Rethinking Youth Ministry
Does Loving Jesus Mean Hating Religion? Youth Speak Out on Viral Video
Will, High School Senior: "Yeah, Jesus said (or the Bible says he said) most of those things, but if religion didn't exist no one (Bethke included) would know or believe any of those things. I think Bethke gives himself too much credit for these ideas. These are things that people have said about the Church for centuries and part of why different sects have broken off . . . because they thought they could give Jesus his due. Not to mention Bethke seems to use the term religion to mean Christianity when it doesn't. If he said he loved Jesus but detested large organized denominations of Christianity it would make more sense, but because he hates religion (the idea of belief and spirituality) it seems to denounce part of the point he is attempting to make. His confession in belief of the word of Jesus is a belief in religion and spirituality, not to mention the fact that he never mentions any religion besides Christianity but denounces all faithfulness. I think Bethke needs to stop and consider the implications of what he is saying. Why denounce faith and not work to increase other's belief in Jesus or their ability to do good in the world instead?"
Garrett, High School Junior (quoting and critiquing several lines of Bethke's poem): "'What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?'&mash;Well, I'd say you haven't read the Bible. Jesus came to spread God's love and die for our sins, and was in fact a Jew himself. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Judaism is a religion. 'What if I told you Republican doesn't automatically mean Christian?'&mash;I'd say you're making a crass generalization about what most Christians expect. 'If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars but fails to feed the poor?'&mash;Who do you think starts soup kitchens and similar organizations? 'Tells single moms God doesn't love them if they've ever had a divorce.'&mash;Certainly not a teaching of a religion I'm familiar with. 'Which means I don't have to hide my failure, I don't have to hide my sin, Because it doesn't depend on me, it depends on Him.'&mash;Funny, I heard this somewhere. Church, I think it was. None of this is to say all religion is by any means blameless or perfect, or even that I agree with them. This is only to say that it's not okay to go bashing people's religions. You are entitled to your opinion, but not the right to portray it as fact when it is hurtful or offensive, and even so, why would you want to? Why would you try so hard to tear down an institution that helps and is important to so many people, when you can ignore it and it won't bother you? And you say you love Jesus? Good, because it's mutual, at least according to myself and the Church."
Terry, Young Adult: "This was quite an interesting video. I give the kid kudos for having made it in the first place because at least he has strong conviction and is actually thinking about what religion and Jesus mean to him. But in my humble opinion, he has gotten quite a bit wrong&mash;just in the same way the people he condemns at the beginning get things wrong (like, say, Republicans trying to declare some kind of monopoly on Christianity and the values it espouses).
"He says that Jesus hated religion&mash;and I can't agree with that when he was a devout practicing Jew. He also says 'religion says do and Jesus says done'&mash;a rather poetic statement, but inaccurate. Jesus says 'do,' too. That's why being Christian is a way of life and one shows their beliefs through their actions and faith life. I appreciate that he understands Jesus' death as a done deal that has changed the world and our relation to it, but living a Christian life is more than being glad Jesus died for our sins. That's clearly a big part of it, but not everything.
"I did like his statement that Jesus was a work of God whereas religion is a man-made institution. I agree. But I don't think that necessarily means religion is a bad thing. Corruption will always occur when humanity is involved. When religion causes wars, it's not religion itself causing them but people using and manipulating religion as justification for their attacks and actions. The other statement he made that really caught my attention with its veracity was that religion was like 'spraying perfume on a casket.' People often use religion to their own ends, masking injustice with tradition and sacrament, but once again, it's the people behind the religion rather than religion itself.
"He has some good points&mash;I love Jesus, too. And I think Jesus is more important than eight million years of tired traditions and tenets. Religion needs to be more malleable as the world changes, and it's the fact that it often isn't that makes people see it as a negative, as the cause of so many problems. Jesus might think that the religious practices of today, like those in his day, got it wrong, but at least people are still trying."
Rev. Brian Kirk is an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and currently serves an inner-city church in St. Louis, Missouri. He also teaches as adjunct faculty at Eden Theological Seminary, and co-writes the blog rethinkingyouthministry.com.