Friday, January 27, 2012

Why I Hate the "I Hate Religion" Guy

OK, Hate is a strong word.

And OK, I don't hate the guy.

Gotta be provocative with the title, ya know?  Otherwise you probably wouldn't have clicked to read this.

But I really think I do hate the video.  In case you haven't seen it yet, here it is.  In the last few weeks it's gone viral (yes, an overused term) and presently has over 17 million viewers on YouTube.

I admit, my initial reaction to his thoughts (once I got past him aiming his ire twice at Republicans but not at all at Democrats) was a qualified "amen."  After all, on the surface he makes a lot of sense.  Jesus did spend much of his time arguing against archaic rules and regulations that had been twisted by man, making in essence a self-service gospel without the power of God.  But after thinking (and thinking) about it, the way he makes his case and the words he says can so easily go without challenge.

I mean, did Jesus really hate religion?  Or did He simply hate what man had done to religion?  There is a difference, you know.

God instituted a religious order when he ordained the Temple system of the Old Testament.  He declared rules with the Ten Commandments.  He commands corporate worship directly in Hebrews 10:24-25 and indirectly throughout Scripture.  So to say that Jesus hates religion is really to say that Jesus hates what God designed.  And that of course is ridiculous.

Perhaps a better argument can be made in this video, which I just saw this morning for the first time.  Being new, it has significantly less views on YouTube, but I think makes a much stronger biblical case, if albeit a less flashy, hip one.

Listen, the Church has gotten many things wrong, from the crusades of the 1000s to the Catholic Church's indulgence system of the 1500s.  Way too frequently we still see news stories of funeral protests, abortion clinic bombings, racism and miscellaneous hatred, and when we see these things it's hard to believe that Jesus has any room for institutional faith.  And the church's insistence of using the term "personal Savior", though well intended, has the unintentional consequence of implying that Christianity is just between me and Jesus, and that's all that I need.

But au contraire, mon frère!  Christ loves the church and died for it.

I know, you're probably saying that the "I hate religion guy" (for the record, his name is Jefferson Bethke) tries to differentiate between the Church and religion, even saying (briefly) that he loves the church.  But how many people will watch him and not get that?  How many will use his thoughts to validate their hatred for the church, while they supposedly cling to Christ?  How many will see this as some sort of tacit approval to ignore the teachings of their pastors, while they claim that Jesus hated religion so they should too?

In an interview posted on, Bethke  all but admits that his position is not very well thought out, and comes from a narrow view of "religion."  We all have such blind spots, but we must learn to focus on what we read (especially online) and consider the words and the implications as well as the sentiment, before jumping to the conclusion that this is something that must be shared with the world.  I applaud his intentions.  I fear his consequences of his work.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Just When Did Rules Become Optional??

OK, forgive me if I sound un-American - or at least old fashioned - for a moment.  But when exactly did it become wrong to do the right thing?  When did obeying the rules become an optional exercise?

The patriot in me wants to believe it's a holdover from our colonial fathers dumping tea into Boston Harbor.  But lest we forget, those same folks wrote up maybe the greatest man-made document ever written: the US Constitution.  But these days even that is optional (more on that later).

Seriously, when did it become OK for mob rule to rule the mobs?

Occupy _____ (fill in your location) exists to protest those whom they believe did not obey the rules of society, if not the rule of law. But in so doing, their protests frequently break the law and disrupt the lives of those who try to live by the rules.

Thousands of foreign nationals can stream across our borders without obeying the rules of immigration, and then are celebrated and defended for doing so.  From a practical standpoint little can be done now, and sending them back would be cruel and unrealistic, but pity the fool who dares imply that perhaps they should not be here in the first place.

Fox News, that defender of all things American, routinely broadcasts stories of patriotic men and women who, in "damned the torpedoes" fashion, insist on their rights to wear a pin or display a flag even after they are made aware that the rules of their employer or subdivision prohibit such acts.  Once again, the rules don't apply if someone thinks that in breaking them they accomplish some greater good.

Lastly, and perhaps most egregious, rules no longer apply to our politicians (if they ever did in the first place).  With the advent of internet news, we hear more and more reports of instances where laws have been written to apply to the average citizen but not the politician.  For example, the public is forbidden from trading on inside information or getting special stock deals, but congress does so routinely, as first reported last year by 60 minutes:

And the most current example of disregard of rules (disclaimer: the day is still young), our President, yes that man who swears to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" now chooses to ignore the Constitution and the resistance he gets from congress by appointing recess appointments when congress isn't in recess.  This is hardly new, as from day one he has appointed cabinet level positions without calling them cabinet level positions, thus getting around that pesky Senate confirmation process once again. 

The beauty of this nation has always been that it is a nation of laws.  Alexander Hamilton once said that our most sacred duty and greatest source of security was "an inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws."  And it is this constant in our culture that has not only defined us, but protected us from would-be despots of either party.  

When did rules become optional?  It's hard to tell whether the people follow our leaders or our leaders follow us.  But once "we the people" decide we will only obey the rules that we ourselves like, nothing is left to consider constant but chaos.  For what you may consider wrong, I may consider noble, and if given the chance I may just impose my will on you, regardless of any rules against it.