If you haven’t been on a digital black out these past two weeks then you probably have seen the thumbnail photo of Jeff Bethke’s “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus” slam poetry video. Admittedly, I liked it; it had some valid points of which we, the religious folks, are guilty of.
This kind of sentiment is nothing new, but it is packaged and presented very well and has brought to the forefront again new discussions and a host of video variations.
My favorite “response” is from this guy.
So what do we do with the discussion now?
This has happened, it is now a thing. How do we handle the conversation in ministry and spiritual formation contexts? Five of my thoughts to ponder:
- Jesus wasn’t a hater, so we shouldn’t be all hating on everything from the bible, churches, religion, etc. Christians tend to read the bible and see the Pharisees as some bad guys that Jesus is always pitted against. Technically speaking, they were the well respected ministers, youth pastors, and theologians of the day and Jesus had love for them. Didn’t always agree with them, wanted them to see a new yoke was possible. Strangely the pharisees and priests had the most to lose with Jesus coming (similar today) and that is a tough identity crisis to work around. Jesus loved them, though, and he loved his synagogue/church toward fulfilling a new law, not destroying an old one. Loving Jesus is to take on a policy of love; there isn’t room to hate. You can disagree with things and have issues with things, but hating isn’t part of a loving relationship with Jesus. But I do get it; hate is a good word for a title in getting someone’s attention–I used it in this posting.
- “The church is a whore, and she’s my mother” is one of my favorite quotes from Saint Augustine (and as far as I’ve been able to research it isn’t debated that he did or didn’t say that). I’ve said this quote many times when the church/religious folks get me angry. Christ calls for the church to be created (Matthew 16:18) through Peter and that’s about the end of the story. He leaves us as far as his physical presence and teachings and us human folks are left to figure out Christ and this church. We don’t have it perfect, we have the parts that we want to hide from others, parts that we are ashamed of but still if it were not for the church & the religious people, we would be less likely to know the Jesus that has shaped much good over the history of civilization.
- “At the best the church is a family and at the worst the church is a family” is one of our family sayings. Church is made up of people and we are all fallible. We try and many times get it right and we many times can get it wrong. But we do try to be a family as we are a family united under Christ. So we have our nutty uncles and cousins who have “issues” in the religious family. We still love them, even if it is with a, “bless their heart…” or, “I wish they wouldn’t do that.”
- It’s okay to be in tension. Yes the religious Christian faith has produced some pretty egregious things, from the inquisition, wars, colonialism, excommunication, mega-worship-palaces, celebrity, artistic hijackery, etc. But it also has elements of feeding the poor, taking care of the sick, praying with the elderly, sitting with the dying, protesting injustice, changeing governments–it’s the subject of timeless art, it inspires millions, and more. It is okay to be in tension; these things we have done are part of who we are. The question becomes this: what items of our legacy do we want to keep doing?
- Why do we always introduce people to Christ by inviting them to our institutions? This thought comes via Donald Miller. Why is it that when we want someone to come to faith to find their own relationship with Christ we invite them to our religious institutions? “Come to church…,” “Come to my bible study…,” “You gotta hear our pastor…,” etc. are these easy phrases we spit out to people as if they are expressions of compassion. When Christ started the Spirit’s movement in them and in you personally, relationally–why do we feel the need to move them to the institution? Family businesses start off with a passion and a dream and then if it is wanted/needed to keep the business sustainable over a length of time you move to make the business incorporated to keep it going. It helps in this fashion; it isn’t a bad thing as long as you remember what started it (Wal-mart has many times over forgotten what Sam Walton was passionate about in starting their business in Bentonville, Arkansas so many years ago). People might feel less of the “religious” hate if we said, “Let me share with you how Christ transforms and convicts me…,” over, “Come to church and see our great _____…”
Questions for using this as a youth ministry teaching discussion:
- What does the term “religious” mean for the artist and others?
- In what part of “religiousness” do we play a part?
- What are the negative and positive points to being “religious” today?
- How do our politics play into being Christian?
- How do you think we have corrupted and promoted Christ’s teachings, messages, meaning, and divinity through the years?
- Who is responsible for your coming to know Christ?
- Is Christ the institution our default for sharing Christ with others or do we own that responsibility?
- What makes a good Christian in America today? (let’s be honest, this is totally an American Christian discussion here)
- What am I creating today that celebrates my religion and faith in Christ?
- Why do people have a problem following the church but not Christ?
- Why do you follow Christ?
- How has Christ transformed you?
- It is easier to hate things than it is to love? Why? What is so difficult about loving?
- Who all and what all does Christ call us to love?
- Did Jesus come to abolish religion? What about our religious theology and practice will Jesus tell us to get rid of if he returns today? (Or for the smart a$$ kid who says we wouldn’t have that conversation til 30 years from now if he were born today, “Okay kid… if Jesus proclaimed himself today having been born back in 1981-2.”)
btw: I do like chinese buffets, puppies, the bible, people, me, and my family but bad music and kittens are walking a very thin line.