January 11, 2012

So I got on Facebook today and saw a video people had been sharing entitled “Why I hate Religion but still love the Jesus” as I started watching I noticed the first thing you saw was Jesus>Religion in big white letters. It’s Spoken word poetry, I believe Jesus is greater than Religion, so I keep watching. The speaker begins talking and it was only out of intrigue that I finished.

“What if I told you, Jesus came to abolish Religion” He makes two political statements that I agreed with and then asks “If religions so great, why has it started so many wars?” He follows this by making general statements about religion, and a few statements about the actions of those who claim to be religious. He says “The problem with religion is it never gets to the core, it’s just behavior modifications like a long list of chores.” He comments about our outward expression of our Christian Faith and how the church lives out his faith and then he talks about his own personal faith and follows this with “See this why Jesus hated Religion, and for it he called them fools, don’t you see (it’s) much better than following some rules.” He clarifies that he loves the church, the bible and Jesus but calls Religion an infection of which Jesus is the cure. He makes several other accusations about religions, for example he says religion makes you blind or makes you a slave. He closes with “So about religion, I hate it, in fact I absolutely resent it, because when Jesus said it is finished, I believe he meant it.”

So some of you might say, what’s the problem? I would have once too, I once would have shared this video all over the web going “See, see, someone got it right.” In fact this video was getting rave reviews from those who watched it all day long, it was shared and riposted and probably viewed in several different countries.. I used to take comfort in this very viewpoint, using it as an excuse to in be bitter towards my father, a Presbyterian Pastor. A lot has changed though now that I’m in the world and have grown in my walk with Christ, if you’ve read this blog you know that study of scripture does this to a man. Now I don’t know the poet, his name or his heart, I don’t claim to so what I’m about to lay out are convictions that I can hopefully support with biblical evidences. I am not attacking anyone’s viewpoints, I simply want you to weight the arguments.

Religion, Jesus and Christianity.

First off I’d like to point out how he is using Religion. More than once he makes references to what Jesus said to the Religious elite of his day. He calls them Blind, Slaves and hypocrites, the exact same accusations the poet is leveling. But I find he is using a false definition of religion, something that is easy to do when you look at Dictionary.com (not his source mine). Going beyond the definition though we find something deeper, something more constant than the poets definition of it.

Here’s the original meaning and origin of the word.

1150–1200; Middle English religioun  (< Old French religion ) < Latinreligiōn-  (stem of religiō conscientiousness, piety, equivalent torelig āre to tie, fasten ( re- re-  + ligāre  to bind, tie; compareligament) + -iōn- -ioncompare rely

So how then, by the above origin should we define religion? If the Latin root Religio means Conscientiousness, what are we conscientious of? We are conscientious of our need for something, our need for something bigger right? The Bible makes this clear enough, Man is searching for God because He made us with a need for Him. Throw in the word Relig, lig being the root for the word ligament, what do ligaments do inside the body. They bind together the muscles and hold them in place so the body can function. So if we are conscientious of God and Ligament means to bind wouldn’t a more accurate definition of religion be something that makes us conscientious of God and binds us to Him.

Now I know the poet is talking about culture and tradition, and that’s mostly what Jesus was talking about were traditions. For instance in Matthew 15:1-20 we see Jesus doing exactly this. Calling the pharisee’s “Blind Guides” (verse 14 ESV/NIV) He says they were “Leading the people into a pit” and by their strict demands for purity, but this was not Jesus abolishing Religion. In fact Paul talks in Romans about how we approach The Law which was given to the Jewish Religion,. Paul calls them the “Oracles of God” in Romans 3:2 (ESV) these were the God given laws that we have in the Bible, a Bible that the Poet claims to love.The standards that we find in the bible are the same standards that those who study religion learn to love and do our best to apply.

It almost seems that the poet wants to overthrow these standards set forth by the creator. Maybe I’m wrong but when he says “Not a list a chores” if this wasn’t what he was talking about then he needed to better clarify his point. Even so, if it was his intent to throw out these standards then he had better read the verse two before the one in the video. At the end of Roman’s 3 Paul asks “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? On the contrary, we uphold it.” (3:31 ESV, Emphasis Authors). Everything in the bible supports the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets, I have not come to abolish them but to uphold them.” (ESV)

Religion of Life

Several years ago the professor for my New Testament class here at Sterling pointed out that “All the other religions in the world say Do this and live, Christianity says because you live do this.” This may support the Poet until you consider what the poet said. “Religion says do, Jesus says done.” I concede, based on the quote above his statements are true, but if you throw the origin’s definition of the world religion in there Christianity falls directly under that definition, that being said I adjust the statement to one my father said in a sermon. “Every other religion is a religion of do this and live, the Christian Religion says because you live do this.”

So the standards set forth in the word of God, the words that the writer of Psalms 119 says that he loves and rejoices in. If these are the lists of Chores that the author is referring to then there is no reason we shouldn’t rebel and not do them because they are religious. But if we are given life through the righteousness of God and the propitiation for our sins by grace, through faith (see Eph.2:8-9 Rom. 3:21-31 ESV) then we have joy and freedom and so the lifestyle will reflect that freedom. Furthermore, if Christian says because you live do this, is it not safe to say those “Chores” are God’s plan to carry out the work of sanctification. If we are constantly being changed by Christ like even the Poet says we are then I believe we are applying these things. I know from a personal standpoint the more God changes my thoughts and attitudes the more I want to study the bible, the more I study the bible the more I apply, the more I apply the closer I get to God. This isn’t legalism, this is application in action, it is doing what pleases God and brings glory and honor to Him.

