Why I hate Religion, But Love Jesus – A Response

This video went viral this week and I’ve been asked by the ELCA office for my response (to be posted on their website.)

Here it is: I totally get it.  I hate the way in which the church is more of a behavior modification program and a purity system than a place where we hear the truth of who God is and the truth of who we are because of who God is.

I also resent the way in which the term “Christian” has become synonomous with a conservative social agenda and exclusion of the weak the poor and the outcast (namely the people Jesus chose to hang out with)

I too reject religion that does little more than prop up an identity of sanctification and righteousness based in the successful adoption a particular affect, style, personality and way of speaking.

I too think that Jesus is about grace and being with those on the margins and the unbounded way in which God is always coming TO us.

But…

I believe that religion can be beautiful.  For every war it has started how many hospitals have been built?  How many children found homes?  How many people found community?  How many non-profits established to serve the poor? How much beauty created?

There is much to confess.  I confess that the Church has often done a piss-poor job of being Christ’s body.  We have often been more about maintaining exclusionary practices than we have been about the transgressive beauty of the Gospel.  But we are still called to be members of one another, dying for the sake of the wold.  The church is still called to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments.  If we don’t do it…who is?  The United Way?  The Elks Club?  Wall Mart?  Answer: no one.  That’s our job.

So…I believe in Religion AND Jesus.  I believe in the Gospel.  I believe in the transformative, knock you on your ass truth of what God has done in Christ.  I believe that I can only know what this following Jesus thing is about when I learn it from people I would never choose out of a catalog when we all gather together as the broken and blessed Body of Christ around the Eucharistic meal.  I believe that I am the problem at least as often as I am the solution. I believe in participating in sacred traditions that have a whole lot more integrity than anything I could come up with myself.  I believe I need someone else to proclaim the forgiveness of sins to me because I cannot create that for myself.  I believe that Jesus is truly present in the breaking of the bread and that where 2 or more are gathered he is there.   That’s religion AND Jesus.  May God make us worthy of it all.

 

About Nadia Bolz Weber

I am the founding Pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. We are an urban liturgical community with a progressive yet deeply rooted theological imagination. Learn more at www.houseforall.org

  • http://www.darrenrhill.com/ Darren

    Thank you for expressing in words how I feel about that video.

  • William

    Though I do agree heartily with your assessment, I find it confusing why you chose to use profanity. It’s unnecessary, and could “cause your brother to stumble.” Just a thought.

    • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com brambonius

      As a non-American I wonder where you see profanity in her post, and if it is a p-word, in which way could the use of such a ‘toilet-word’ make anyone stumble?

      I’m not trying to be sarcastiv, I just honestly don’t understand your cultural taboos on ‘profanity’…

    • John Stevens

      I had to re-read this twice to find what you termed as Profanity.

      Guess different things strike people differently.

      I remember what Tony Campolo said in a sermon (paraprased except for the end), “There are millions of children starving to death in this country, and you don’t give a shit. And the sad part is, most of you are more upset that I used the word shit than there are a million children starving to death.”

      John

      • http://brainatthedoor.blogspot.com/ Hugh

        If I remember correctly Paul used the word ‘shit’ to describe what he thought of his achievements as a Jew but it usually gets lost in translation .

      • Rachel

        *bump* (right on….)

    • http://facebook.com/thepriesthood tyler priest

      William, your comment caused me to stumble. It made me curse under my breath. Thought you should know.

      • Tricia Smith

        Ok that comment on a comment truly did make me LOL. On a serious note, I fully agree with Tony Campolo as quoted by John Stevens.

    • http://www.northarkansasliving.com Clay

      William, I agree with you on the choice of words. Communication is the name of the game if we are going to reach out, and those words were not necessary. I know the words communicate meaning very effectively, but that meaning could be conveyed powerfully in ways that doesn’t turn away a few, at the expense of reaching others.

      Overall, I find Nadia to be an exceptional writer, though — full of energy and passion. Applause.

    • http://godamong.us Karla Seyb-Stockton

      Profanity is different from strong language. She uses strong language, but it is definitely appropriate. The difference between Jesus and religion is a shocking truth for so many American Christians but is self-evident to thinking people outside the church doors. “The shortcomings of the church” is not a topic that “look good on the outside but empty on the inside” Christians are ready to handle because it might lead them into self-examination, and that might lead them to the truth that they really DON’T have it all after all. And frankly, sorting out the nuances of good and bad, saint and sinner that is BOTH/AND rather than EITHER/OR is something Americans are so not prepared to do. We, as a whole, do not do it well in terms of religion, politics, history, you name it. But our commentator is right on target in that submitting ourselves to ancient sacred ritual that is beyond our understanding, in community, with hope and faith in GOD and not ourselves is what leads to the good the church can be in the world. I want to be part of that.

      • Cole

        I don’t know that we need to use “strong language” or “profanity” or whatever you want to call it for emphasis or to get a point across. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. I think it hurts our testimony to use words that we think may identify with “unchurched” people. I’m not saying someone is in sin for this, I’m just encouraging you to look at this from a different light. I like what was said however.

