Why I Love Jesus AND I Love Religion

Where do I start?

I love Jesus and, I’m sorry, but I hate this video. Yes, I know it is a piece of poetic art, but it is misguided.

This video has been floating around facebook and the internet the past few days, and it is filled with so much wrong-headed thinking and bad logic that I felt I just had to say something, for anybody who cares to engage.

I truly do understand when people buckle against the kind or religion that is stark raving legalism, but to lump all religion in with legalism and all legalism in with religion is just reactionary. Much of proper and what James (in the Bible) would call “true religion” does not produce legalism. Much of it produces people who are generous, giving, kind to the poor, even selfless. To put all religion in the same category as legalism seems to me to be… well… legalistic, and incorrect. Jesus was opposed to the ways that the religious establishment of his day added to and twisted the religion of their ancestors, no doubt, but not only did he not hate that religion, but he apparently practiced it well. (You will say he broke the Sabbath. In point of fact, he did not. For instance, telling a man to stand up and walk was not a violation of the Sabbath, but was, rather, a violation of rules that had been added by men who used religion for power, not for spiritual purposes, and that kind of religion is detestable, for sure.)

Our friend starts this “diatribe” with a lie, plain and simple. “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?” Well, then you’d be telling a lie, since Jesus says he came to seek and save the lost, and also not only mentions that he didn’t come to abolish one single shred of the ancient law, but rather, to fulfill it. Did he change some things (like declaring all foods “clean”)? For sure, but he also raised the bar on some of the Law. No longer was murder a violation of the commandment. Now, even hatred is going too far.

“If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?” Look into history a little more, and it becomes obvious that these “wars” that are being referred to were started by rulers who used and abused religions and religious traditions to further their own agendas, much like the Pharisees abused and twisted what had been excellent and godly religious traditions. Many of the “religious” of those days understood the errors of these ways, in fact. “Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?” In fact, religions and religious have done and continue to do amazing things for the poor, the disenfranchised and the downtrodden. The Catholic Church, a huge “religion”, often leads the way in this area throughout the world, and many relief organizations are run by people who would, themselves, qualify themselves as “religious” Christ-followers. Many of those organizations, like Compassion and World Vision and others, are funded by people who give out of “religious” fervor.

A little later our friend says “Now, I ain’t judgin’…” Uh, yeah… he is… and badly, based on bad information, bad assumptions and what appears to be a lot of bad anger, but I think he’s only doing it because it makes for a provocative piece to get attention. Great motives. Bad execution.

The second half of this is a great exposition of Grace and what Christ does, but for me, the whole point is weakened by the vitriol against all religion that keeps seeping in, and people I know and love are applauding this thinking without thinking critically.

Jesus hated hypocrisy. He did not hate religion, in fact, he practiced his own religion, Judaism, right to the very last, celebrating the Passover feast with his Apostles as his last act before being arrested and killed for our sins. We probably need to remember that very “religious people” came together in councils and meetings over the centuries and chose the books that we call our Bible, and those same religious people continue to be the ones who translate it into the vernacular that you now use in a book or on your phone or your tablet or computer.

The fact is, it’s currently trendy to hate religion but love Jesus, and many well-meaning Christ-followers take this tack because it allows them, they think, to connect better with the people they feel they need to reach with the Gospel. In short, the strategy works, so it must be right… right? In fact, doing a wrong thing (like not thinking about what you’re saying when you lump all religion in the same category as all “negative” legalism) is always wrong. Do the right thing, say the right thing… and God will, in fact, honor it.

Religions does not always equal legalism, and legalism is not necessarily always religion. Characturing people in this way leads to the same kind of misunderstandings that the hero of our video is trying to fight against.

I love Jesus, in my own faltering way… and I love and am thankful for the religions and religious traditions of my Christian tradition.

Update: I have removed a few comments. Sorry, but my blog isn’t the place to bash religion. You are welcome to start your own.

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14 thoughts on “Why I Love Jesus AND I Love Religion

  1. Sterling Hanenkamp (@zostay) says:

    I think the video is okay if you take it with a grain of salt. However, he uses the term “religion” to mean something it doesn’t really mean. Religion is merely a system of worship, which every person has, whether Christian or not. He’s ranting against self-righteousness and legalism, not religion. If he loves the Church and the Bible, he can’t really hate religion, so he’s pretty unclear in that way.

