Friday, January 13, 2012

Response to "Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus" Video


“Religion – (n) –
  1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
  2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.”
-Dictionary.com

When I logged on to my facebook a few hours ago I found twelve of my friends going wild about a new video called Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus – Spoken Word. You can view it above.

I think the video presents some valid points. However, I disagree with the overall message that belief in Jesus and belief in religion are polar opposites, and that one is good while the other is bad (so bad, in fact, that the idea of religion should be hated). Rather, I think they are both very good things, but also recognize that can both be corrupted and perverted into causing bad things. I’d like to break down the poem line-by-line and address where I think the guy is a little off.

“What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion.” – You’d be wrong. Because Jesus started a religion. Belief in Jesus’ teachings IS a religion. Throughout the video, he continuously attacks a straw man by portraying the concept of religion as something it is not. He simply uses the word “religion” as interchangeable with all the bad aspects of the church, which doesn’t make any sense and isn’t true.

“What if I told you voting Republican wasn’t really his mission? What if I told you Republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian, and what if you calling people blind doesn’t automatically give you vision?” – You’d be stating the obvious. These lines are so political and so out of line with the subjects discussed in the rest of the video that they really don’t warrant a response; they’re just irrelevant to the discussion.

“If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?” – This is a silly logical fallacy. Religion doesn’t start wars. People start wars, because people are flawed. Just because people have often used religion as an excuse to justify the wars they start doesn’t mean religion itself is the cause. By that logic, lots and lots of great things have also caused wars. Patriotism causes wars; is patriotism bad? The desire for freedom causes wars; is the desire for freedom bad? The perception of being oppressed causes wars; does that mean it is bad to fight oppression? No. The crusades were not caused by Catholicism any more than 9/11 was caused by Islam or the Holocaust was caused by Lutheranism. Rather, they were caused by perversions of those religions. They were propagated be misguided and crazy individuals who had something to gain by citing an otherwise good thing as an excuse to do bad.

“Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?” – Like war, this was a very bad thing. And like war, it has nothing to do with the actual message of the religion. Like war, it was carried out by greedy people with enough power to sucker others into doing their bidding, not due to flaws with the idea of religion itself. These problems are not isolated to religions either; have other large, powerful organizations not screwed up from time to time? Governments, corporations, secular non-profits, racial or cultural organizations, etc; all have scandals and wrongdoings, sometimes even conduct genocide or other terrible things. None are necessarily religious. The unfortunate truth is that PEOPLE are vain, PEOPLE sometimes forget about the poor, PEOPLE are selfish and make mistakes, whether they’re acting as a Pastor or as a President. These incidents are not any more likely in the church than they are in other group. The president rides around in style. The White House, Supreme Court and Congressional Buildings are pretty ornate. Even you and I live with a lot of luxuries we probably don’t need, and could probably give to poor people if we really thought about it. That doesn’t make the government or you and I bad, much less worthy of “hate”. Because we’re flawed and immoral, we make mistakes sometimes; why should religious leaders be any different? He criticizes some religions for holding all people to manmade standards they can’t meet, but then in turn holds religion to a standard it can’t meet either. And by the way, Catholic Relief Services donates 98 cents of every dollar to its programs, making it one of the most efficient contributions you can possibly make towards helping the poor. Lutheran World Relief is also over 90%.

“Tell single mom’s God doesn’t love them if they’ve ever had a divorce.” – I don’t know of any religion that does this. Even religions which oppose any and all divorce on face, believes God loves all his children even when they screw up. They believe in forgiveness of sins. It certainly doesn’t mean religion as a whole is bad.

“Religion might teach grace, but another thing they practice.” – Religion is not a “they”. Religion is an it. Religion is a belief system, not the people who advocate those beliefs. Those who advocate or, presumably, “practice” a religion are members of that religion, but they are not the religion itself. The people come and go, but the belief system lives on. Consequentially, religion itself cannot practice anything. Those who claim to follow a religion can pervert it, and can say they’re practicing it when they’re really not. They can certainly practice things that are out of line with the grace the religion teaches, and as I’ve already described they oftentimes do. But that is not a reasonable criticism on religion itself.

