Why I hate religion, but love Jesus: My response

Over the recent weeks, a video has gone out on YouTube with the title “why I hate religion, but love Jesus”. I saw many people had responded to it before I had even seen the video until it was brought to my attention by some very sincere Christ-followers. I hadn’t planned on making a response until I was asked my thoughts about it. So, here goes…

My first thought is that there are some nuggets of truth within this video that are valuable. The first and most important one is what all Christians hold in common, the reason for our hope, in fact, the only thing upon which we can cling…our salvation and what it means. In fact, this point is so important that I want to put it front and center before we get distracted by anything else, whether it be denominational differences or general frustrations with an “institution”.

There is something we need to understand…the degree to which we understand it will define how we see this video, how we see our life, how we see the Church, and how we interpret their interworking. If nothing else, our loquacious brother in Christ has a great passion and understanding of the salvation that has been given to him and to all of us because of what Jesus has done for you and for me. Let me break it down using excerpts from his own video:

  • Salvation is freely mine and forgiveness is my own, not based on my merits but Jesus’s obedience alone… He took what we all deserved. I guess that’s why you call it grace.

The heart of Christianity, in fact, the soul of the Christian religion (notice my emphasis) is that we owe everything we have or will ever have to the God who pulled us out of the pit that we have created for ourselves. We are completely unable to buy forgiveness, much less a single day of life. The forgiveness that we have been given is something that can never be earned. God has given us something that we do not deserve, no matter how good we think we are, and most of us know that we aren’t “that good” to begin with. Grace is a word that means being given something that we do not deserve…not because of any effort on our part but simply as a gift.

  • While he was dangling on that cross, he was thinking of you.

There is always a danger of going to one extreme or another when talking about religion (there’s that emphasis again…starting to notice a pattern?) To begin with, we can be so focused on the fact that Jesus’s saving action was for the benefit of the universal (in other words, Jesus died on the cross for “mankind”) that it can become little more than an abstraction. In such a case, our life, our work, and our worship can have the danger of simply being an abstraction with little connection to the real concerns of our life.

On the other hand, and possibly as a reaction against the other hand, there is the ultra-individualized version of salvation. There is a profound shift in reality when we realize that Jesus did not come and do all that He did for some abstract reason. Rather, He came, He died, He rose, He ascended not just for some abstraction…He did it for you. This is what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus. This is something that is most essential to a true and living faith; however, the danger here is not realizing that, while He did it for you (the singular pronoun); He also did it for every “you” (the plural pronoun) in the world.

Just as we cannot have a simply abstract notion of salvation for the universal, we also cannot have a true understanding of the salvation God offers to each one of us if we are locked into a “Jesus and me” mentality. Just as we must have an awareness of God’s saving action on a personal level, we must also have an awareness of the community that He has called to be together. That is the Church…and that is religion.

If you doubt that Jesus had something to do with the religion that is called Christianity, you should hear it from Him:

“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

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

There are plenty of other examples, but I have already used a lot of space choosing to focus on the issue of salvation rather than to tear into one individual’s ability or inability to find that balance that is spoken of above. But using only these two direct quotes from Jesus, it is very clear that he did not hate religion or even an institution. In fact, he called one to fulfill His purpose: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

There is a problem out there. There are a number of points on which I believe our poet brother is misinformed, but that is not the problem  of which I speak. The problem is that fellow Christians are spending all this  time going back and forth with rebuttal after rebuttal while the mission to  which we have all (as fellow Christians) been called could be effected by our working together…but that would require community…and that is the definition of the Church.

In Christ…and through the Church,

Fr. Joe+

Permanent link to this article: http://www.saintalbans.org/2012/01/18/why-i-hate-religion-but-love-jesus-my-response/

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