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  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com brambonius

    Good thoughts… When I saw this video again and again on FB I watched it, and liked some, and disagreed a lot with some other things, and wrote 2 long blogposts that I just find too long afterwards….

    ” I believe that Jesus is truly present in the breaking of the bread and that where 2 or more are gathered he is there. That’s religion AND Jesus. ” That’s something important I think, we need a more sacramental way of looking at our faith…

    • Suzanne

      We need Jesus and NOTHING else! The church is a group of believers not a religion “man made” stuff.

  • Patrick Barrett

    I think it’s odd that this young man professes to hate religion while preaching what are obviously religious beliefs. Clearly, he doesn’t hate religion so much as he — quite rightly — hates the many odious expressions of it. But that’s not really the same thing.

    After William’s odd criticism about profanity, I had to re-read the post, since I didn’t recall any profanity. “Piss-poor”? Just how dainty does one have to be to be a good Christian?

  • http://workingonmyrewrite.blogspot.com/ bob c

    wow – a generous, caring response to someone really struggling

    thanks for the witness, Nadia

  • http://rosenzweigshmuesn.blogspot.com/ Daniel Imburgia

    Yes, this has been going around again the idea of not being ‘religious but spiritual,’ about how Jesus hates the religious and came to “destroy religion.” Oy Veh!, and all of this is offered without defining “religion.” Is religion just “church going,” or saying one’s prayers or brushing one’s teeth “religiously” before bed? Is it dragging oneself to friday night prayer service or saying the rosary robotically while thinking about work or that women/man in those tight jeans? Is it rules of order for worship, or having someone in charge of wednesday potlucks; who brings hot-dishes, who brings deserts? Is it fancy buildings, pompous titles and Popemobiles? In this video “religion” just equals everything wrong in the universe from Tammy Faye Bakker’s eyelashes to the children’s crusade; it is posited almost as an inverse and equal(?) force to God! Is the opposite of religion, some sort of automatic, mobocratic, spiritual bliss? Does religion have an opposite? Are these things really so mutually antagonistic? Is it “religion” that is the cause of our materialism, Christian war-making, political racism, hypocrisy, idolatrous nationalism, and abandonment of the sick, poor and hungry for ideologies that affirm the privileged in their wealth and power? As I think McCabe (pacin Aquinas) argued ‘The opposite of love is not hate, for God is love, and God has no opposite.‘ I think the video lacks understanding about how Jesus related to the religious traditions and structures of first cent. Palestine (biblically mandated? 613 Halachic rules?, attending synagogue religiously? hmmm…) James 1:27 offers us that there is a religion that God accepts: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” So, like you, I’m not interested in defending “religion” as such (I eschew titles, but I could rightly pass as a Mennonite/Roman Catholic/Anarchist/Marxist if the Obama administration was water-boarding me into a confession), I’m just trying to separate among differing strains of seems to be some teenage angst, Atlas Shrugged, some rigorous biblical analysis, traditional and contemporary theological insights, and the wisdom of Baba Ram….whats-his-name (who was the ‘spiritual avatar’ at our hippie commune in 1969). No, I think this video fails in offering a mature understanding of Jesus and it’s distortions are truly problematic. Yet, Christianity has a long history of screwing up what God is all about, I reckon we’ll work our way through a bout of hipster hyperbole! obliged y’all.

  • lindip

    Hey, at least we’re talking!

  • http://www.Charismanglican.com The Charismanglican

    I get the reaction against religion because I used to be a conservative evangelical, the people who brought you, ‘Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.’ In other words, in the least traditional religion may people, like myself, have experienced some very ugly forms of religion.

    Nowadays I’ve discovered too much truth, beauty, grace, friendship, holiness, and, yes, Jesus, in and through ‘religion’. Thank you for poking back at a false dichotomy.

  • http://andrewsporch.wordpress.com Andrew Arndt

    Well said Nadia. Thanks.

  • http://www.travismamone.net Travis Mamone

    For me, I still automatically think of all of the negative stuff when I hear the word “religion.” I rarely see the good side. So if you see me rant and rave on the Emergent Village Facebook group about how religion ruins everything, you’ll know why!

    Plus I kinda don’t really know what I believe in, so maybe that’s another reason why I last out at religion so much. But that’s another story.

  • http://brainatthedoor.blogspot.com/ Hugh

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. For me the problem with the video is that it tries to see the world as black and white when it is mainly made of grey. As I understand it Jesus didn’t come to get rid of religion but to purify it and make it what it should be all the time. Of course when was young (a long time ago) I would have described myself as a non-religious Christian but now, like Daniel, the list is long – Baptist, charismatic, liturical, Anglican will have to do for a start. My religion now centres on meeting with fellow Christians to share in the breaking of bread and wine; my faith is much bigger.

  • http://dialectofpraxis.blogspot.com/ Timothy Kellogg

    Two words, thank you.

  • http://tim.bayer.wordpress.com Tim Bayer

    Loved it how at the end you hit it on the head. It’s the gospel tha transforms and makes us a part of both Jesus and religion! It’s all grace! Be well, sister.

  • Terri C

    Thank you.

  • Alan Reynolds

    Thanks for saying so eloquently what I’ve been trying to come up with today.