“They can’t fix their problems, and so they just mask it, not realizing religion’s like spraying perfume on a casket.” – Once again, he uses “they’ rather than “it”, making this a criticism of religious people rather than of religion itself. But besides, no religious person I know denies that they have flaws. Some people don’t like to talk about them, or are vain enough not to think there are many of them. Many certainly don’t try to fix them. But that’s true of people whether they’re religious or not. Once again, arrogance and pride is a people problem, not a religious problem. He is absolutely correct that Jesus taught against this. But so do most religions. Whether the believers of those religions, or the believers in Christ, practice what they preach is up to them.

“See the problem with religion is it never gets to the core. It’s just behavior modification like a long list of chores.” – In my opinion, this is a valid criticism of SOME religions. I agree that many religions (Catholicism comes to mind) focus too much on trying to get people to act the right way, and to fit a certain mold. As a Lutheran, I believe otherwise. Martin Luther, the founder of my religion, was the first to articulate the concept of “justification by faith alone”, arguing that there is no action any human being can take that makes him any better or worse than other humans. He once said “Good works do not make a good man, but a good man will do good works.” So to me, this line is actually a  pretty insightful criticism. But it doesn’t mean all religion is worthy of hatred.

“Like let’s dress up the outside, make it look nice and neat, but it’s funny that’s what they used to do to mummies while the corpse rots underneath.” – Returning to the “make dead things look/smell nice” theme is just more meaningless symbolism. It doesn’t contribute to his argument, it simply sounds good to people who already agree with him.

“Now I ain’t judgin’, but I’m just saying quit putting on a fake look, cuz there’s a problem if people only know you’re a Christian by your Facebook.” – Yes, I agree that is a problem. But once again, that is a criticism of people, not of religion. Religions don’t have a Facebook, people do. Being a Christian means being religious, and being part of a religion, because Christianity is a religion. This man is a hypocrite. Belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ IS a religion! You cannot both hate and advocate religion at the same time!

“In every other aspect of life, you know that logic’s unworthy. It’s like saying you play for the Lakers just because you bought a jersey.” – True. But logic that says “I am a Christian, but I hate Christianity” is equally unworthy.

“See this was me too, but no one seemed to be on to me. Acting like a Church kid while addicted to pornography. See on Sunday I’d go to church, but on Saturday getting faded, acting as if I were simply created to just have sex and get wasted.” – This appears to be just his life story and a testament to how Christ can turn people around, which there isn’t really much to comment on other than that this is great! You should rejoice that you now appear to be practicing what Christ preached instead of just pretending to. But if Christ’s teachings turned your life around, why are you railing against the entity which is dedicated to spreading his message? If you want to point out hypocrisy’s or wrongdoings within the church, do so. That’s very different from hating religion, because religion is probably what exposed you to Christ in the first place, and without it you might still be getting wasted every Saturday.

“See I spent my whole life building this façade of neatness, but now that I know Jesus, I boast in my weakness.” – Jesus taught us to recognize our weaknesses, but he certainly never taught us to boast. He taught us to spread the good news, and to tell others about him, but boasting insinuates vanity, and we should not be proud of our flaws. Boasting is not compatible with humility, and Jesus certainly taught us to be humble. There is nothing wrong with trying to fix your flaws and become as good as you can be, which is what organized religion tries to help us do. There is something wrong with saying “okay, I’m flawed, so be it, so God will just forgive any sins I make, and I can just continue doing whatever I’m tempted to do.” That’s the overtone I get from that line.

“If grace is water, then the church should be an ocean. It’s not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken.” – I totally agree! But unlike him, I recognize that churches would not exist without religion. Let’s fix what’s wrong with the church, as you propose, without blaming its flaws on the ideals that it strayed from. Let’s reform religion, not revolt against it.

“Which means I don’t have to hide my failure I don’t have to hide my sin, cuz’ it doesn’t depend on me, it depends on him.” – I agree with every word of this. And the reason I agree with it is because I am a Christian, and you are preaching the RELIGION of Christianity. You are no better and no worse than that which you criticize.

“See because when I was God’s enemy, and certainly not a fan, he looked down and said “I want that man.” –

“Which is why Jesus hated religion, and for it he called them fools.” – No, he hated those who pervert religion into what they want it to be, and he rightfully called those people fools. But the guy simply refuses to acknowledge that CHRISTIANITY IS A RELIGION!!! Jesus obviously would not have called his followers fools!

“Don’t you see so much better than just following some rules?” – I think I’ve found his problem. He equates religion with rules. They are not equivalent. Religion is a belief system. Some religions create rules, but only because they think they are in line with their belief. If they believe something to be wrong, they make rules against doing that thing. In much the same way this man believes that building enormous, elaborate churches is wrong, and instead would like to see that money given to the poor. So he instructs his followers to shun those churches and give their money to the poor instead; in other words, he instructs his followers to follow his rules, by explaining the beliefs that underlie them.

