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Errors in “Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus” Mentality

January 24, 2012

I am not a listener of rap “music”. It is a personal taste issue. However, a rap has been circulating that bothers me deeply. It’s called “Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus,” by a man known as Jefferson Bethke.

When I started digging a little, my suspicions grew when I saw what Mr. Bethke has written on his Facebook page: “I’m just a messed up dude trying to make Him (Jesus) famous.”

Umm. We’re talking about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He’s already ‘famous’, if you will. He is known in spite of our efforts and He is found by those who seek Him. I want to think that Mr. Bethke wants to evangelize, to make Jesus Christ known to those who are seeking Him. But that doesn’t come through fame – it comes through Truth.

I want to examine Mr. Bethke’s rap a little but. Here are lyrics in italics, with comments in between.

What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion

What if I told you, you are wrong. Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law – God’s Law. God’s Law is very specific about the Jewish religion – all the rites, rituals, sacrifices, holy days, etc. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s Law, but not the abolisher of it. All that the Law offered to us is fulfilled in Christ: atonement for sin, God’s peace and presence, His covenant and grace. But Jesus Christ didn’t abolish it. As the Apostle Paul states, the Law still stands as a judgment for those who are under it, that is, to those who are without Christ.

What if I told you voting republican really wasn’t his mission; What if I told you republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian

Mr. Bethke is correct here. God is politically neutral.

And just because you call some people blind Doesn’t automatically give you vision

I mean if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars

Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor

Tells single moms God doesn’t love them if they’ve ever had a divorce

I’m not sure what Mr. Bethke means by the ‘blind’ reference, but he has stumbled into a few errors here. The first error is that religion starts wars.  This is simply not true. Religious people may start wars, but there has always been opposition to war in the Church. Monastics in the first millenium grieved over the wars started by “Christian” emperors. The Franciscans opposed the Holy Roman Emperor, the Jesuits opposed the colonial armies of “Christian” kingdoms in the New World, Mennonites opposed going to war for Protestant kings in Europe.

And he errs greatly in stating that Church buildings negate Church efforts at feeding the poor. In fact, the world’s largest social service agency, feeding and caring for more people than the United Nations, is the Catholic Church. Thousands of people are fed daily by local Church food pantries in towns and cities across the country and around the world.

And I’m not sure who Mr. Bethke’s listening to, but who tells single mothers that God doesn’t love them if they’ve had a divorce? I’d like to see “chapter and verse” on this.

But in the old testament God actually calls religious people whores

God also calls religious people “My people,” as in “if My people who are called by My Name.” He calls them His children, in spite of their sins. He calls them back to Himself again and again. The problem with the people wasn’t their religion, it was their sin. 

Religion might preach grace, but another thing they practice

Tend to ridicule God’s people, they did it to John The Baptist

Again, why is Mr. Bethke being so judgmental? John the Baptist was killed by King Herod’s men at the whim of Herod’s daughter, Salome. The ruling class of Judea was nominally religious, but they weren’t the religious leaders. Certainly many of the religious leaders were in cahoots with Herod as long as he was looking after them, but they also opposed Herod when he struck deals with the Romans and compromised the Jewish faith.

They can’t fix their problems, and so they just mask it

Not realizing religions like spraying perfume on a casket

See the problem with religion, is it never gets to the core

It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores

Like lets dress up the outside make look nice and neat

But it’s funny that’s what they use to do to mummies

While the corpse rots underneath

Again with the broad brush, Mr. Bethke? Religion is at the very core, actually. Religion is acting out your faith. Where your faith is centered is shown in your behaviors, and behaviors are the religion. If you go to Church every Sunday, that is religion. You go to Church because it is where you worship God with others who share your faith. That is religion. You read your Bible at home or in a study group… guess what. That is religion. Do you hate those people, Mr. Bethke?

Now I ain’t judgin…

Yes, you are.

 … I’m just saying quit putting on a fake look,

Cause there’s a problem If people only know you’re a Christian by your Facebook

I mean in every other aspect of life, you know that logic’s unworthy

It’s like saying you play for the Lakers just because you bought a jersey

Again, I wonder where Mr. Bethke is getting his references. Maybe from mothers who want their kids to dress up for Church, or Sunday School teachers who tell their children to listen to the lesson. But I don’t know a single, credible, Christian leader who says it’s OK to play Church. None of the Church Fathers say it’s OK to act like a Christian on the outside but a pagan on the inside. None of the Reformers say this. Billy Graham or John MacArthur or Elton Trueblood or Charles Swindoll… nobody is saying this.

