Why Do So Many Hate Religion, But Love Jesus?

Have you been following all the internet talk over the "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" video that went viral several weeks ago?  Here is the original video below done by Jefferson Bethke.

Following the video Rev. Jonathan Fisk followed up with his own video where he had a Lutheran response.  Check it out below.

Just recently a video was released from a Roman Catholic position titled, "Why I Love Religion, And Love Jesus."  You can check this one out below.

There is no doubt about it that this original video hit a nerve in North American spirituality, receiving 15,000,000 hits in a couple of weeks.  Instead of me offering up my own response/reaction to these videos, I would like to take a moment and redirect us to ask, "What is it that has caused so many to react so strongly in favor of the original video?  Why do so many hate religion, but love Jesus?"  In other words, I would like ponder for a moment several possible reasons why people have had such a strong favorable emotional response to the original video from Jefferson.

My personal belief is that there are many in Modern Evangelicalism that are simply tired or frustrated.  They are reacting to the Pelagian Captivity Of Evangelicalism.  Without even knowing it, they are attacking the church (i.e. religion) in an attempt to throw off the pitfalls of Pelagianism and Finneyism.  They want freedom from this captivity. The reason for attacking 'religion' is that the only religion that they have known is a church dominated by the theology of Pelagianism and Finneyism.  This poor theology has been so intertwined with their local church and epistemology that they cannot distinguish between the bad theology and Christ's church.  Therefore, they have been throwing the baby out with the bath water.  In other words, in reacting to Pelagianism and Finneyism  they are lumping everything into the term "religion" and forsaking Christ's church while trying to keep Jesus.  Taken to the extreme these individuals are fast becoming what Rod Rosenbladt calls the mad alumni of Christianity.  They have been broken by the theology of the Modern Evangelical Church and it has wounded them deeply.  Rosenbladt states in his presentation, "The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church:"       
I find that these “angry ones” have usually not switched from Christianity to another religion. Nor have I found that they have switched from one Christian denomination to another. Instead, I find that they are angry at any and all religions and anyone who represents any religious position — but especially Christianity. And that is natural. After all, it was Christianity, as they see it, that “used them up and threw them away.” I suppose the most visible examples would be men like the late comedian Sam Kinison and ex-Roman Catholic George Carlin. You may (and probably do) know better contemporary examples than I know. All of us are in the vicinity of people like this at one time or another, maybe know a few of them as friends, or have at least met one or two in passing. Why do I say that? Because such people are, as I said, not all that uncommon these days.
Now I certainly can’t this evening exhaust the dynamic involved in such people (again, I’m no clinical psychologist). But I still think a lot of the “mad alumni” also often have a nameable history, just as the “sad alumni” have one. People like this often speak as if Christianity “baited and switched” them — just like a used car salesman “baits and switches” a young couple at a car lot.
Christians promised them a new life in Christ in such a way that it was going to be a life of victory, God’s designed route to earthly happiness, a new, divine power that would solve the problems so obsessing them. Then, when the promises didn’t seem to work the way they were supposed to, the church put it back on these believers that they were somehow “not doing it right.”
  • They weren’t reading their Bible enough.
  • They weren’t praying enough or praying right.
  • They weren’t attending enough church meetings.
  • They weren’t making right use of the fellowship.
  • You name the prescription, you “fill-in-the-blanks” any way you want to.
  • Some pastor or layman told them that Christianity was failing them because “they weren’t doing it right.”
  • And often, these believers took that counsel to heart and set themselves to trying to “do it better” or “do it right” so that “it would work.”
But again, Christianity seemed “not to deliver on its promises.” It “didn’t work.”  As they see it, they “gave it every shot” and Christianity “failed to deliver.” And then, to boot, they were called guilty “for not doing it right!” These people feel not just disappointed; they feel betrayed, “conned.” And they are deeply angry about it.
Or take another example: those who heard much of Christ and His saving blood and cross in an evangelistic meeting, became Christians, and then heard very little of that wonderful message in the week-by-week pulpit ministry of their congregation. Instead, they heard recipes as to how to conquer sin — over and over and over. These people also often “give up on Christianity.” And they are angry about it! Really angry. And I don’t blame them, really. Nor should you. The church has an obligation to preach the Gospel to these people on a weekly basis. And deep down, they somehow know that. But if that isn’t what happens, they react. I would, too! After all, what does the church have for a man, a woman, a child other than Christ and; His work on their behalf? Not much! Not compared to the Gospel of Christ preached as crucified for them and for their sin, Christ risen from the dead for their justification. Not compared to being absolved, not compared to eating the body of Christ given into death for their sin and drinking the blood of Christ shed for their sin.