“Now let me clarify. I love the church, I love the Bible, and yes I believe in sin.” – Let me clarify. The reason you love the church is because you BELIEVE it to be good. The reason you love the Bible is because you BELIEVE it to be wise and holy and right. You BELIEVE in sin because it is in that bible and because you BELIEVE that there are things people shouldn’t do. And that set of beliefs is your religion. That’s all a religion is. I don’t know how people can find something so hypocritical to be so inspirational, but many of my friends seem to.

“But if Jesus came to your church, how many of you would let him in?” – Most, I imagine. If we get to the point where most religions wouldn’t, it doesn’t mean religion is bad either. It means religious people screwed up what the religion was supposed to be about.

“See remember he was called a glutton and a drunkard by religious men. But the son of God never supports self-righteousness, not now, not then.” – Another attack on “religious men” instead of on religion itself.

“Now back to the point, one thing is vital to mention: how Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums. See one’s the work of God, and one’s a manmade invention, see one is the cure but the other’s the infection.” – Translation: I am right, and you are wrong. The beliefs I am saying are in line with what Jesus wanted and are therefore holy and pure and correct; any other beliefs are the opposite of all that. THIS POEM IS A MANMADE INVENTION!!! He is not speaking the word of God, he is speaking his words, about how he interprets God’s will. By saying that Jesus is the cure and religion is the infection, he ignores the truth that belief in Jesus is a religion, instead proposing his religious interpretation as absolute truth. In other words, he is saying “I am the cure, and any who disagree with me are the infection.” That is a vain, arrogant, and simply false thing to say.

“See because religion says do; Jesus says done.” – So you’re implying Jesus doesn’t want us to “do” anything? That he doesn’t want us to act a certain way? That he doesn’t want us to treat other as we would like to be treated? Your interpretation of Jesus as something that is already “done” implies that there is nothing left to do. That is a very dangerous assertion, and one that is very damaging to the church you claim to love. We can appreciate, love, and worship what Jesus has done without throwing our hands up in the air and saying “well, I guess that’s it then, let’s go do what we like!”.

“Religion says slave; Jesus says son. Religion puts you in bondage while Jesus sets you free; Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see.” – See what? What the author tells us Jesus makes us see is a certain truth, which that author believes in. And since those beliefs are simply another religion, what he’s really saying is that “You’re religion makes you blind; my religion makes you see”.

“And that’s why religion and Jesus are two different clans. Religion is man searching for God, Jesus is God searching for man.” – Should we not search for God, then? The reason you’ve made this video is to help others find God, but in order to find something you have to search for it.

“Which is why salvation is freely mine, and forgiveness is my own. Not based on my merits, but Jesus’ obedience alone. Because he took the crown of thorns and blood dripped down his face; he took what we all deserved: I guess that’s why you call it grace. And when he was being murdered he yelled “Father forgive them, they know not what they do. And when he was dangling on that cross, he was thinking of you. And he took all your sin and he buried it in the tomb which is why I’m kneeling a the cross saying “come on, there’s room””. – Once again, I agree with every word of this, because I also happen to be a Christian. But this entire paragraph is one enormous summary of the Christian religion!!!

“So for religion, no I hate it, in fact I literally resent it, because when Jesus said “it is finished”, I believe he meant it.” – You believe, in other words, in a religion.

And for those of you who made it through my mountains of text, you deserve a more entertaining way of refuting his silliness. I don't agree with everything this guy says, but I agree with the first half anyway.


5 comments:

  1. "'And that’s why religion and Jesus are two different clans. Religion is man searching for God, Jesus is God searching for man.' – Should we not search for God, then? The reason you’ve made this video is to help others find God, but in order to find something you have to search for it."

