Should I hate religion if I love Jesus?

This last month or so I watched as the “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” video really made the rounds. I couldn’t tell you how many times that link showed up on my on my Facebook news feed. I was slow to watch because that whole Jesus vs. religion thing is a pet peeve of mine. Why aggravate myself? But, with all the glowing testimonials of how profound and spot-on this guy was, I went against my better judgment and clicked the link.

If you haven’t seen it and you can spare the time, take a minute or two to watch.

I’m sorry to say, I was not pleasantly surprised.

The production is interesting and the guy is talented. And I can certainly appreciate some of his critiques on compassion-less, facade-driven, pseudo-Christianity. He just goes too far by equating religion with hypocrisy and self-justification. In his view, Jesus and Religion are at odds.

Religion says ‘do’; Jesus says ‘done’

That’s a problem since loving and following Jesus according to HIS criteria does amount to ‘religion’ by any normal definition of the word.

The ever-popular quip, “It’s a relationship, not a religion,” is catchy, but misguided.

Rather, Christianity is a religion based on a relationship.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.   John 14:15

I guess I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. I did have one link to a  response show up on my news feed this week. It is done by a Catholic priest. While my theology is probably much closer to Mr. Anti-religion on paper, I definitely have sympathies with the good father on this one.


This post was my Johnny-come-lately response to an imbalanced video that was being embraced with an alarming amount of enthusiasm. I have since become aware that the video sparked a torrent of criticism toward its featured artist, Jeff Bethke. One blogger, Kevin DeYoung, offered a particularly kind and constructive critique…and Mr. Bethke responded with grace and humility. Below is an excerpt of an email from Jeff Bethke to Kevin DeYoung. Good stuff.

I just wanted to say I really appreciate your article man. It hit me hard. I’ll even be honest and say I agree 100%. God has been working with me in the last 6 months on loving Jesus AND loving his church. For the first few years of walking with Jesus (started in ’08) I had a warped/poor paradigm of the church and it didn’t build up, unify, or glorify His wife (the Bride). If I can be brutally honest I didn’t think this video would get much over a couple thousand views maybe, and because of that, my points/theology wasn’t as air-tight as I would’ve liked. If I redid the video tomorrow, I’d keep the overall message, but would articulate, elaborate, and expand on the parts where my words and delivery were chosen poorly… My prayer is my generation would represent Christ faithfully and not swing to the other spectrum….thankful for your words and more importantly thankful for your tone and fatherly like grace on me as my elder. Humbled. Blessed. Thankful for painful growth. Blessings.

Grace and Peace,


This I can learn from.


7 thoughts on “Should I hate religion if I love Jesus?”

  1. Thanks for sharing, Crystal. I like the priest’s video. I hadn’t seen that. The first video is full of cliches, and although they are catchy, they rarely express the whole truth. When I hear cliches, I am always thinking, well, yes, part true, but there’s more to it than that. I get and admire the point the young man is trying to get across, my problem with it is with many of the cliches… they don’t tell the whole story.

    1. Yeah, he seems like a sincere fellow who really loves Jesus. Perhaps people were just overlooking the imbalance because they appreciated the truth that was there, but once I watched it, I was frustrated and alarmed that it was being so wholeheartedly praised. I would be doing well to have his humility and teachable attitude after millions of people had watched and celebrated me performing my own poem, though.

      I still really enjoy the Catholic rebuttal. Makes me chuckle.

  2. Amen, at least he says he sees where he was wrong.. but in my opinion, I feel he should remove the video from youtube since he does believe he was 100% wrong and he admits his points/theology wasn’t as air-tight, I say this because it is in error and because it is still spreading like wildfire.. If he does truly agree he should have no problem at all taking it down and reload it once he makes the corrections.

    I guess I am a little more skeptical than most, but I feel if he believes he is truly wrong he will make it right, because the whole world isn’t seeing this one blog, but by taking it down would be more correct, and a more humble approach.

    And to see people say the things they say about the author, or anyone who agrees he should take it down in my opinion is the blind, because the apostle Paul was quick and fast to reproof anyone who was teaching in error..

    I don’t believe in the well he meant well, so let’s just leave the false teaching up, no it is error and should be removed period, I myself don’t care if I am called what the video proclaims as legalist, or whatever, no I am not but I do however believe in sound teaching ONLY!

    In my opinion here is what he is saying:

    I am wrong, in fact I agree that I am100% wrong and my points/theology isn’t air-tight but hey, I am getting a lot of publicity and making a name for myself and website so hey, so what if it is false, so what if it does do damage! Ima leave it up!

    Don’t sound like a humble man to me.. sounds like someone with selfish motives!!

    1. Hi Dennis. Thanks for your thoughts.

      Hmmm…interesting…it hadn’t occurred to me that he might remove the video…

      Makes me wonder, though… There are a lot of great, best-selling/classic, Christian books out there that contain some really good thoughts–along with some very imbalanced thoughts. If those authors later grew in their knowledge and understanding of God’s word (as most of them probably did), should they demand that their book stop being printed or sold?

      He didn’t agree that he was 100% wrong. He just agreed 100% with DeYoung’s critiques.

      Plus, as a blogger (regularly sharing my theological views on the internet), I have to make a pretty conscious effort to judge with the measure I wish to be judged. I certainly try to practice integrity in how I study and what I communicate, but I know I’m likely imbalanced at times. That being the case, I’m not real comfortable making a judgment call on Mr. Bethke’s motives for keeping the video live…

  3. This is very good! I felt the same way after watching it. I think sometimes, as Christians we just haven’t quite learned what God has for us yet. It seems he expressed that in afterthought….. But, I am glad that now, the rightly divided version is being circulated. The truth indeed sets us free.

    1. Hi Kelly! Thanks for stopping by!

      I think this whole thing is a good reminder that while we ought to be very bold in proclaiming what we know is taught in the word of God, we need to make sure we know the difference between those things and the debatable theories or opinions we have chosen to embrace.

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