Jesus, Religion, and YouTube

    The internet is a crazy thing. Do you pay attention to YouTube videos that take off? “Viral” they call it, when an amateur posts a video and it receives over a million views. Some videos that have gone viral have been “interesting” to say the least. From cute things that kids do, to spy videos of people fighting, crazy accidents, and funny animal stunts, viral videos run the gamut.
    But the latest one is the talk of the month. Jeff Bethke is a talented 22 year old amateur poet/rap musician. He’s been a follower of Jesus for about four years but grew up in a Christian church, pretending. Religion was a turn-off for him because he saw so much hypocrisy, and worse yet, got away with practicing it himself. Then he came to Christ.
    Many of us have had that experience. And so we wind up creating a dichotomy of Christ and religion (you’ve heard me say things like that––i.e. “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.”) In my experience, I was turned off by the empty religion I saw in church growing up, but then was overwhelmed by the genuine faith I saw in the church that drew me to Christ, that I gained both a love for the church and a hatred for empty religion.
    So Bethke posted this rap song, entitled, “Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus.” And talk about going viral. Over 100,000 views the first day! Now, in a week’s time, over 15,000,000 views! It is filled with a lot of really good observations and it hits empty religion, HARD! Trouble is, he not only blasted empty religion, he bashed all religion, saying Jesus and religion are on the opposite spectrum.
    Someone sent me the link the first day it was out…still under a million views. I responded, “Ya, I see where he’s coming from, but what do we do with James 1:27?
    You see the Bible doesn’t bash religion. Jesus attacked EMPTY religion. Religion, in and of itself, is a belief and practice that holds someone or something sacred. Without Jesus, and without grace, that almost always leads to lots of silly rules, animosity against those who hold different things sacred than you, judgmentalism, and lots of other things that Jesus openly condemned. But when Christ is the object of our worship and we have a full understanding of grace, our religious practices come out in a God-honoring way. Listen to Jesus’ half brother James: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:27 NLT). So according to the Bible, it’s not religion that is to be hated, it’s the misuse of it.
    I know that Bethke was talking about empty religion in his rap. And I appreciate his criticism when we understand where it was directed. My concern is that words have meaning. And in the poem, it almost sounds like there is nothing good about church or church people. I don’t think he meant it that way, I think he is a good, honest, and godly young man, who wanted to identify with the millions of people who are kept from Christ because of hypocrisy they see among religious people, and I commend him for that. I’m hoping and praying that that is the affect of those 15 million views (and counting) and that many will seek out Jesus and His Gospel of Grace because of it.

One Response to Jesus, Religion, and YouTube

  1. Justindm65 January 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    an addendum to your comment

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