Why I hated Religion and Still Loved Jesus. 

I must admit, as an adolescent I looked around and saw the exact same things that this young man does, even into my freshmen year of College I was so legalistic about that if you called me religion I got upset. But in reflection of those attitudes I find only one thing to be true, I was more bitter about being called religious than my peers were towards me for hating religion. Sure I still loved Jesus, I even read The Word on occasion but I disliked it because all I saw were religious rules and regulations, so if I read the bible and saw Jesus standards as Religious rules then did I really still love Jesus.

Now to the Poet, he finishes the video with “So I hate religion, in fact I resent it.” If he’s talking here about the actions of religious people that he referenced in the first part of the video than I agree with him. Christians do some awful things in the name of their religion and Christ never would stand for self-righteousness but if he is resenting people for their actions he is violating one of Jesus Commands.

I go again to Matthew 5:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22 ESV)

The word resent would imply and even be associated with anger, if you are angry at someone or something then you are most likely resentful. The child who loses his candy will be angry, and he may resent the person who took his candy. If the poet is saying that he resents Religious people then he is admitting or using something that generally is associated with anger. If he is resentful of a series of rules and regulations then one could even argue that he is resentful of God’s word, the opposite of the Psalmist in 119.

The Relationship Over Religion argument

He never mentions it directly but he goes down this road when he starts to talk about his personal experience of God. If I assert the meaning of Religion in there according the origin’s definition then I must tie it in with the idea of Relationship. When you are in relationship with someone, say a good friend, you are conscientious of them, you spend time with them and you get to know them. Your friendship relationship ties you together, not in the same manner as Religion ties us to God. We make friends sometimes out of need for companionship, we need God and are conscientious of that need for him, sometimes we even try to fill it with our friendships.

Donald Miller, in his book Searching for God Knows what points out that the bible seems like it’s focused on building a relationship. Indeed it would seem that the idea of “Do this and live” supports this statement of the bible being relational in regards to our relationship with Christ. But let’s look at the word Religion again, focusing on the conscientious part, what are we conscience of? our need for God? Yes! how do we live that out? by living in Relationship with Him and being bound to Him through that relationship we have with Him.

To part the bible with Religion seems even harder now does it not? So if you hate religion by the origin’s definition then do you also hate the word. Or if you hate your brother on the basis of him being religious are you in violation of the word you claim to love and if you are violating the word of God are you really loving God? I have a hard time saying yes to any of this. In fact I’d go so far as to say that this poet is being very bitter and extremely unfair in his assertions about religion. Even binding himself further by not allowing himself to be called by a name that to him is a dirty word. Instead of having safe fences to play on the mountaintop (Jesus standards) he has no fences and therefore jumps off the cliff of contradiction of terms.

To my last point, as if you’re read this far you are extremely patient, I feel I must point out that when God gave Moses the ten commandments and laws in Exodus 20:1-17 he was setting in stone (if you pardon the pun) the basis of what would form the Jewish Religion. By that logic it would seem that God gave us the structure for religion, we may have invented the term, but the structure was given by God. Even Jesus gives us a what Pagans call a Cultic system of beliefs but all of it was meant so God could be in relationship with us.

Things I agreed with

Since I’ve been negative so far I’ll end on a positive note, there were some things that I agreed with. First off God does have a plan for us and He did send his son to be the propitiation (appeasement of God’s wrath) for our sins through death on the cross. The poet put this into very poetic and evangelical terms, God does desire relationship with us and chooses us because he knew we were going to choose Him (my point not poets).

Also I don’t think God is republican, nor do I believe that all Christians are republicans. It’s true that man and religious institutions have done some evil things in the name of religion, i.e the Crusades, The inquisition, The Salem Witch Trials. But I think the Poet needs to consider the doctrine of the total depravity of man laid out partially in Romans 1:20-32, (hint, hint listed actions support it)..

Jesus did say it is finished, and this is again a criticism, this is taken out of context. One must consider the weight of the cross. Jesus whole ministry here on earth was meant to build towards the cross, at least in the eyes of Mark. He came to to be the Propitiation of our sins (Romans 3:25 ESV) and that carries a huge amount of responsibility. Theologians would argue that “It is Finished” was in reference to Jesus Earthly Ministry and the accomplishment of the mission, the taking on all of mans sins to appease the righteous wrath of the father (again Propitiation)

Finally there is a way Christians should live their lives and yes, people shouldn’t know you are a Christian simply by your facebook. Christians are called to be different, to be in the world and not of it and how we learn to do that is through studying scripture and applying what we learn while we allow God to change our attitudes.

In Conclusion

I find this video to be very bitter and I pray this man finds what true love and grace are. I have to wonder who abused this poet so badly, who in his life used the demand for purity against him to the point he would resent something that connects us to God. I have posted the video below for your enjoyment, watch it with all this in mind and please be careful.

I pray that I have not been too legalistic, that God can use this to reveal Himself to you as a loving God who wants to be bound with you and fill the Hole you are conscientious of. My only goal here was to inspire you to love and good works and to free you from the dangerous place of not having religious standards. As I stated before I do not know the heart of this gentlemen, I only know my interpretation and can only give you my reactions based on a firmly grounded biblical education.

Grace and peace to you
Jon Faulkner
10:31 Ministries