  • dj

    “I believe that religion can be beautiful. For every war it has started how many hospitals have been built? How many children found homes? How many people found community? How many non-profits established to serve the poor? How much beauty created?”
    Because of religion, so many wars have been fought, unneccessarily. There is nothing beautiful about this. How many hospitals needn’t have been built? How many children/people wouldn’t have been displaced? How many establishments would have been able to serve the community as a whole, rather than just ‘the poor’, because there would have been no poor?
    There is no beauty in war. There has been no beauty created.

    • Deanne

      I agree that war is not beautiful, but people do not go to hospitals just because of war. At least some of the children they are helping are not because of war. There would be poor with or without religion that is just a fact of nature.

    • Michelle

      I am a 38 year old woman who has never seen war but would not be alive to watch my two beautiful daughters grow up if it had not been for a hospital built by religion. I was in that hospital for two weeks and have been more times than you care to know and not once did I see a victim of war, just regular people like you and me. Some with insurance, some without, some with the money to pay, some without. Not one person was turned away for any reason, not one. It was a beautiful, life changing experience. You may be able to argue some of the things in the article but the very ones you highlighted are the greatest things that have come out of religion. These are acts done voluntarily, out of love, compassion, and service to something greater than ourselves that no one mandates be done. That’s pretty incredible, dj.

    • Mary

      In my opinion – and I’m no historian or scholar – wars are fought over resources, traditions, power, and things like that IN THE NAME OF religion as justification for going to war. I agree that wars have been and will be fought unnecessarily, but can we be honest about the unholy motivations beneath the so-called holy reasons?

      • Patrick

        Are you saying that religion can’t motivate people, or that it can only motivate them to do good? Neither seems very likely to me.

        • http://rosenzweigshmuesn.blogspot.com/ Daniel Imburgia

          ‎”But it belongs to the nature of the new order that, though it condemns and displaces the old, it does not do so with the arms of the old.” — John Howard Yoder in “The Politics of Jesus.” obliged.

  • Revruthucc

    I define “religion” as beliefs imposed from above by others who attempt to control one’s thoughts and practices. I define “spirituality” as beliefs one comes to through experiences of God’s presence in community and in creation. In my case as in the video, much of my spirituality is congruent with orthodox Christian religion, but not all of my spiritual beliefs jive with orthodoxy. I think for many people, religion is perceived as imposed at the point of a gun (metaphorically), while spirituality is invitational and more open to unique understandings among community. I actually take it as compliment when people say that the church of which I am the pastor isn’t “religious”. We aren’t – but we have a whole lot of spiritual people who have encounter God through Jesus Christ and who are living changed lives because of those encounters.

    • Michelle

      Thank you Revruthucc- that is exactly how I look at it and couldn’t put it into words. After watching that video the first time, and then reading all of the responses afterward, it left me feeling like there is no right answer. The term, “religion” leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths. The term, “Christian” is often times used to describe the “holier-than-thou” patrons that spend their time judging others around them…those that have the “plank in their eye” so to speak. I believe that the twisted vision that comes to mind when those terms are used are from satan himself- his work to undermine the authority of God through Christ, by setting up a smear campaign against religion and Christianity. The bottom line is simple and someone previously stated it, Matthew 18:20:”For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” WE are the body of Christ, and our purpose is to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. There are so many “religions” out there, and I fear that if we focus on “religion”…we’ve lost the point. Just my two cents.

  • http://www.evolvingchristianfaith.net irreverance

    I’ve written my own response to this on my own blog. This is a beautiful spoken word presentation. I’m impressed actually.

    My issue with it is that it decrys religion because of the terrible things it has brought into the world. Yet, he seems to adopt the very ideological posture that not only opens the door to, but also empowers those very same terrible things.

    The primary one that stands out to me is the idea that we are “enemies of God” in that we are “sinners” who need to be fixed. This is the framework that serves for the very basis of religion as a “behavior modification” community. If behavior modification is really an issue, then it’s counter-productive to assert the theological foundation for it.

  • Joe

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2832523/posts
    This guys does the best in responding to this video. I pray for you, that you might find your way back on the right path of the Lord!

    • Rhys McKavanagh

      Not quite sure who you are talking to Joe, but Nadia is a Christian, as are most of the folks who have posted comments here.

  • Katie

    Thank you for writing this. You expressed what I was feeling!

  • http://www.songsofpeace.net Stefan Andre Waligur

    Hi Nadia. I agree with you in your response, but I think we miss something if we stop there. We carry on as we have been. Perhaps we miss something of the underlying power and meaning of what this young man is trying to say. There is a lyrical urgency to his call. Perhaps we might raise some of the hard questions about our particular religion: questions that would stir us to learn something we don’t already know. Ultimately, the call is to the radical transformation of our lives and religion. How does this man’s message- as imperfect as it is – stir us to change? Our structures? Our religion? Our lives?