Is there anything we can do that is of genuine help to such angry “alumni” of Christianity?  I think so. And the answer I’m about to give you comes right from a guy close to one of those angry ones. From whom? From Sam Kinison’s brother, Bill! How so? One night I happened to be watching a “60-minutes” interview with Bill Kinison. After Sam was in an auto accident on a lonely highway near Las Vegas, he lay dying. Bill was cradling Sam’s head in his arms as Sam died. Some time later, the interviewer asked Bill about Sam’s hatred of Christianity. And Bill looked at the interviewer and said, “What? You think Sam was not a Christian believer? You’re wrong! Sam died as a believer in Jesus Christ. You’ll definitely see Sam in heaven!  Sam never was angry with Jesus. He was angry at the church!” And I jumped out of my chair and yelled, “That’s it! There it is! There is the answer – and from Sam Kinison’s brother!”
What did I mean, “That’s it!”?
We can respond to the angry and say something like, “Oh, oh, oh, I see! You’re not angry at Jesus Christ. You’re angry at the church!” “Boy oh boy, join the club! So am I! And so are a whole bunch of other Christians!” [Here, if we had time, I would digress on how Christians angry with Christ will be saved by His cross, too. But this is not the time for that.]
Now this response takes more than a few minutes of thought on our part. That is, “Am I ready to say such a thing?” And that’s not an easy question. For many of us—especially for us clergy—that to be angry with mother church is the same as rejecting Jesus! It is not. But I’m recommending, at least in conversation with “the angry”—that we, all of us—identify with the anger of these people at the church, that we say, “Well, of course you are angry! With what it did to you? It would be insane not to be angry at it! I just misunderstood. I thought you had dismissed Christ, were rejecting His death for your sin. Thanks for clarifying.”
So what am I going to do?
I’m going to talk about the Gospel as if it can be believed in totally apart from the church! You say to me, “Rosenbladt, that isn’t how Scripture presents the church!” I answer, “I know. But first things first! This guy needs Christ, Christ as priest, Christ as having bled for his sin, Christ as giving eternal life to sinners for free.” And in his mind, the church is what is keeping him or her away from Jesus Christ! If he comes to trust Christ and Christ’s sin-bearing death, the guy might later on deal with passages about “not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together . . .” But not now. To this guy, the church and its behavior is the “scandal!” (The real scandalon, according to Paul, is that we are sinners under condemnation, and cannot do anything to make things right with the holy God. The true scandalon is that Someone Else is going to have to satisfy God’s justice for us because we are unable –and unwilling – to do that).
...We might be surprised to find that this guy is a Christian. He’s just vowed never to let a church do to him ever again what was done to him earlier. Do you know a church that won’t? (Don’t answer too quickly. There are not a lot of these – no matter what the “label” on the door.) Most of today’s churches will just re-inflame his anger, giving him “law-Gospel-law.” Find one for him instead that will speak to him of Christ—after he is a believer. If you don’t know one, tell him that. At least it’s honest.
While I was very opposed to Jefferson Bethke and his video at first, I am slowing having a change of heart, I am beginning to give him some grace.  The reason why?  In reading in between the lines, I have a sneaking suspicion that what Jefferson Bethke is reacting to is not "religion" but rather Pelagianism and Finneyism.  If this is the case, I can agree with Jefferson Bethke because both Pelagianism and Finneyism are the daughters of the age old enemy of the Cross, Legalism.  As far as the church though?  I can't agree with him if he is applying the term religion to "the church."  Even though the church has often been unfaithful, she is still my mother and the bride of Christ.

What are  your thoughts?  


Amy K said…
Matt- thank you, thank you, thank you. You are just such a blessing to the church. I never cease to learn something new when reading your blog. You keep me learning.
Jason said…
I love Jesus and I'll admit I get andy at the Church, but it's like getting angry with my brother. I may get mad at him for doing whatever, but I always love him. (I'm not angry with my brother by the way so please don't take this out of context.) The religion thing is interesting, I'm surprised no one quoted James 1:26-27, then again James has never been very popular with Lutherans. It's hard for me to listen to DJ Lutheran talk about MC Evangelical's tone when they both sound like their are arguing. The argumentative tone of it all only hurts our testimony because it doesn't sound like we love Jesus or each other and that's what Jesus said will let people know we are His followers.
terriergal said…
I thought Jefferson responded quite well to correction from some of the Gospel Coalition guys. Kevin Deyoung had a response and a follow up that included some of the email exchange from Bethke. You're right in that the false teaching and pietism in the church is what he was reacting against, but he did it unclearly and in a somewhat self contradictory way. His response to criticism was a breath of fresh air compared to how some have responded to legitimate criticism lately (cough cough, James Macdonald)