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.