  • Dave

    Organized hierarchical religion that conceives its primary purpose to be defending itself and the status quo (with all the injustices that coexist in the shadow of the institution, inside and outside its walls) IS the PROBLEM. The solution is not in purification rituals and secret handshakes, but in embracing the humanity we all share, and working together to make the world a better place for community of caring. No one is an island. These concepts are not confined to one strain of spirituality. Stop attacking those who are different and start doing the hard work of getting along. That’s what we are called to do today as people of faith.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    Thanks for this response. Very timely and important.

    One of the most common points of discussion here is how to define religion. I’ve read replies similar to your own that cut to the heart of how he’s defining/mis-defining religion, and then someone inevitably writes, “You’re not defining religion in the same way as him…” To such comments, I can only say, exactly–his definition of religion is far too imprecise, and that’s where a lot of the problems come from in that video. However, we should be quick to point out that people have been claiming to hate religion and to love Jesus for quite some time–there are plenty of books and blog posts that say the same thing without the same polish. This has been in the air for a long time, and so perhaps it’s good that we’re confronting it now.

  • Kim

    Thank you Nadia. You put into words what I feel but couldn’t find the words to say.

  • Scott

    I want to start by saying I am in my complete agreement with Nadia about this video. I also want to thank John for the Tony Campolo quote and confess William’s comment also made me curse under my breath.

    Back to the video, it’s the new fad to condemn “religion” in favor of a “relationship,” however, this is largely problematic in of itself because of how people define the terms “religion” and “relationship.”

    I used to attend a very conservative fundamentalist church and they too condemned “religion” while encouraging a “relationship.” However, they masked the “relationship” to usher in a form of religion that created an ugly pool of politically-fueled self-righteousness. While this worked in the sense that it increased attendance numbers and kept the money flowing, I failed to see the love, mercy and grace of Jesus Christ.

    • Ron Tester

      I agree completely.

  • Bart

    The “ELCA asked YOU for a response?” Hmm, delusions of grandeUr maybe? Not even the bishop can ask a question AS the ELCA. Other than that, not a bad response.

    • http://www.sarcasticlutheran.com Nadia Bolz Weber

      Not to disagree with you about my own pridefulness which, trust me, has no limits, but I got a call from someone at the ELCA asking me to write this for their website.

      • Teresa

        Hey, what does it mean to be “at” the ELCA? I am a member of the ELCA, so wherever I am is “at” the ELCA, right? Same with all other members? And that would be, gosh, all over the country! (Though pretty thin in some locales, to be sure.) Sorry, Nadia, your answer blew it again. I would guess you mean that somebody from one of the OFFICES of the various church structures made the request? I’m poking at you because this definition of the “the ELCA” or “the synod” as somebody other than ourselves needs to be overcome. I realize it’s shorthand, but vocabulary shapes perception. Loved your response to the video, though!

        • Rhys McKavanagh

          For goodness sakes, leave the woman alone. She meant no harm by what she said. Surprisingly not all of us are that up ourselves.

  • Michelle

    “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27

    The word “Religion” can mean so many things. I can appreciate what you both say. I just wish more believers would put MORE focus on Jesus and not religious practices. We are called to be faithful to Him and Him alone. I believe this young man had a sincere heart in making this video, he went from “practicing” relgion for apperances sake to becoming transformed by Jesus. Jesus transforms us, not religion.

  • http://www.yourobdtsvt.blogspot.com/ Dave Bühler

    Both the youtube video and your reply are truthy and right on, but i am old fashioned enough to be content with the concept of Religionless Christianity developed by Kierkegaard a long, long time ago–and summed up pretty well
    in the modern edition of “Provocations” at:

    Peace, Sister dave bühler • MacAdemia™
    http://providence.academia.edu/DavidBuehler

    • Steve Wagner

      Agreed. I don’t think the original video is equating religion with Church. It is common in evangelical circles to talk about, as he stated, religion as humanity’s search for God. Whereas the church is God’s people called from the world. Mainline response usually equates the 2 and somewhat misses the disconnect seen by evangelicals.

  • Murphy

    How about if we spend less time debating “religion” and the relative merits of the video, and more time out helping in the world?

  • tim

    Look at capitalism. It has provided tremendous living standards and technological advances. But it is not the church. The fact that “religion” has accomplished good over the centuries doesn’t make it the Church.

    The institution of the church doesn’t resemble Jesus very much at all. I would suggest that it’s because Jesus hasn’t been its “head” of it most of its history. Hierarchy and human structures leave little room for something organic, like a Body, to be healthy and thrive. The church was meant to be alive—reproducing and multiplying. From what I see, religion is stagnant, dying, and incompetent at producing people that resemble Jesus.

  • Chris Repp

    Thanks, Pastor, for this response. An even stronger way to say what you’re saying, I think, is that we CAN’T love Jesus without religion – however much we might like to. Jesus calls us into the communion of saints who are also sinners. That’s always a messy thing, but it’s where Jesus chooses to hang out.

