Spoken word artist Jefferson Bethke is getting a lot of attention recently because of an Ode-to-Jesus video making the rounds on all your Christian friends’ Facebook pages:
The music, editing, and performance are admittedly impressive. It sounds refreshing, too, until you actually pick apart what he’s saying.
Like this excerpt:
Now back to the topic, one thing I think is vital to mention,
How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums,
One is the work of God one is a man made invention,
One is the cure and one is the infection.
Because Religion says do, Jesus says done.
Religion says slave, Jesus says son,
Religion puts you in shackles but Jesus sets you free.
Religion makes you blind, but Jesus lets you see.
Talk about a false dichotomy…
He acts like the problem is the church and not the people who attend it, with the structure people have given their faith and not the beliefs themselves.
He’s wrong. And saying “I’m not Christian. I’m a follower of Jesus” makes as much sense as “I’m not an atheist. I just don’t believe in god.” You might feel superior but you sound like an idiot.
Mankind created churches just like we created the myths told in the Bible.
Most of the followers of Jesus fight against abortion rights for women and equal rights for gay people just like other Christians. They believe in prayer and heaven and the resurrection of Jesus just like other Christians. They want to “save” you from a place they invented just like other Christians. If I put a Jesus follower next to a Christian, you won’t be able to tell the difference. The Followers are no better than the people who love their rituals. You can talk about love all you want; it means nothing until you put it in action — and Christians (or whatever the hell they want to call themselves) have a lot to be ashamed of in that regard.
Bad Catholic is religious, but offers a detailed critique of the lyrics. It turns out the Bible contradicts much of what Bethke says. (I know… contradictions in the Bible?! Who knew.)
Jon Fitzgerald at Patrol isn’t a fan, either:
See the problem is, Bethke doesn’t mean religion either, but he’s rehearsing a popular evangelical trope, that the freedom that Christians find through Jesus is freedom from structure, organization, and authority. Of course, Bethke, like all Christians, is a member of a religion…
What Bethke is actually railing against is people whose expression of religion doesn’t look like he believes it should. Thus, rather than discounting religion, he is just discounting other religions, or even just other manifestations of his own religion.
Godless Girl puts it beautifully:
You can’t follow Jesus without religion. The only reason you even know about Jesus is because his followers created his legend within the framework of religion. Go ahead, leave the shitty parts of your religion in the dust; for that I applaud you. Love others, be genuine, and hate hypocrisy all you want. Just don’t think you can redefine something just to make it less disgusting and objectionable. Your love of this hippie Jesus guy and dislike for empty ritual doesn’t mean his teachings are any more true or reasonable from your mouth than they are when it’s preached within the four walls of a cathedral. You can’t whitewash Christianity and ignore the reality.
And if your friends — who rave about this video on Facebook while boasting about attending church, all without seeing the irony — share this with you, I suggest you send them back this video. It’s by another Christian who’s not a fan of Bethke’s poem: