Jesus > Religion?

A friend on facebook posted the video below and asked for comments:

I sent my friend the following email (proper names redacted):

Hey xxx,
You solicited comments on the video of the guy who loves Jesus but not religion. This is a fairly lengthy reply, and I didn’t feel it appropriate to put in your facebook comments to clog them up. First a little background on my life.

My parents raised me in a Baptist church. I am sure you are familiar with Baptists being in xxx and all, but to say the least it was a very strict, but loving environment at that church. I also went to the Baptist school that was attached to the church until 9th grade.

There was a falling out with the Baptist church when I was a freshman in high school. I transferred to an Assembly of God school. We never returned to any church.

The crux of the falling out was twofold. First, my dad was putting in excruciating hours at work to get the xxx store moving (sound familiar? haha!). He simply didn’t have the energy to attend the Baptist church anymore and we didn’t have the money to give as we had previously. My parents started feeling heat from the elders at the Baptist church for this and couldn’t believe what was happening. My father thought that it was more important to take care of and feed his family than not get any sleep on his one day off so my parents told the Baptist church to “pound sand”.

During summers when I was little, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, who were Lutherans from the old country (Germany). I attended the Lutheran services with them.

I am prefacing my reactions to the video with this background to show that I know my Bible a bit, and also have some experience with organized religion. Most of the experiences were good. Some were not so good.

In general, I think the video is interesting and I see his point. But he paints with too broad of a brush in some spots.

You really cannot worship a man like Jesus without being in a religion yourself. The man in the video claims to despise religion, but if he is worshipping Jesus, well, hate to break it to you, you are participating in a religion, and it is called Christianity. Christianity takes many forms – Lutheran, Baptist, Catholicism, and scads of others. You can call it anything you want. Heck, you can call it “Dave’s religion”, I don’t care. If you worship Jesus as the man in the video says he does, you are participating in an act that requires a leap of faith. There is no scientific way to explain miracles that Jesus supposedly performed while on earth, or to prove (or disprove) things like the resurrection.

I did not like the way the man in the video broad brushed all churches. Yes, bad things happen in churches. They are run by men and women and there will always be politics. Throwing out an accusation like he said in the video of “why are there poor/hungry people when we have churches” (I paraphrase, of course) is just not fair. Some people don’t want help. Some people, help cannot be had (iron regimes, or whatever – are you going to start smuggling guns into Tibet to fight the Chinese? I’m not). In many places I will admit, religion and superstition are the causes of poverty and social stratification (typically not in the United States). However, so many churches do so many good things I thought it was disingenuous at best for him not to say that. The Lutheran church I attended with my grandparents did absolutely everything they could all the time for disadvantaged people here and abroad. The Catholic Church is the single largest charitable organization in the world. There are many more examples, but all churches aren’t all bad. Period. Are some churches bad? Perhaps. I would rather hear the guy say that certain individuals in certain places are bad, such as the Catholic priests who molested the children. This doesn’t make all Catholics or the church itself any more guilty than if someone who worked for me robbed a bank and then all of a sudden people began saying that xxx folks were all bank robbers.

As for the point he makes that Jesus says there doesn’t need to be a church, it isn’t as simple as that either. There is debate on both sides as to what exactly Jesus said and wanted and a lot of it comes down to translations of different versions of the Bible. This is why we have so many different sects of Christianity – different people translate things differently. I don’t need to bore you with that but again, I think it is disingenuous for the guy in the video to make that blanket statement.

Why did he bring politics into the video? I don’t understand why the line “what if I told you voting Republican wasn’t his mission/voting Republican doesn’t = Christian” was WAY out of place in a theological discussion and gives me a hint as to exactly where he is coming from (more on this in a bit). Why did he single out Republican voters? Does he not think that there are no people that vote Republican that aren’t Buddhists or Jews? Does he also not think that there are no Christians that vote Democrat?

Also of note is that Christianity is the only religion he takes a swipe at. Does he not think that Islam or Judaism or Buddhism have issues? I understand that his points need to be compacted into a short video but again, why the hate for Christianity alone?

