If you haven’t seen the controversial video that went viral, called Jesus Hates Religion. Check it out here…
Does Jesus actually hate religion? Well, it depends on what your definition of “religion” is.
When I attended an evangelical church when I was a teen, I was taught that Jesus didn’t want religion, he wanted relationship. As a person who had grown up in the church without experiencing the transforming power of God, this made a lot of sense to me. In Joel 2:12-13, the prophet tells the people,
Yet even now, says the LORD,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6 saying:
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
It is quite possible for someone to actually participate in a faith community, to fill a role on a committee or board or even play an instrument, not out of the conviction of their faith but as an honorable activity. Under this evangelical definition of “religion,” it’s hard to dispute their point. For years, the church was the main social outlet in societies across the U.S. Church was simply something you did…it was a part of the routine of life. And it was quite possible that belief had less to do with church for many individuals. Not anymore. Businesses are open on Sundays, and social programs such as kids’ soccer or basketball are now holding their games on Sunday morning. We now live in a “post-Christian” age. There have been plenty of positive or negative reactions to this new era, but what seems to be appearing is that church and Christianity as a whole is being embraced by those motivated by faith rather than simply “something to do.”
Yet not everyone understands the word “religion” in the same way Evangelicals do. In fact, religion itself is a really hard thing to define. Most religions include some belief in God, or gods; but not all religions do. In fact, some religions involve very little “belief” at all; rather portray an appropriate guideline to life and living. Some include descriptions of the afterlife, others don’t. So with these abstractions in mind, perhaps it’s appropriate to think of the Evangelicals’ view of religion in terms of “religious activity,” “religiosity,” “ritualism,” or even “legalism.”
Main-line Christians seemed to be most put-off by the Jesus Hates Religion video. And while the Evangelical critique has its merits, “religion” doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In some form or fashion, Christians everywhere put their belief into action, much of which is ritualized in some way. That behavior becomes corporate and organized in order to accomplish more. Hence the church, and yes, even the institutional church.
I guess what I’m saying is that Jesus doesn’t hate religion, but there is something wrong if religious behavior or activity takes the place of a free-flowing, unbounded relationship with God.
(by the way, check out this video as a pretty good response to the Jesus Hates Religion one…)