The Jesus vs Religion thing comes out up again and again around certain groups of Cristians. Its recently come up again in the poetic words of Jeff Bethke in a viral thats all over (certain parts) of the web right now.
I like a lot of the poem, and agree with some of what Bethke says, but I’m always very uncomfortable when Christianity, or even Jesus-loving, is put in opposition to religion. I’ve blogged about this in the past, but for now here are 3 reasons why I love Jesus but don’t hate religion:
1. Honesty: ”I’m not religious I just follow Jesus” seems a little bit of a dishonest line to me. I mean, 2000 years or so after the one we follow was around can you really be into him and not religious at all? For example, do you think baptism is something that Christians should do, do you think that there’s something special about eating bread and wine together? Do you sing certain songs quite often, and use certain types of language and symbols. Aren’t those all religious things? As quite a few video responses have pointed out – Christianity is a religion. So saying your not into it, but you love Jesus, is an unhelpful confusion, infact it may just make you blind to ways in which you are as religious as everybody else.
2. Acceptance: Now religion is far from perfect. Christians have done some pretty abysmal things in the past (and in the present) in the name of our God. But I don’t think you deal with that by saying “I’m not with them” – that seems to be too much like denial. I think a far better way might be to accept that we are religious, accept we can seem odd, accept that we (the church) have done some dreadful things and have the capacity still to do them and say sorry. Perhaps then we might be able to work our how to bring out the best sides of our faith, not the worst, and work out how to communicate our beliefs well with people around us.
3. Connection: For me this is the big, big plus about religion. I connects me with everyone else who has a faith in Jesus, whether they are like me or not. The “I love Jesus but…” line worrys me because there’s just too much I, its so individualistic. Religion says we; it has no problem declaring that I am part of something bigger and that my own interpretations, ideas, insecurities and prejudices have to be put into perspective. Its a connection that goes back into history as well as across the world, with people who are different to me and its very important.
So yes, I love Jesus. Passionately and unashamedly. I have a relationship with him and want others to get one too. But I’m not sure we’re right to put religion in the bin yet. I know about Jesus because someone shared their religion with me, I want to share that religion – carefully, lovingly but relentlessly, with as many others as I can.
Oh, and yes I know I am training to be an Anglican priest so I would say that. But what do you think? I would love to hear some thoughts.