  • http://rosenzweigshmuesn.blogspot.com/ Daniel Imburgia

    Hi y’all, great discussion. I wrote a comment that resonates with some comments here over at “Inhabitatio Dei http://www.inhabitatiodei.com/2012/01/05/the-severity-of-hope/comment-page-1/#comment-19857 that i won’t repost here, about Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto and how as they were facing the very end of their world, all that the few survivors could do was just ‘go through the motions,’ so to speak, putting on their tefflin, mouthing prayers, and trying to traverse the chasm of God’s absence in a hopeless and godforsaken world–that is: be religious. What else could we ask of them? Maybe religion can sometimes be our attempt to conjure up god or even make excuses as to why god hasn’t shown up: “I’m sorry your dying of cancer or being tortured by death squads, but really god is in your top pocket and have you seen that sublime sunset? yep, that’s some creator we got looking out for us!” These kinds of questions started when those primitive ‘homo…erectus, or sapiens, or whatevers’ had a sense of being surrounded by and dwelling among mysterious powers. Their lives controlled and shaped by invisible forces that were beyond their understanding, but they figured out a way of being in relation with those powers much like us, through stories, symbols rituals, etc. I reckon it’s another name for what we now sometimes call religion. Now, fastfwd in “The Tree Of Life” fashion, as humans became better and better with making tools and art and stuff. That mastery paced the use of language and religion. In this sense religion is another technology developed (gifted to us?) for negotiating with the mysteries of the world. Religion is language. Anyone using language is religious, whether they believe in any kind of god or not.

    Isn’t all human life (and maybe all life for all we know) an expression of immense desire and longing for the unconcealment of God; is religion our response to that longing and desire, or is it our attempt to fulfill that desire for ourselves (or both?). At it’s most profound, can religion take the language of our whispered anguish, our cries of pain, our guttural wailings and make a song of them, an incantation to please and seduce God? Or is it all just so much noise that makes it that much harder to hear the song that God wants to sing into the world and into our hearts.

    Whatever we’all come up with to answer these questions I think we have got to be able to put ourselves there with Rabbi Shapira at the end of days in Warsaw and be able to say it to his face. This was the last thing the Rebbe wrote before hiding everything away in a steel box to be discovered many years later: “These are the words of your brother, who is broken and crushed from my own sorrow and the sorrows of of all Israel–which are profound as the Great Deep and as exalted as the highest heavens, who awaits God’s salvation, which comes in an eye blink.” obliged y’all.

  • Pingback: A Response to “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus” | Relevant For Now

  • johnny wells

    This guy is being just as judgemental as the people he’s talking about. Jesus did not hate religion! Jesus never would have painted any group with such a broad brush. He sent his disciples out and told them to create new churches! He had problems with many of the policies of the Hebrew religion, but that was more about a bloated beaureacracy that had lost sight of it’s mission in an effort to feed the beast of it’s own existence. Jesus was never judgemental like this guy. He could have blamed Rome for the problems in his time, but he said ” render unto Caesar”. Jesus’ example was to leave behind those things that distract us from having a personal relationship with Him. “Religion causes all wars” this is the biggest copout ever known to man. Wars are caused by man. Period. Men who are power hungry. The church is a man made entity, like our government. It is a socialist entity made up of people who choose to pool their money for projects. These projects can be constructive, destructive, or sometimes gray. Was the war to end slavery good or bad? This guy is just as bad as all the people he’s trying to condemn because he’s using religion as a scapegoat to demonize one political party over another. But it’s ok, I forgive him because that’s what the tenents of MY RELIGION tell me to do.

  • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey

    Great points Nadia! Jefferson’s video slamming Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” (last April) showed us that he’s a probably a conservative Christian. But this new video of his let’s us know that he’s probably a fundamentalist. I’ve come to learn that he attends Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church. Here’s what I wrote about this a couple of days ago: “Poet Slams Religion but Preaches Jesus”: http://wp.me/pWVFb-17rf

  • Amy

    As a non-Christian person who has worked diligently and wholeheartedly for hospitals and for non-profits, who has adopted a child and taken in another (along with the two I birthed myself), and as someone who has found community in many places besides church – I do not find religion to be the best or only source of these beautiful things. In my own life, *I* am the one who has chosen to try to make the world a better place. Religion has had nothing to do with it.

    As someone who has been denied the right to marry who I please (largely by religious people), who has on occasion been denied other sacraments (although I have never been denied the bread and wine in Nadia’s church… I simply could not bring myself to take them), and who has lost family and friends because their minds could not expand to include family structures that were outside of what their Christian leaders told them was okay – I am hard pressed to find the “special” things about church particularly special. We have an MCC pastor who would happily give our family a “spiritual” marriage ceremony, if we wanted one. The Lutherans have not even offered that, let alone vocal support for changes to the legal system (note that I am *not* talking about gay marriage – think one step beyond that). While there is part of me that is touched and happy that we might be offered the blessing of a Christian leader, at the same time, I think, “Why do I need approval from religion at all?” The gospel and sacraments have so often been used as exclusionary practices in my life that when they were finally offered as a way to include me, I said “no.” To accept them would imply their importance. I can be whole without religion.

    I can find good things in what Jesus did in his life. I believe that Jesus and I would get along pretty well. I can find good things in what *some* religious people do in their lives. However, I have yet to see religion as a good thing overall – too much of it is still caught up in definition and debate and pride rather than caring for their fellow humans. I do think Nadia does more than most in contributing to solutions rather than problems, but there is a long way to go.

