for the course. Who hasn't seen tees emblazoned with the message that Christianity is a relationship and NOT a religion? Or some other type of slogan?

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