Thursday, January 12, 2012

Can you hate religion and love Jesus?

If you haven't seen this popular poem that is blowing up on facebook, you ought to go watch it before you read this post. It's called, "Why I hate religion, but love Jesus." After I listened to it, I recoiled quite a bit. It's catchy, well put together, and brings some very serious issues out.  However, he uses abusive rhetoric that distorts both the Bible and Christ's mission.

Things I liked:
I think he names several things within his poem that are great: "voting republican was not Christ's mission", [don't] "tell single mom's God hates them if they've had a divorce", "there's a problem if people know you're a Christian only by your Facebook",  and "Christ thought of us on the cross and took our sin with him".  One quote made me smile, "If grace is water, then the Church should be an ocean." I agree with the idea of the quote, but thought it was ironic. Early Christians viewed their churches as a representation of Noah's Ark, sailing on God's ocean of grace and protecting them from death. Catholic churches today are still built with this concept in mind. The churches are generally longer than they are wide. If you look up, you'll notice rafters that are made to look like the hull of a ship. They aren't there to hold up the ceiling, masons have been able to do that without rafters for thousands of years--it's the symbolic image of Noah's Ark that is important.

Things I disagreed with:
Let's take some time to examine his other claims a bit more critically to see if they hold water.

His biggest claim is, "Jesus came to abolish religion."  He then stated "Jesus hated religion and called the religious fools." He went as far as "Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrum, one's the work of God, and the other's a man made invention. One's a cure, and the other an infection."  Is what the poet says true, did "Jesus come to abolish religion?" During Christ's life, thousands of people congregated around him. However, only twelve men were left with Christ after His toughest teachings in John 6 and He selected them to be His disciples. Those men, some of which are the writers of our New Testament, started the first Church.  If Christ's closest followers, people that existed with Him before and after His death, misunderstood His mission, how can we possibly believe any person today is in a better place to uncover His mission? Christ founded a Church, and a mission.  When the poet says, "one's the work of God, and the other's a man made invention" I disagree.  Jesus IS God and the Church is HIS invention. I want to examine the claim that "Jesus hated religion and called the religious fools."  Is it too simple for me to respond that Jesus was a practicing Jew? He loved his religion! He had the ability to see through the actual law and into the heart of the law.  He fulfilled the law (Romans 8:3). The law's goals were to bring people closer to God, and more in line with love.  The "fools" practiced their law to a T, but were standing in the presence of God and failed to realize it!

Towards the end he says, "Cuz I believe when he said 'It is finished.' He meant it." The poet was unclear whether he meant, "religion is finished" or "Christ's work was done". I'm going to assume he meant the second, since there is no Biblical support for the first. This really is a question of justification.  Here's something to think about if the poet meant, "Christ's work was done":  did Christ do anything after he died on the cross?  Yes, he was Resurrected! Obviously, we can't read that verse to mean his mission was "done". However, we can read it to mean the fourth cup of the Passover, which he had failed to drink from the night before had finally been drunk. That reading is important, because it establishes the prime reason we have a Church. It's the precipice where we receive communion which has been poured out for us. It preserves what God gave us when He died on the cross; His body and blood. "Religion says 'do' and Jesus says 'done'" yet Paul advises us to eat Christ's meal in the exact same manner that Christ has already "done".  The truth is, being a Christian is absolutely about what you "do".

The poet also says, "It’s not a museum of good people, but a hospital for the broken."  I think the second half of his sentence is absolutely correct. The church is a hospital for the broken. However, the first half is wrong if Christ makes people whole. If you believe Christ restores people and makes them whole, then the Church is a museum of "good people".  That's why there are stories about martyrs and other great saints.  There are amazing Christians starting with 11 of the disciples of Christ and continuing every generation until today.  Their words and wisdom, the beauty of their acts, and their continued prayer for man provides vast intellectual and spiritual knowledge.  There is a museum of good people, it's the Church.

This guy has some serious poetic talent, but is lacking in his theological formation. It's not possible to love Christ without loving his Church. Imagine going to a man that is married and telling him that you love him, but hate his wife--not only do you hate her, you resent her.  At the very least, that's going to cause tension in your relationship with the man. More than likely, if you refused to be around her, it would keep you away from the best parts of his life: the holidays, births of his children, etc.  The same is true for people that resent and reject church; they miss out on the best parts of religion: the sacraments, community, wisdom of saints, and the core of Christs mission.