Is it biblical to say "I hate religion, but love Jesus"?

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

The "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" video has been viewed millions of times. It is quite the internet phenomena, the latest viral video. But, is it biblical? Is what Jefferson Bethke, the person in the video, says, biblically accurate? Yes and no.

He describes his video with "A poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion." If he had, in the video, clarified that "false religion" is what he hates, the message would be much clearer. The problem with the statement "I hate religion" is that it is easily misunderstood and misapplied. Christians are quick to proclaim that true Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ, not a religion. But, to the vast majority of people in the world, Christianity is a religion. The statement "I hate religion" is easily misconstrued to mean "I hate everything to do with God and the church." That is definitely not what Jefferson means, but he leaves the door open for that line of thinking by his lack of clarity in regards to what he hates.

The video mentions Jesus rebuking the religious leaders in His day, and applies that same rebuke to religion today. Yes, absolutely, we should hate the legalism and hypocrisy the religious leaders of Jesus' day practiced and taught. Much of the same legalism and hypocrisy exists today, and we should hate it. But, by failing to clarify that "false religion" is what he hates, Jefferson leaves the door open for confusion and uncertainty in regards to what he hates. He declares that he loves the church and believes in sin, but that is precisely what most people think of when they think of religion - a group of people who go to church and preach against sin.

What is religion? A common definition would be "a set of rules and rituals that are necessary to make yourself right with God." If that is the definition, yes, we should hate it. As the video says, "Religion is man searching for God. Christianity is God searching for man." Jefferson is right. True Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. But, at the same time, everything that Jefferson says he hates about religion, those same things are aspects of true Christianity (James 1:27). True Christianity has rituals (baptism and communion). True Christianity has rules (believers in Christ should strive to stop sinning). True Christianity involves fellowshipping with Christians in a corporate setting (the church). True Christianity includes teaching from God's Word (2 Timothy 4:2), worshipping through songs and hymns (Ephesians 5:19), financial "sacrifices" to the church and other Christian causes (2 Corinthians 9:7), and many other things that are commonly thought to be the trappings of religion.

So, what exactly does Jefferson hate about religion? He hates hypocritical and false religion. He hates any religion which teaches people they have to do certain things in order to earn God's love. He hates any religion which does not result in a transformed life and instead focuses on observing empty and vain rituals and traditions. I am precisely on the same page with Jefferson on this. However, he is not sufficiently clear in the video. He leaves the door open for people to have the "I'll follow the teachings of Jesus, but I do not want anything to do with the Bible or church" mindset. Jefferson fails to clarify that many of the things often mistook for religion are in fact genuine aspects of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The presentation of the Gospel in the video is very clear and well-done. Overall, the video is excellent, and will cause a lot of people to think about whether their relationship with God is all about rules and rituals, or about faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and a new creation life in Him. With further clarity on what aspects of religion should be hated, the video would be even better. But, kudos to Jefferson Bethke for his boldness in declaring the Gospel in such an impactful way.


TagsChristian-Life  | Reviews-Critiques  | Biblical-Salvation

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Published 1-24-12