As for me, today, I have been an agnostic at best for quite some time. My feelings are the same that my father had when I was a boy. My family is the most important thing to me. It is my responsibility FIRST to take care of my wife and kids. If that means that I can’t go to church, so be it. And that is what that means. I work usually 60-70 hours a week and by god, if I want to ride my bike on Sunday morning to relax or workout instead of sitting in the pews, that is what I will do. And that is what I do. In the end, I believe if you live a good life and there is something or someone to atone to when it is all over, I will be fine. Jesus would think so, I believe.

My children go to a Catholic school, and they and my wife will likely be turning Catholic very soon. I refuse to do it and not only is my family OK with this, the Catholic church is absolutely supportive of my decision. I just have too many things I don’t accept about Catholicism to convert to that religion (or any religion for that matter). The congregation at that church and the attached school is made up of fantastic and wonderfully supportive people.

As for the guy in the video, I think he is full of crap. The bashing of Republicans and singling out Christianity for his anti religion screed smell to high heaven to me. But that is of course just a guess. Your mileage may vary.

It was an interesting piece and I understand where he comes from, since I have been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

I know this was long and that is why I didn’t want to put it in facebook – these issues take a lot of thought and are much more complex than a short comment can allow.

Looking forward to seeing you (and xxx?) in San Diego!

Best Regards, Dan.

11 thoughts on “Jesus > Religion?”

  1. Perhaps it is a generational thing, but I was trying to listen to this guy with all the “rap” – or I should say – in spite of it – I was just talking about this issue with a friend yesterday over a hamburger.

    My friend – who is a good Catholic – goes to mass every day at 7:30 I believe – and I – a Protestant – who hasn’t gone to a church in 20 years (I used to go regularly until the church decided that they wanted to be a “mega church” – and hired professional fundraising consultants to teach them how to extract more money from the congregation – but I digress)

    My point to my friend that if Jesus were to come back today – as he was – poorly clothed, humble, would many church goers accept Him?

    I stopped going to church 20 years ago over my belief that they weren’t doing what God says you should do. Like publicly having members get up on the dais and tell the congregation how much they gave.

    We know how God tells us how we should give – quietly and anonymously.

    My contention is that if Christ were to return as He was, many church goers wouldn’t recognize Him.

    My friend had to agree. We have about 5 of these “mega churches” in our area – one has 20,000 members – and I think people going to these tend to worship the pastor instead of God.

    Even smaller churches – the other day a Catholic priest is just getting out of jail – molestation charges – (he made bail) and here is a throng of his supporters defending him.

    No mention or the children he scarred. How would Jesus react to this?

    I think many regular church goers tend to “legalize and codify” God’s word – telling us all what we should do but not having it in their hearts.

    Some of the most obnoxious people I have met are professed “Christians” who are so ready to judge others while not looking at themselves.

    And you can be sure most of them are regular church goers – and glad to tell you.

    Well, I could go on (such a profound subject – God vs religion) but I think the fellow is essentially right if a bit difficult to understand.

  2. I agree with your statement that he is full of crap. That video reminds me of the Daniel Tosh bit: “I have girls come up to me and say that they aren’t religious–they’re spiritual. Well, I’m not very honest, but you’re real interesting.”

  3. @Bill – I learned from my parents to give anonymously, not from a church, which is interesting to me. I am sure they must have told me that since they learned it from a sermon or something. I follow that to this day, always giving to charities anonymously.

  4. Well, we are all simultaneously Sinful AND Justified. (from when I was a Presbyterian). The young man in the video sees the sinful part, but doesn’t realize Grace is found within the Church (I’m now a Roman Catholic). Yeah, there are people who try to follow the Rules to excess… and we aren’t supposed to be legalistic about it (I spent some time as an Episcopalian, too) BUT –

    We can use the church to increase our personal Holiness, and when we do this with humility and grace, we are THAT much closer to God. The church, no matter how fractured it is (I spent time in one of the innumerable Anglican Churches, too)AND sinful it is – is the one place that has ALL the information on Christ and what He wants (expects?) of us.

