Jefferson Bethke discusses “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus” on CBS.

If you saw Jefferson Bethke’s YouTube video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,” you need to watch this interview with Bethke on CBS; he offers some clarifications to the message and agrees with the critiques made by Father Beck (maybe that surprised the hosts of the show?). Overall, his manner was humble, he spoke clearly of God’s grace, and directed people to Jesus Christ.

Here are some related posts that analyze and give perspective on the video:

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12 thoughts on “Jefferson Bethke discusses “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus” on CBS.

  1. I wish Jeff hadn’t caved to the pressure from DeYoung and Beck who were obviously more interested in the system that pays their salaries than in the Jesus who was extolled in the original video.

    • Thanks for commenting, Mike. It seems like quite a leap to say that DeYoung and Beck are motivated by money and not love for Jesus. Both of them pointed out that Jesus Christ did not destroy the religious systems of the Jews, and in fact, He established another religious system, the church, which has rituals such as communion and baptism. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18). It’s a false dichotomy to say you have to choose religion or Jesus, and Jeff clarified that he used “religion” as shorthand for “false religion.”

      • Then why doesn’t the New Testament describe true religion as “going to church, being baptized, and taking communion?” Instead, it describes it as helping the weak and living holy (James 1:27).

        If Bethke’s video had merely decried “false religion” and had extolled “going to a good church” I doubt it would have gotten a fraction of the 16.5M views it has received so far. The reason it went viral was because it distinguished Jesus from ritual.

      • @Mike, would you say that it is correct simply because it went viral? Obviously Jesus is distinct from ritual, and nowhere did DeYoung contradict that. However, too many are misled by the concept of Christianity being “a relationship, not a religion”, and ignore the realities of repentance and obedience. What DeYoung said really had nothing to do with going to church per se, getting baptized, or going to communion.

      • Thanks for commenting, Greg. I’m afraid I brought up the ideas of baptism and communion because they are practices of the church. In thinking through the definition of religion, I was trying to think of “rituals” or “institutionalized systems” that are also a means for us to have a relationship with Christ.

  2. Greg,

    No, I would not say that Jeff’s video is correct merely because it went viral. There are probably a complex of reasons for that much distribution. My point was based on the fact that there are other such (i.e. rap, spoken word, trendy Christian) clips on the web; what stood out about this one was the sharp distinction between Jesus and religion. Everyone who I have heard take issue with it has done so on the basis of defending church and churchgoing.

    Kevin actually stood up for church and churchgoing throughout his rebuttal. He even said, “[Jesus] founded the church (Matt. 16:18). He established church discipline (Matt. 18:15-20). He instituted a ritual meal (Matt. 26:26-28). He told his disciples to baptize people and to teach others to obey everything he commanded (Matt. 28:19-20).” Thus Kevin did not affirm that “Jesus is distinct from ritual,” but rather put Jesus’ seal of approval on it.

    That Christianity is “a relationship, not a religion,” does not “ignore the realities of repentance and obedience,” but churchgoing often does.

    Kevin’s objection to Jeff’s video was not merely based on its omission of repentance and obedience – for Jeff did not omit them. For example, in verse 4 Jeff talks about repenting of secret sin in his mention of pornography. Therefore, Jeff’s poem calls for a greater repentance and obedience than he himself was previously exercising as a regular church member. I myself strongly believe in the need for genuine, heartfelt, day-after-day repentance for the rest of my life – and the obedience that naturally goes along with this – if I am going to tell myself (much less others) that I am a follower of Christ. Churchgoing, by contrast, is empty ritual. Jeff’s video sounded like he might be saying that, though he has clearly backed off from it since. Nonetheless, it was – and remains – a point well worth making.

    • Thank you for helping me sharpen my ideas, Mike. I’ve had many ideas about this topic brewing in my mind, but I haven’t had a chance to write a post about them yet. Please feel free to comment when I do. 🙂

      You’re right in pointing out how James defines religion, and I agree with you that going to church can become an empty ritual and sometimes the most “religious” people don’t show love and mercy to others. I went to church for years and did and said a lot of good things without truly believing in Jesus as my Savior, loving Him, and following Him in obedience. However, we shouldn’t reject going to church and participating in the means of grace, such as baptism and communion, because some people are not true believers or are hypocritical. Jesus said He desires “mercy and not sacrifice;” however, in the same chapter of Hebrews in which this statement is quoted, we’re exhorted to confess our faith and gather together with believers and stir up each other to good works (Hebrews 10).

