Why I love Jefferson Bethke’s Poem: Why I hate religion but love Jesus


If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations- “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)-according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.Colossians 2:20-23

On January 10, 2012 a young man named Jefferson Bethke posted this video on YouTube and within a matter of hour it went viral. When I took a listen for the first time I said to myself – “This poem is epic.” Matter of fact I still do. Within a few days of the release of this YouTube video, it came under attack from some Christian Bloggers with major following. All of a sudden, a beautiful poem became overshadowed with un-necessary noise. The noise was so loud that I think it missed the point of the video and got a bunch of Christians in a shouting match over the Internet.

This is exactly why the apostle Paul told this young pastor to avoid foolish controversies, because they profit no one. Those who started the public rebuke could have avoided the controversy by reaching out to this young man privately. But they didn’t until they and their followers got tangled up in a public noise.

They could have at least work with his definition of religion in the poem. Because he makes it abundantly clear as to what he meant by religion:

- man searching for God… All the things they do to try and get his attention
- behavior modification…trying to fix oneself before actually being fixed through faith in Christ
- man made invention
- a long list of do’s and don’ts
- following rules
- wearing the jersey…saying you are a Christian simply because your parents are or because you go to church. But you have never made Jesus your personal Lord and Savior
- putting on a facade
- legalism
- self righteousness
- talking the talk, but not walking the walk

I understood this! The message was simple and clear, Jesus saves and religion (the things we do to look good in God’s eyes) suck. How could anybody miss it? Everybody understands when you say that Christianity is not a religion it is a relationship with Almighty God through the saving mercies of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There is no need to be cleaver here.

I think Bethke was right to say “Jesus came to abolish religion” base on his own definition in the poem. I think he was right to say “I hate religion” base on his own definition in the poem. Here is why: There are two ways the word religion is used in the Bible. One is pure and undefiled. The other is worthless, dark and demonic and hypocritical. James 1:26, 27 says,

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

I think this is the heart of this poem. A call to move away from hypocritical, worthless, dark and demonic religion into a religion that is pure and undefiled.

7 responses to “Why I love Jefferson Bethke’s Poem: Why I hate religion but love Jesus

  1. Pingback: Spoken-Word Poet Jefferson Bethke Stirs Up 'Christians and Tattoo' Debate - Christ.Culture.News·

  2. Berthke clarified his position regarding religion and apologized of any offense or harm his confusion might have caused. I say his confusion because he said that he was taught that religion was synonymous with hypocrisy (as you pointed out, that was the gist of his poem). In an interview with ChurchLeaders.com he said:

    “Essentially, I come from a Mars Hill context, because that’s my home church. I didn’t realize this, but outside Mars Hill, religion means different things to other people. Inside Mars Hill, the word “religion” is pretty much synonymous with hypocrisy, legalism, self-righteousness, and self-justification. That was really the heart of my definition of that word. If you went through the entire poem and replaced the word religion with either legalism or self-righteousness or hypocrisy, it would have not changed my intention or the heart of that poem whatsoever. To me, those words are interchangeable.”

    Obviously, his poem is well intentioned and meant to purify people’s love for Christ. For that reason, I think it can be used as a good teaching tool for youth groups, as long as viewing the video is followed up by a guided discussion, where the person guiding the discussion can help the young people to make the types of distinctions that Jefferson overlooked in his poem. If done properly that type of activity could be very effective in helping people to adopt a better attitude their religious obligation and commitment to love and serve Christ and their neighbor.

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  3. What better proof of his point than the vociferous negatives reactions it prodded? I thought it might have been better if he had been careful to define his terms more explicitly, (the Bible does talk about the term “religious” in a positive sense when speaking of caring for widows and fatherless) but meh, maybe not.

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  4. Sounds like he is saying that external religiosity is nothing more than a cheap facade (white-washed sepulcher) without the sincerity of intent/heart Jesus requires. A warning against “religious zombie-ism”.

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  5. Pingback: Why I love Jefferson Bethke’s Poem: Why I hate religion but love Jesus | contentconservative·

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