Published January 26, 2012
The viral YouTube video featuring a poem called “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” has an overall good message, but could be a little clearer, say Georgia Baptists.
Jefferson Bethke, a graduate of Pacific University in Oregon where he earned a political science degree, posted the video Jan. 10. Since then it’s garnered more than 15 million views.
The reaction to Bethke’s video has been mixed, with most applauding the emphasis on grace amid criticism leveled at religion.
“If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars? Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?” Bethke, 22, says.
Word usage such as that has also caused the poet to backpeddle in charges he’s against the Church.
“If by religion he means that ‘form of godliness that denies the power of God’
(2 Tim. 3:5), then I understand what he is saying,” stated David Owen, pastor of Piney Grove Baptist Church in Acworth.
“I agree that he needed to be a lot more specific in what he meant by religion. I think it’s a good video overall, but I have heard people use this video as justification to not come to church,” added Justin Carter, student minister at Piedmont Avenue Baptist Church in Rockmart. “I respect his passion, however.”
Recently Bethke answered five questions about the video with churchleaders.com, including whether or not he’d choose a word other than “religion” to make his point again.
“Part of me says yes simply because I realize the reaction to it made people shut it off without hearing, and I never want to close people’s ears by a simple word. But at the same time, I think that was also the word that sparked what it did,” he said. “[The poem] had a word that resonates; it has a deep influence and a deep history, so I struggle: I say yes and no.”
Michigan pastor Kevin DeYoung wrote a verse-by-verse critique of the video, leading to a phone exchange with Bethke. The pastor in particular took issue with an overemphasis on grace and forgiveness but not obedience and transformation, according to christianpost.com.
Credit goes to Bethke for taking the words in stride.
“I just wanted to say I really appreciate your article man,” the young Washington resident said to DeYoung in an email. “It hit me hard. I’ll even be honest and say I agree 100%.”
In the video Bethke included a line saying he loved the Church, but even so Owen joined with critics in warning about demonizing religion itself.
“The epistle of James speaks of ‘pure religion,’” Owen said, “and the statement in James 1:27 suggests that ‘religion’ has as much to do with spiritual behavior as a system of belief.”
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