    • Kathleen

      @Amy…I noticed how you seem to talk about yourself as if people on this post asked your long opinion. I am praying for you, darling.

      Yes, this video has gone viral. While it is interesting and wonderful, he loves Jesus, I see something disturbing with the fact that he uses the word “hate.” If Religion causes hate, then why use that word?

  • miche

    The fact that this video had/has the power to go “viral” points toward some of the real challenges for those who acknowledge Jesus in their lives. Something is very *ugly* in the western cultural church and the church seems to be clueless, or perhaps just too stubborn, to take these challenges seriously. I can only speak for myself, but the best decision I have ever made regarding my faith was to walk away from those claiming to be the church. There are some wonderful people plodding away inside of those religious clubs, but the gift of being out of there is one I will be forever grateful. I can only hope that more and more people escape from what our culture calls “church” and find themselves experiencing the realities of who Jesus is in deeper and more life giving ways than I ever found there. I wish I were more optimistic about this actually happening, but I am not the church’s head…just a minuscule, minuscule part. :)

  • http://www.victorialaurin.net Victoria L

    Well said….

  • Joe

    Sorry to disagree but not well said. “You can be spiritual but not religious” is very narcissistic. What it boils down to is that those people do not want to go to church because they are afraid that someone might challenge their life style! They might make them think about what they are really doing! And they can’t have that, can they? Someone telling them what to do, right? This americanized culture we live in don’t allow for that. Every one is a free spirit and no one can tell you what to do, because that brings you down right? This “me and Jesus” thinking is NOT biblical! From Gensis to Revelations is about family! How many times do you hear “the family of God”? Jesus referring to His followers as brothers and sisters? Read Acts, its about the early church. The apostals were left as father figures to help guide the church and its people in life and correct biblical interpretations. Same goes for the “its me and my bible, I don’t need the church” thinking! Who do you think made the bible? Did it just fall out of the sky? No! The bible was made by the Catholic Church! The same church that’s been around for two thousand years! The same church that Christ founded!

  • Johnny Cozart

    Amen !!! Preach on !!! I could not agree more !!!

  • http://walkingingraceelca.org/WalkingInGrace/ Mark

    Nadia, here’s my thought. He’s right. Writing an apology is not an answer. We have 2000 years of those. Let’s do what God asks.

  • http://mikesnow.org Michael Snow

    ” That’s religion AND Jesus.” Exactly. Elton Trueblood called ‘and’ the “holy conjunction.” We forget this little word to our peril.
    I agree with the point this brother was making, even if his choice of words was unwise in places.
    Of course, for anyone who has read Augustine, or Luther, or Wesley, etc. the conversation is about true religion vs. false relligion. If we are not cut off from our roots, then it is harder to diss “and.”
    C.S. Lewis’ rule for reading provides and antidote for the spirit of our times:
    “…after reading a new book, never allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one…keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds…”

  • alison parker

    I agree with the second section of your response IF you swap the word religion for the word church.
    I believe church can be a good thing, whereas religion is more problematic to me.
    Thanks for your helpful comments

  • Lance Henderson

    It’s a bigger issue than whether or not “religion” is good or bad. Imagine having similar debates about “economics” or “politics” in their most general senses…it just doesn’t work. Regardless of form, economics, politics and religion are all part of the collective and individual human experiences. The notion that religion can be neatly cut off from all other aspects from the collective human experience and relegated to the inward self comes out of the Enlightenment and was practically promulgated in Modernism. The poet expresses a strain of the Evangelical movement which has co-opted this idea by saying Christianity is a “relationship not a religion”.

    This is problematic for a number of reasons–not least of which is the poor theology that comes from it. If Christ has a share in only my inner self apart from what I share with all of humanity, what can I hope for? That my soul makes it to heaven? Sorry, I’m Lutheran. I haven’t been promised just a squeaky clean soul once salavation has fully effected itself upon me. I want all that is promised–an imperishible body, a new heaven and a new earth, healing among the nations, the Kingdom of God everywhere.

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  • Mark K.

    To Joe @January 15, 2012 at 2:01 am –

    While I have to admire the sheer brazenness of insisting on the primacy of the (Roman?) Catholic Church in a reply to a Lutheran pastor’s post, I’m afraid you’re not doing your views any favors. People’s problem with religion is that they don’t want to be told what to do? Well, yes, exactly–because, historically, when humans in religious positions of power have told people what they need to do to be right with God, it’s usually been something dumb at best and horrific at worst. Now, personally, I believe the world would be a far grimmer place without organized religions. But that’s because I believe organizations maximize the opportunities for people to do good and experience good despite human shortcomings–*not* because no good is possible without them.