You see this was me too, but no one seemed to be on to me

Acting like a church kid, while addicted to pornography

See on Sunday I’d go to church, but Saturday getting faded

Acting if I was simply created just to have sex and get wasted

See I spent my whole life building this facade of neatness

This sounds like the truth of the matter. Mr. Bethke hated his own hypocrisy. He hated that he was unable to live out what he said he believed. In the process, he says he hates “religion.” Why isn’t this rap called, “Why I Hate My Hypocrisy…” instead of blaming “religion” for his own sins. Everyone has sin to deal with, and it’s not ‘religion’s’ fault. Its their own.

But now that I know Jesus, I boast in my weakness

Again, this is more of the truth of the matter. Mr. Bethke found the Truth of Jesus Christ in spite of his hypocrisy. Thank God for this.

Because if grace is water, then the church should be an ocean

It’s not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken

This is what the Church is. Mr. Bethke should visit some Churches outside his own experience and he will see that this is certainly true. There are far more Churches that are ‘hospitals’ than museums.

Which means I don’t have to hide my failure, I don’t have to hide my sin

Because it doesn’t depend on me it depends on him

I hope that Mr. Bethke isn’t saying that it’s OK for him to continue in his sin, now that he’s found Jesus Christ. Paul’s message to the Galatians is clear – you don’t keep on sinning so that “grace may abound.” You don’t hide your sin, you repent of it. You get rid of it. And when you fail to to that, which everyone does, you depend on God’s grace to help.

See because when I was God’s enemy and certainly not a fan

He looked down and said I want, that, man

Which is why Jesus hated religion, and for it he called them fools

Don’t you see so much better than just following some rules

Huh? Jesus didn’t hate Nicodemus. He was religious. He didn’t hate Zacchaeus; he was religious, too. He spoke the truth to people whose religion was bound up in tradition (like the Pharisees and Sadduccees), but He never desecrated the Temple. He always went to the synagogues.  He read from the Torah, the Prophets, and He sang the Psalms. Seems to me Jesus Christ was pretty religious, Himself.

Now let me clarify, I love the church, I love the bible, and yes I believe in sin

In the same manner that an abusive husband “loves” his wife, it seems to me.

But if Jesus came to your church would they actually let him in

See remember he was called a glutton, and a drunkard by religious men

But the son of God never supports self righteousness not now, not then

Now back to the point, one thing is vital to mention

How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums

See one’s the work of God, but one’s a man made invention

The Man Who invented the Church is Jesus Christ. He’s the One who laid down His life for the Church. He’s the One Who appointed the Apostles. He’s the One who will return for the Church – His Bride, according to Revelation. The Holy Spirit is the One Who has guided the Church through the persecutions of the first centuries, the Councils of the next centuries, through the trials of the Middle Ages, etc. The Church is not a human invention at all. It is God’s invention. It has problems because the Church is comprised of sinners who are saved by grace (just as Mr. Bethke professes to be). The Church – and its religion – are not perfect, because there is only One Who is perfect. And He started it all.

See one is the cure, but the other’s the infection

See because religion says do, Jesus says done

Religion says slave, Jesus says son

Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free

Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see

And that’s why religion and Jesus are two different clans

Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God searching for man

There’s not much to argue with here that I haven’t already said. Mr. Bethke is clearly short-sighted.

Which is why salvation is freely mine, and forgiveness is my own

Not based on my merits but Jesus’s obedience alone

Because he took the crown of thorns, and the blood dripped down his face

He took what we all deserved, I guess that’s why you call it grace

I’m curious about Mr. Bethke’s view that Jesus Christ died for him, but apparently not for anyone else. If Jesus Christ died for anyone else, then he died for religion, because when two or more people get together to practice their faith, Jesus Christ is with them – and what they do is “religion.” When they pray, it’s religion. When they sing, it’s religion. When they work for the poor, it’s religion. But as long as Jesus Christ came only for Mr. Bethke, I guess he’s safe from “religion.”

And while being murdered he yelled “Father forgive them they know not what they do.”

Because when he was dangling on that cross, he was thinking of you

And he absorbed all of your sin, and buried it in the tomb

Which is why I’m kneeling at the cross, saying come on there’s room

Again, does he really believe this? If he wants to share room at the foot of the Cross, he’s going to be very uncomfortable.

So for religion, no I hate it, in fact I literally resent it

Because when Jesus said it is finished, I believe he meant it.

I hope I’ve made myself clear, also. Mr. Bethke is pointing down a road to nowhere. I’m afraid his message is populist and will gain ground with people who are disenfranchised with the Church. It’s trendy to poke fun at what is good. Make no mistake – the Church is good.



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