    It’s a tension that is irresolvable this side of Paradise. When you’re young, you don’t see a lot of the subtleties. As you age, you tend to relax about stuff and have a chance to become closer to God……

    Susan Lee

  5. Dan – I felt that most church’s attitudes towards raising money and what the Bible says (and it would be so easy to swerve into a Bible quoting group of comments – which I certainly don’t want to do) – but it is in the Bible about how one should give – and the quieter the better. Your parents may or may not have learned that from a church ;-)

    In my first post – having written it and walking the dog I was worried that people may interpret from it that I believe there are no Godly people in a church – and that is not my belief.

    But there are a sizable percentage (pick your church; pick your denomination) – my good friend who is a devout Jew says synagogues are much the same) – there are a large percentage of people for whom the church – and its leader – are the focus – rather than God.

    Then you get the cliques within a church – and who can make a better showing this Sunday of who is the most devout?

    My father, who had to have had his own bad experience before my time – said they are “just like country clubs”.

    I won’t go that far but I don’t equate churches the same as God.

  6. One of the most insightful things that I ever took away from Lutheran catechetical classes (yes, raised as a die-hard Lutheran) was a reminder by one of our ministers: that a congregation was not a collection of saints … but a gathering of sinners. And that we are all in bondage to sin, in one way or another, and cannot free ourselves without His help.
    There was also a fair bit about the whited sepelchure, and worshippers who made an ostentatious display of their belief … which was not one of those things approved of. Ten dollars to a hole in a donut that the young commentator has not had the benefit of an old-school Lutheran catechetical class.

  7. Sgt. Mom – I don’t think the guy in the video has ever been to any organized church at all, ever. I don’t think he would broad brush as many things if he had gone. The more I think about this, the more I think it may have been paid for by and anti-Christian and/or leftist group but I haven’t had time to follow the money of the production and research the guy.

  8. In the end, I believe if you live a good life and there is something or someone to atone to when it is all over, I will be fine. Jesus would think so, I believe.

    Although I’m a Catholic, I think Bill Wiese makes a great point here. “If you were to go to the most expensive home in the country, knock on their door, and say to them, “Hi, I’m moving in with you.” What do you think they would say? No. You would not expect them to allow you to just move in. You don’t know them and have no relationship with them. Yet, people go throughout their entire lives and want nothing to do with God, reject that Jesus is the Son of God, don’t go to church, don’t want to read the Bible or learn about Him, and yet…. When they die – they expect to move into His house. Who is the unreasonable one? You never made God your Father even though He tries throughout your lifetime to reach out to you. When you receive His Son, He then becomes your Father, and you may now move into His house. Until you receive Jesus, God is your Creator, but not your Father.”

    My favorite Catholic response to this young lad. Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus — The Smackdown

  9. “Religion” is almost as contentious a word as “cult”, and only slightly more useful.

    The only words in the Bible that are consistently translated as religion/religious are the New Testament Greek words thrēskeia/thrēskos, which are only used a few times. Here’s the most representative sample:

    If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion [is] useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, [and] to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

    James 1:26-27, NKJV

    Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the term, is it?

    In the Evangelical circles where I make my home, the difference between religion and faith is discussed often enough that it’s something of a cliche, with religion being a set of predefined actions and faith being sincere belief and an attitude of humility.

    That’s a critical distinction, and one that is much easier to talk about than to put into action, which is why there’s a lot more of the former than the latter. (That’s not a dig against Evangelicals, just the realities of human nature.)

    My own reaction to the video is pretty well summed up as, “whatever”. I’ve seen the same concept presented with a lot more self awareness and humility, and better theology to boot. I expect that the writer of the video comes from a church not unlike my own. If I met him, I’d suggest that he might serve Jesus more effectively if he stowed the Attitude.

    The fact that it only takes him a line or two to bring the specifics of US partisan politics into the discussion either means he is incredibly provincial, or thinks his audience is. Probably both are true.

    And speaking of provincial, perhaps a few of us need to get out more, ecclesiastically speaking. There are all kinds of churches out there, Christian and not. Some of the comments sound like people arguing about whether the ocean is warm or cold, based on that time they went wading at the beach.

  10. Setbit – I did exactly that a few years ago, taking a Sunday and Saturday here and there to go to a worship service of many different denominations, from Judaism to Catholicism to Hinduism and everything in between. It was very, very educational.

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