  • DustinB

    I loved the first video for the way it denounced rules of the church, in place of the commands of Christ. I fully understand organized religion has built churches and fed the needy but how many has it persecuted in the name of its own sanctification? What I thought was lacking from the first video was the rules of some religions to insist on baptism before salvation, that if your saved and die in a wreck on your way to be baptized your going to hell, or confessing your sins to a priest when Jesus died and when to the right hand of God to be our intercessor so that we could confess our sin directly to him, or those that would have us dancing with snakes to show Gods power and our dominion over them, or to reject modern medicine in fear of committing a sin against our religion as opposed to a sin against our god. Where two or three are gathered in his name is a far cry from an organization that would impose those rules on their congregation. There is no one true religion. If the world would end tomorrow there would be no announcement by St Peter at the gates ” Im sorry it was the Mormons, the correct religion was the Mormons, every one else…..down you go.” I am a christian, not a Baptist, or a Catholic, or a Lutheran, or a Presbyterian. I will be welcomed in to heaven as a child of God washed in the blood of the lamb, not as a member of a religion. Religion says, if you disagree with me I shall denounce you, I shall persecute you, I shall look down on your salvation as insufficient to my own because you do not follow the penances of my church. Religion says, tattoos? Hell, Music with electric guitars and bass? Hell, Marrying some one of a different religion? Hell. These things were brought about by man, not God. I chose not to be a denomination, to follow the word and to study it, and to listen to the thoughts of others who may or may not have a better understanding of its teachings than myself. When I am told how to believe or how to worship or how to live I want to be able to read gods word and know these things are of him, not an order instituted by the church. Long ramble shortened, I believe the things that have been addressed here were more so a difference in definitions of “religion” and “the church” I am not denouncing the church as Christ’s body, but religion as the works of men to force thier own agenda.

  • http://rosenzweigshmuesn.blogspot.com/ Daniel Imburgia

    @Joe, Hi Joe, fellow Catholic here from comments above, I ain’t quite sure what your point is (and I’m pretty sure were not gunna flip any Lutherans with your approach, but I could be wrong), but leaving aside all those verses where Jesus commands us to abandon our spouses, children, jobs, etc., As critical as I am, I’m not sure that this video was calling for a woodstock like bacchanalia as a substitute for “Church.” Like you I am weary of the spiritual/religious cliche’s, but I think the videos problem is a bit more parochial than that. According to the guy in the video, Jeff Bethne (we are FB friends now!) “religion” it turns out is just anything you really don’t like, i.e., stuff other people do that pisses you off, other peoples hypocrisy, other people’s phonyness, and the texture of gluten free pasta. Now as catholics (and some other folks too) our understanding is that our relationship with God unfolds by the working of the Holy Spirit, the living Word of God (which includes the written Bible), and Tradition (Tradition, that is, as the collective wisdom and story of the people of God as they struggle to know God through the Word and the Spirit. Of course, “Tradition” like “religion” can just defined as all the stuff that pisses us off too). I find this Trinitarian concept of the believing life of following Jesus the most helpful. Some of my “charismatic” friends and others are all about the “Spirit” etc. (which sometimes turns out to just be their ego inspired phantasies), and of course there are some of my fundamentalist brothers and sisters that worship “the Bible” as some kind of an infallible idol (all the while not having a clue where it came from and that so much of their inescapable interpretations are again, ego driven phantasies) And it’s worth saying that “Tradition” without the Living Word, and without the living Spirit can be just soul-deadening….well, bullshit (Jesus pointed this out a time or two, and we RC’s have struggled mightily in this area). My journey tends to revolve around trying to live a faithful balance among these three conceptual theological assertions. Now Jeff goes to a super-hipster church with a real emphasis on male authority (something we catholics don’t know much about) and most of their professed schtick is trying to market Jesus to young males. I was once a young male, and I gotta tell ya reducing the Gospel to the level of a young american male is like reducing christianity to what will fit on a cheeto’s bag. Nevertheless, their marketing campaign is to make Jesus a cool dude that hangs around cage fighters and farts and tells dirty jokes, etc., that is, to make Jesus the opposite of every skater-dudes parents. So cut the kid some slack Joe, in a few years his own kids will be as sick of him dragging them to Mars Hill Church as I was of going to Saint Catherines, and at least it helped him to get his porno and masturbation problem under control (though I think it’s going to be a hell of a struggle now that he’s such a celebrity and the girls are throwing themselves at him, see his FB page). I’m kinda glad to see that whole chastity promise and purity thing come back to bite him in the ass, and now with his public anti-masturbation pledge the kid is going to need our prayers! (wasn’t this a Seinfeld episode?). obliged, and blessings all, Daniel.

  • Karen Gibson

    You rock!!!

    • http://rosenzweigshmuesn.blogspot.com/ Daniel Imburgia

      obliged.

  • Erik

    You’re using change as a justification for pain and war? That doesn’t seem to make sense.. We went to war simply because another group of people did not believe in the same thing we did. At least the Christians have done this countless of times. Why does WAR have to do anything with Jesus or God? Why does the US $ say In God We Trust, while we go around the world stealing and plundering other nations resources? We can never use GOD to justify our actions or the Church’s actions. Jesus Christ and God should be the most holy and purest thing to an individual.

    Remember the 10 Commandments.