      The point I tried–and failed, apparently–to make earlier is that religion by definition includes “an institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices,” so when we worship and follow Jesus, we can have both the “religion” and the “relationship.” There doesn’t have to be a dichotomy between the two. Certainly the religious practices need to be done out of genuine, heart-felt love for the Lord, and we should repent of our sin every day and live in a loving, Spirit-filled way every day. Hope that makes sense.

      • Natalie,

        Thanks for your thoughtful response.  I don’t eschew church life because some people engage in it hypocritically.  Rather, I reject it because there is no command for it in the Bible.  On the other hand, there is a clear command to love everyone.

        The central theme of Jesus’ teaching wasn’t church; rather, it was the kingdom of God.  The verse to which you allude in Hebrews 10 is the only verse in the New Testament that comes close to urging church attendance, and no one who attends church today is obeying it.  Abraham would qualify as a lone-ranger Christian, and that’s pretty good company to keep.  We should be seeking the kingdom of God with all our hearts; it is the only way to please God (Heb 11:6).  People who trust in church are trusting in flesh instead of in the Lord (Jer 17:5-8).

        I sense my ideas may seem strange to you.  Please just think about them.  Most of all, keep serving Jesus Christ the best you know how.

  3. Mike,
    We’ve got some pretty big leaps in logic here insinuating that no one obeys “gathering together” because we have more than one church per city. This seems to be an instance where an idea is being added to a Scripture based on something which is not said in the Scripture itself.
    Also, regarding Abraham being a “Lone Ranger Christian”. This is a case of necessity and not choice. Do you suppose that if there were other faithful families around at that time and in that location that he would have failed to gather with them and worship together?
    Another “Lone Ranger Christian” would have been the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos, but, I believe that if he were delivered from that prison island he would have immediately joined himself with a body of believers.
    So, if the church is not meant to meet together as you seem to be implying, why did the Lord, speaking through His apostle give a structure to the church if we were meant to be “Lone Ranger Christians?” 1 Corinthians 12:28 says, “And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.” Or in Ephesians 4:11-13 where it says, “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. ”
    If there are to be no gatherings of believers to whom are the apostles, prophets, evangelists, preachers and teachers to speak?
    And, why describe the body of Christ as body parts joined together in Christ. Can disjointed body parts have any effect? Can they even function?
    Why would instruction on church discipline be given if the church was not to meet together? In Matthew 18:17 the Lord Jesus Himself says, “If he (someone who sins against you) refuses to listen to them (two or three elders of the church), tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
    The book of 1 Corinthians is filled with teaching on how a group of believers (a local church) is to conduct worship when they gather together.
    To say that there is only one Scripture in the New Testament regarding the gathering of the church is patently false. I challenge you to go to BibleGateway.com and do a word search on the exact phrase, “the church” and conduct an in depth study on these Scripture passages; there are literally dozens of them.
    The church globally and locally is the Bride of Christ and I for one will not neglect or put to death the local body while declaring allegiance to the global body.
    Go to the Scriptures. The Truth, the Whole Truth and nothing but the Truth is found there! Not in video clips or blogs.
    May the Lord bless your searchings,
    Steve

      • Hello Mike! Yes, of course all Christians belong to the church! The Church is the body of Christ not an organization. Apostles and prophets are not found in the same capacity as they were in the Bible but certainly evangelists, pastors and teachers are present. Regarding the church in Corinth. That church was completely dysfunctional! There is no way they should be used as a model for any church. The entire first letter to the Corinthian church was one of correction.

      • Steve, how can you say we have a church today like the one in the New Testament if you can’t point to apostles and prophets leading it? As for the church at Corinth, you are forgetting that 1 Cor 12-14 is not a description of what took place there but rather Paul’s prescription of what should have been taking place there…and thus in every church – unless you think Corinth was the only church that was allowed to have the Holy Spirit. You yourself quoted 1 Cor 12:28 as instructive. If church leadership today has crossed off the first two leadership roles God lists for the church, how can it claim to be doing church God’s way?

        The church is obsolete, but the kingdom of God will never be obsolete. Therefore, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt 6:33).

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