I wasn’t going to write about this video, but people kept asking me about what I thought of it, so I figured I’d jot down some quick thoughts.
First of all, I understand where the poet in the video is coming from. I don’t know how many times I heard in my church growing up that
I’ve read a couple books by Carl Medearis, a recent author growing in popularity whose most recent book, “Speaking of Jesus,” is about that exact topic. I even know that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a famous German martyr killed by the Nazis and whom I greatly respect, shared similar views.
But I can’t help but have reservations about it.
Let me just look at a few of the objections that the poet makes to religion:
1. “If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?” True, many people have started wars in the name of religion… but they’ve also started wars because of their countries and their families. That doesn’t automatically make countries or families bad. It just means that we have a tendency to hurt each other. Oh, and for that matter, a lot of people have killed explicitly in the name of Jesus… so, strike two.
2. “Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?” Admittedly, I’ve thought this same thing, but the fact is that the church is one of the most charitable organizations on the planet.
3. “Now I ain’t judging.” You kind of are.
4. “Because Religion says do, Jesus says done.” I think that Jesus had a thing or two to say about some things that we were to do. Love our neighbor as ourselves, care for the poor (as he mentioned earlier), go and make disciples of all nations…
Don’t get me wrong, there are some really good things in the poem. For example, I think he’s right on to criticize self-righteous behavior modification. But that’s just it:
It’s not really a contrast between religion and Jesus, it’s a contrast between self-righteous hypocrisy and real, earnest, faith-ful living.
When it comes down to it, Jesus Himself was not only a devout orthodox Jew, He was also a Pharisee, the very religious people that we see pitted against Him in the Gospel accounts. What we’re called to isn’t Jesus and the abolishment of religion, but Jesus and true religion.