  • Joe

    Thank you Mark K. and Daniel for your comments. I understand that I didn’t “sugar-coat” my opinion and that does turn people off. That’s not good for votes and I undstand. But you do have to be careful about too much “sugar-coating” to. Like how Daniel was explaining how they are trying to market Jesus. That then becomes relativism! Although painting a pretty picture is good to get people there, it doesn’t do any good if they are not doing it right. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

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  • Sam

    I agree 100% with what Nadia said. He has some legitimate concerns. I have had some of the same concerns. The difference is that I do not believe the corruption of religion is in religion itself. It comes from the people that misinterpret God’s word to the point that they forget the love and compassion that are at the heart of every religion. This is what leads to violence in the name of God. We mustn’t think that every violent act done in the name of God is a result of religion. The Twin Towers weren’t destroyed by Islam. They were destroyed by men who were blinded by fury and devoid of the compassion that their religion teaches above all else. Unfortunately, we reacted in fury and without compassion.

    In the video, he portrays religion as some sort of dictatorship. On the contrary, I believe it is all about free will. The Quran says, “There is no compulsion in religion.” In my experience, this has proven true. Bearing this in mind, remember that Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Perhaps this is the rigid lifestyle the man in the video wishes to avoid, but off the top of my head I can think of none of Jesus’s commandments that I would not want to keep. After all, I don’t see the issue with loving my neighbor or feeding God’s starving children.

    I appreciate that he wants us to live as Jesus lived, in reverence for his sacrifice. But where did I learn about all that? At church. Besides, worship is a communal work. It sounds to me like Christianity without religion would be a very solitary thing. The church experience has strengthened my faith because I get to see God in other people. I can use them as support and be their support. There are some for whom the church is all they have left- not only the religion, but the people who bring it to life. I would hate to think of never knowing all the people that have brought God to earth for me.

    In conclusion, I think what this man is mad at is the misuse and misinterpretation of religion. I too have impatience for those who use their religion to place themselves above others, promote their own agenda, or ignore those that are disenfranchised. I hate when my religion (or even other religions, which have their own legitimacy and devoted following) is used to justify hurt, violence, or injustice. However, we must remember the reasons we know about Jesus in the first place and see the seeds that thoughtful, loving, compassionate followers of religion have sown on this earth.

  • James

    Re: ‘Bad language’

    Often, the words that English speakers, particularly of the American variety, consider ‘bad’ are words of Anglo-Saxon origin (as opposed to French or Latin roots: consider ‘piss’ vs. ‘urinate’ or ‘micturate’; ‘shit’ vs. ‘excrement’, ‘refuse’. So in some cases it’s just ancient classism going back to c. 1066. Other times it seems totally arbitrary.

    In any case, these really are ridiculous taboos. Who defines what is a ‘bad’ word? and by what criterion? The word ‘piss’ is used in the KJV Bible. St. Paul uses the word σκυβαλον, which can be accurately rendered ‘shit’.

    Nevertheless, it is precisely things like ridiculous taboos St. Paul had in mind when he encouraged believers to be sensitive to the needs of the weaker brothers, so as not to cause them to stumble. So caution is essential here.

    I do not agree with people who think ‘bad words’ are never appropriate. But also, sometimes I think other people can be too eager to use these words.

    The Lord says we will be accountable at the Judgment for every careless (useless, vain, unnecessary, inappropriate, unloving, etc.) word we utter. So we should definitely be careful and judicious with our choice of words. I suppose the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to say ‘shit’, but I suspect that usually when I utter that word, inspiration is lacking. :)

  • Kristi

    I am thankful that someone could better express exactly what I was feeling when I watched this video…I too love both Jesus and religion (otherwise known as the church). without “the church”or organized religion I would have never been raised in a faith filled home and would not know that because of what Jesus did for me will allow me one day to see my mother, father , brother and all the others who have gone before me! If this young man really loved Jesus as he claims he would no have used the word “hate” in his rap/poem. That alone tells me that he should spend some time learning more about his Saviour and how He called us to Love one another..even the tax collectors and pharisee

  • sg

    Nadia, do you pray for the tea partiers and Glenn Beck?

  • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

    Thanks Nadia. I have stronger words for this guy, but I’ll leave them for another day. We need to look at how well religion is reflecting Jesus, but this guy does not help us much with that. It looks more like shameless self-promotion to me.

  • http://haroldcalder821.obolog.com/ cooking ideas

    I tend not to comment, however after looking at a few of the comments on Why I hate Religion, But Love Jesus – A Response | Nadia Bolz-Weber. I actually do have some questions for you if it’s okay. Is it simply me or does it look as if like some of the remarks come across like they are written by brain dead individuals? And, in case you are writing at additional online social sites, I’d love to follow everything fresh you have to post. Can you list of all of all your social pages such as your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

  • MaddieMarieBocelli

    What I don’t think you all get is that that is this guys opinion. So what are we saying? “No, man. you’re absolutely wrong.” That’s what we’re saying. We are giving him our opinions. This man is right. But see, so are you. because this is just how he feels about this ans this is just how he has come to understand. And you have come to understand it slightly different. Think about it. I’m right.

  • http://www.moombahtonnnn.com Stephen Cisowski

    You should take part in a contest for top-of-the-line blogs on the web. I’ll advocate this website!

  • http://vapemania.co.uk/ northamptonshire daventry

    I have read not one write-up on your weblog. You’re a massive lad

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