    This regrettable lack of clarity in terminology defines this post-modern age. Our culture wants the terms themselves to be relativistic too.

    Anyway, all that is to say, I agree, Cory. Cheers.

  2. Cory Zipperle says:

    A few other points that I’ll pick on that the article didn’t:

    Point 1: Big churches are built because they need to accommodate the masses that want to hear the Word the way it is presented there. By virtue of being big, they are more capable of serving the impoverished community than many of the smaller churches out there.

    Take my church, for example. Our average attendance in 2011 was 1,514. In one weekend alone they raised around $40k to feed and educate the poor, both in Topeka and around the globe. This doesn’t count the efforts that continue all year long. I don’t know of a single large church that doesn’t support its community (even false large churches!). It is amazing what the Lord can do through people when they give themselves up.

    Point 2: Religion doesn’t start wars. Economics does.

    Point 3: Religion isn’t “just behavior modification”, religion is a belief system. Everybody is religious, even those who claim that they aren’t. Granted people who buy into a works based faith have a long list of chores, but that doesn’t define “religion.”

    Point 4: Jesus does say “do”.

    • Tony Ziolko says:

      and to add to yours, I just left a church where I was on full time time staff and we averaged (with kids) like 10,000 adults per weekend. Because of our size, we are able to have the ACTS ministry where we hold almost 10% of all of phoenix’s food pantry supply on top of holding a free pantry on saturdays where we also let the homeless shower in our gym showers…but yea, we’re a big church, and I guess that isn’t enough…

  3. Rhonda says:

    I like your rebuttal and agree. However, I will say that churches don’t always welcome everyone, we’ve all seen it. Would Jesus be welcomed in our churches today?. In that regard to have a video that has opened up a conversation about that issue might be a good thing. I know my son isn’t welcome in today’s church and it saddens me greatly… I know he was mysteriously and wonderfully made and yet wouldn’t be welcome in the majority of churches today.

    • pietrosquared says:

      Rhonda, I really appreciate your thoughts. You really, however, can’t say what you say about the “majority of churches” unless you’ve been in 51% of them, right? Or have some compelling information or data about that. I’m sorry that your son is not welcome in some churches. I’ve been in many where he’d be welcome no matter what. They are out there.

      The video may open up conversation, but if it starts out with a lie (as it does), then the conversation is quite flawed from the get-go.

  4. John Hamm says:

    A little food for thought on the topic of big churches: Organizations don’t build big buildings for worship; people do. Tear down a big, beautiful, awe-inspiring church and the people who love Jesus will find the money anywhere they can to “force” a rebuild. There is something to be said for worshipping in sacred spaces that are marvelous to behold. It’s good for the soul. it’s good for worship. It inspires joy. It inspires prayer. It inspires devotion. It’s a manifestation of a deep love of Jesus. And, yes, it’s good for religion.

    Great piece, Peter!

  5. nowhereman says:

    I have yet to choose a path as far as religion, but I have recently opened the bible(weird book..really weird). I’ve never seen this video before but I found it to be very interesting. It’s pretty much all the same to me so when a Christian says he hates religion it confuses me because as far as I am concerned Christianity IS a religion. This article gives me something to think about. Good read.

  6. Gary Walter says:

    Well, sort of. I think this is an issue of semantics. Some of the verbiage the man in the video uses are used differently than you have interpreted them.

    I am a Christ-follower. I am a seminary-trained, ordained pastor. However, I agree more with the video than I do your comments. I don’t want to get into specifics, partly because I’m more of a gestalt thinker, rather than a detailed polemic.

    There are many churches, and many individuals, who “get it.” They see Jesus, they walk with Him, they follow His guidance – daily. But unfortunately, these tend to be in the minority. Like most biblical accounts, the majority were never right. And sadly, if the minority (or even a large silent group of moderates), continue to allow our churches and faith to exhibit a lack of compassion, tolerance, and spirit-led thinking – well, we are all guilty.

    I have a good friend who refuses to identify himself as a Christian – and yet, he is one of the most Godly people I know (well, at least in the top 100) – but he prefers to operate without a label – as that allows him to talk with unbelievers without the prejudice that has been created through some really bad behaviors and thinking.

    Instead of arguing with this young man. Maybe we should seek to hear what he’s really trying to say – acknowledge it, and buck up to the changes that we, as a Church, need to make.

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