Today I want to seek your opinion on a passionate controversy ignited by a You Tube video posted by a 22 year-old named Jefferson Bethke.
The video, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” is in the form of a rap and has had an incredible 20 million views. It has also stimulated scores of response videos.
Bethke is not an atheist. To the contrary, he calls himself a born-again Christian and a devout believer in the teachings of Jesus. He goes to church regularly and has ambitions to be a pastor himself someday.
I hope you’ll watch the whole video and some of the responses but these excerpts might provoke your response.
The rap starts out with a line he has since retracted: “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion? What if I told you voting Republican wasn’t his mission? Or that Republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian. And just because you call other people blind doesn’t give you vision.”
He adds, “If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars? Why does it build huge churches, but fail to feed the poor?”
He concludes, “I love the church, I love the Bible, and yes, I believe in sin. But if Jesus came to your church, would they actually let him in?”
Though the poem focuses on the Christian religion, it clearly has broader implications for all organized religions as he claims that the core teachings of his religion are ignored, distorted or contradicted by the concept of instutionalized religion.
Mr. Bethke sees a wide gulf between Jesus and the church, and says that “Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums. See, one’s the work of God, but one’s a man-made invention.”
Bethke’s rap is filled with assertions and opinions that resonated with tens of millions of people. Much of the “religious community,” however, had a negative reaction and quite a few scholars and many passionate Christians disagreed — sometimes respectfully, sometimes not. Bethke himself was respectful and humble in his reactions to the firestorm he generated and has largely backed off of many of his claims, including the claim that “Jesus came to abolish religion.” Still, the discourse generated is interesting and healthy. What do you think?
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
Just three of the better response raps:
This blog by Kevin de Young reveals a humility and commitment in Mr. Bethke that even his most ardent critics acknowledge:
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