    Did you "find God" or did God find you? Did God bring people into your life or situations into your life that made you desire to know Him? Or did you orchestrate that meeting? Not arguing your love for Christ, just to challenge the distinction of religion. Perhaps we're just caught up on terminology. The reason I liked the argument set forth in his video is because he was trying to address what people (I think) tend to see religion as today. I think an issue with the term religion is that when some people think of it they think of a set of practices and formulas that you have to follow in order to line up with a certain system of beliefs. I would argue that Jesus did not come to find a religion but to establish a relationship. When I think of me being a Christian I don't think of me exercising some religion. I think of my faith as an integral part of who I am and not something separate. I think this distinction is important for BELIEVERS because it tells you that it is not what you do and don't do but God's love that draws you to Him. It is not our doing or exercising laws or not stealing or doing this or the other that defines our Christianity. Jesus Christ did not abolish the rules and regulations, He just rendered them unnecessary when He accomplished everything for us on the cross. He chose us and works in us to will and to do. When we don't steal or do things that are morally wrong it is not because we physically restrain ourselves, but because God moves us to obey Him. We has given us an understanding of His love and compassion and we want to do what pleases Him. His Spirit is real. As for people who don't know Christ perhaps God led this individual to pen these words to show them that becoming a Christian isn't a burden or based on a set of rules or obligations. God's grace was freely given. Perhaps it is useful to use the term religion to define what you believe in worldly contexts, but for me it doesn't do its work in the context of sharing my story so that people have an understanding of my faith and know how I came to be a follower of Christ. Again, perhaps we're caught up on the word...I think His words were necessary to get His message across the way God wanted Him to. And quite frankly even the debates this video has generated fits into God's plan. Every word in that poem worked together to deliver the message - I don't know what it counts for, but I agreed with it.

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    1. Thank you for a thoughtful response. I don't think we disagree as much as you make it seem. You write, "Did God bring people into your life or situations into your life that made you desire to know Him?" The answer, of course, is yes. But what I'm saying is that my belief that God did any of that is my religion. We have a different definition of religion. To me (and to the dictionary, and to most people), religion is not simply "a set of practices and formulas that you have to follow". Perhaps Biblical passages refer to religion in the time BEFORE Christ in this negative manner, but that is not what the word means today. Words are a human construction and only have whatever meaning we give to them. The meaning of religion is simply a set of fundamental beliefs about the world that groups of people hold as true. You and I believe in Christ and God's love for the world. That makes us religious. Sometimes that can include beliefs about what we should/shouldn't practice, but religion isn't forcing those beliefs on you. It's about the underlying ideology itself, and any who have that core belief in what's important (as you said yourself), will generally be compelled by those beliefs to act in a certain way. Because they want to, not because they have to or because it's a burden.

      A religion isn't something you have to "exercise", it's something you hold or have or are a part of. If you are a Christian, you are religious. Belief in Christ, or the Holy Trinity or the Bible or any God at all, all of these are inherently religious beliefs. If the creator of this video defined religion differently, okay, perhaps I was too harsh on him. But the trouble is, his audience isn't using the same definition he is, because frankly that's not the correct definition.

      As such, I agree with the vast majority of the second half of your response. God does give us an understanding of His love. You are correct that becoming a Christian isn't a burden or based on rules. Becoming a Christian is simply believing in Christ, and believing in Christ is a religion. So when God leads us to Christ and creates that relationship, he is not telling us to abolish religion; rather, he is bestowing a religion with us for safekeeping and enlarging. I also am glad that the video has inspired debate, and agree that the more we talk about these things the more we all learn (and, perhaps more importantly, the more God speaks to any non-Christians who may be silently reading or watching these pages and videos).

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  2. It a poem... So I feel like there is a fair amount of symbolism and metaphors in it. It should be taken as a whole not dissected piece by piece. Logically it doesn't always make sense because he says he loves the church and he loves Jesus, so I assume he loves Christianity - a religion. I also think he knows that. This literal analysis of it, in my opinion, makes it sound like something its not. (Not that I'm saying that this is a bad response. It's quite good actually and I agreed with some of the points.) I feel that the basis of his message was good. I feel like he addressed some issues Christians, other religious people, as well as nonreligious people may have against "religion". He isn't the first to say that religion starts wars, nor is he the first to make reference of greed that exists in some cases. I feel like his video is a step in a positive direction. I guess for all the literal people out there it should have been titled "Why I hate the misconception and abuse of religion by so-called religious people, but why I love what I think is a real relationship with Jesus", not as catchy tho?

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    1. Agreed. If this video going viral exposes more people to Christ, my criticisms will be trivial and unwarranted. My only worry is that it might turn people OFF to organized religion as found in the church. I wanted to clear up that confusion and correct what I felt was a confusing misrepresentation of the word religion. Overall, the guy sounds like a great Christian man who's doing good work. Thanks for your thoughts!

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