I was searching the web for a video, which I wanted for class, but YouTube was rather sure that I would prefer to watch one entitled, “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus.” Seemed like the sort of thing a college theology prof should take in, so I did. A couple of weeks later, at the end of our first class of the semester, a young man asked if I had seen the video, and I was happy to answer in the affirmative. Even more so now, knowing that it has had some nineteen million hits. When the sermon is against preachers, clearly a congregation stands ready to listen.
Fortunately for me, someone else typed out the text of the young man’s rap. Unfortunately for you, it’s rather long. Also, I’ve done a lot of editing. This young man hates grammar even more than religion:
What if I told you, Jesus came to abolish religion?
What if I told you getting you to vote Republican, really wasn’t his mission?
Because Republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian,
And just because you call some people blind, doesn’t automatically give you vision.
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 been divorced.
Yet God in the Old Testament actually calls the religious people
whores. Religion preaches grace, but another thing they practice.
Tend to ridicule God’s people. They did it to John the Baptist.
Can’t fix their problems, so they try to mask it,
Not realizing that’s just like sprayin’ perfume on a casket.
Because the problem with religion is that it never gets to the core,
It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores.
Let’s dress up the outside, make things look nice and neat.
It’s funny. That’s what they do to mummies, while the corpse rots underneath.
Now I ain’t judging I’m just saying be careful of putting on a fake look,
Because there’s a problem if people only know that you’re a Christian by that little section on your Facebook.
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.
But see I played this game too; no one seemed to be on to me,
I was acting like a church kid, while addicted to pornography.
I’d go to church on Sunday, but on Saturday getting faded,
Acting as if I was simply created to have sex and get wasted.
Spend my whole life putting on this façade of neatness,
But, now that I know Jesus, I boast in my weakness. If grace is water, then the church should be an ocean,
‘Cuz its not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken.
I no longer have to hide my failures. I don’t have to hide my sin,
Because my salvation doesn’t depend on me. It depends on him.
Because, when I was God’s enemy and certainly not a fan,
God looked down on me and said, “I want that man!”
Which is so different from religious people, and why Jesus called ‘em fools.
Don’t you see he’s so much better than just following some rules?
Now let me clarify: I love the church; I love the bible; and I believe in sin.
But my question, is if Jesus were here today, would your Church let Him in?
Remember He was called a drunkard and a glutton by “religious men.”
The Son of God did not support self-righteousness, not now, not then.
Now back to the topic, one thing I think is vital to mention,
How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums,
One is the work of God; one is a man made invention;
One is the cure, and one is the infection.
Because Religion says do, Jesus says done. Religion says slave; Jesus says son;
Religion puts you in shackles; but Jesus sets you free.
Religion makes you blind, but Jesus lets you see.
This is what makes religion and Jesus two different clans.
Religion is man searching for God, but Christianity is God searching for man.
Which is why salvation is freely mine. Forgiveness is my own,
Not based on my efforts, but Christ’s obedience alone.
Because he took the crown of thorns, and blood that dripped down his face
He took what we all deserved, that’s why we call it grace.
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.
He paid for all your sin, and then buried it in the tomb,
Which is why I’m kneeling at the cross now saying come on there’s room
So know I hate religion, in fact I literally resent it,
Because when Jesus cried It is finished, I believe He meant it.
The young man seemed earnest, though the quality of the production made me wonder if this really was an urban youth who felt compelled to share. And I smugly noted to myself that he does more than his share of preaching religion, peddling a salvation-through-faith alone doctrine.
The web has no secrets. By the time I sat down to write my own sermon, I had discovered that the young man is himself an evangelist, one as bent upon proposing a religious system as any other. That’s not to his discredit, because he has found a way to fulfil a gospel mandate, which is to make all things new in Christ. Really, he’s quite like those concerned friends in the Gospel of Mark, the ones who find a way — even to the point of dismantling a roof — to bring together Jesus and the one who needs him (Mk 2:1-12). In this case, he’s reached out to young people, tapping into their natural suspicion of authorities and institutions. Only the attentive notice that religion gets kicked out the front door only to climbs back in, say, through the roof.
Ancient of days that I am, I’d like to explain why I desperately need religion, indeed, can’t find my way to Christ without it. I’ll begin with a strange little admission from my own youth.
When I was, at most, in junior high, and definitely without a girl to call my own, I saw a picture in a newspaper, cut it out, and put it in my billfold, where the photo of my sweetheart should be. But wait! My admission is more than just a little pathetic. It’s down right pathological.
The picture was a pen and ink drawing of a princess from the Prince Valiant comic series. That was my ideal of a woman: chaste, demur, and regal, with plaited blond hair. Loved that! Five or six years later, I was caring the picture of a real young woman, and yet, without realizing it, I was still imposing upon her all of the qualities that I had read into that Prince Valiant Princess.
We all do the same. Hopefully, when we do fall in love, a real person comes to incarnate our dream, transforming it into something real, concrete, and demanding, often without our noticing the transition from fantasy to fact.
We do the same with Christ. Never mind that none of us would have ever heard of him without the Church — without the Apostles and Evangelists who preached him, the Fathers who preserved that witness from error, the saints in every generation who made the gospel alive rather than relic, and, finally, our own families who shared their faith. The point is, once having gotten Christ into our minds, we can’t help but to project upon him our own viewpoints, prejudices, and fantasies. That’s easy enough for lovers to do with a person of flesh and blood. It’s impossible to avoid when the Beloved comes to us as Spirit.
That’s why I desperately need the Church, from the Pope in Rome to the little old, candle-lighting lady in the pew. I need them to think differently from me, act otherwise than I would choose. I need them to introduce me to a slightly different Jesus than the one I know, because, whoever else my Jesus might be, if he is no more than a projection of myself, he cannot possible be my savior. We grow by opening to that which is not ourselves, to that which broadens our outlooks and challenges our comfort. When opposite meets, something potent is born. It’s not that all these viewpoints simmer down into some middling-muddle. Indeed, it’s the very task of the Spirit to advance a Christ who is more than any of one of us, than all of us. “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Is 43:19). That promise of Isaiah is renewed daily in the mystery we call the Church, the place where my Christ and your Christ, both yield to an ever-the-new Church.
Rev. Terrance W. Klein