Why I Love (True) Religion Because I Love Jesus

The above video by Jefferson Bethke has been making the rounds lately via various bits of social media. A few people have sent it to me to ask what I think. This touches on a lot of themes that I’ve written on before, and while it doesn’t particularly make any new theological claims—it’s really just a sort of standard, monergistic, anti-ecclesial, sentimentalist Evangelical Protestantism—for whatever reason (perhaps the emotionally moving music in the background), it seems to be getting some attention.

Anyway, the Bethke text is below in italics, and my responses are in standard typeface. (Update: I’ve updated the quoted text verbatim with his official transcription, which is more accurate than the one I found earlier via Google.)

What if I told you, Jesus came to abolish religion?

Well, I’d ask what exactly you mean by “religion.” After all, that word, which you use as if it were some monolithic institution or set of behaviors or philosophy, can refer to everything from exactly what you’re doing in this video to when Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Passover to the human sacrifice of the Thuggee cult in India to the fivefold kneeling in prayer of the Muslim. There really is no such thing as “religion” in any sense that it could be criticized with any detail. There are religions, but there isn’t “religion,” not really.

No doubt you just mean Jesus came to abolish bad religions. But you didn’t say that.

What’s worst about this, though, is that religion is actually a rather great word, once you look inside it. It’s from Latin, and (at least in its etymological parts) it literally (and yes, I mean literally literally) means “reconnection” (re + ligio). Is that what you mean Jesus came to abolish? I had gotten the impression that reconnection was actually the purpose of His coming.

Of course you probably didn’t mean that. But you should find out what the words you use mean before you use them, even if you’re not going to dive into etymology and plan merely to use common dicionary definitions.

What if I told you, getting you to vote republican, really wasn’t his mission?

He didn’t seem to have much to say about voting in general, actually. I’ve met Democrats who insist to me that a true Christian can only vote Democrat, mapping Jesus’ commands to love with compassion onto a progressivist social agenda. I’m not really sure who you’re responding to here, but I don’t think there’s really any significant movement of Christians who actually believe that “vot[ing] Republican really [was] his mission.” (Do you?)

Because republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian,
And just because you call some people blind, doesn’t automatically give you vision.

Well, the irony here is that you later write “Religion makes you blind.” Where’s your vision coming from? You question the authority of the “you” who “call[s] some people blind,” but you haven’t established your own. You yourself call some people blind later on (“Religion” makes you that way, it seems), but from what source comes your vision?

(But it definitely seems you have a problem with Republicans.)

If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?

I have to assume that you’re just ignorant here. Any real examination of the realities of military history will reveal that religion is almost never the actual impetus for armed conflict. Indeed, even the “Wars of Religion” in Europe frequently saw alliances between various factions who had different religious allegiances, often acting as co-belligerents against co-religionists. (For more on this, I highly recommend David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, which is a very badly titled book about doing an honest examination of the evidence of the history of Christianity, especially in the West. It’s a good book, and it’s a slam-dunk against the old urban legends about “religion” being anti-science, starting wars, pursuing witch-hunts, etc.)

Of course, you put that in the present tense, so I have to ask: Can you name even one currently ongoing war that is started by religion?

Also, I know you don’t mean to suggest this, but one could also ask why, if atheism is so great, explicitly atheist regimes succeeded in slaughtering more people (both in terms of sheer numbers and in terms of thoroughness) in the 20th century than in the entire rest of human history combined. (This point is not really about atheism, of course, but rather to point out the error in using a body count as a measure of a philosophy.)

Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?

Did you know that the largest charity in the US is Lutheran? Did you know that Americans are the most charitable country on earth? Did you know that people who attend religious services regularly are the most likely to be charitable givers?

Did you know that “religion” essentially invented the ideas of feeding the poor, building free hospitals, and has spent untold amounts of money sending people to the ends of the earth precisely to care for the suffering?

Ever hear of Mother Teresa? Rumor has it she belonged to a big ol’ religion.

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

Again, which “religion” is this? Divorce is a sin, yes, but God loves all sinners. As for your claim about the Old Testament, I’ll have to see a citation. (Was this the “religion” that God Himself instituted via Abraham and Moses?)

Religion preaches grace, but another thing they practice,
Tend to ridicule Gods people, they did it to John the Baptist,

Again, the moving target of “religion” can be pinned with any malefaction, I suppose.

Did you know John the Baptist used to baptize people as part of a Jewish tradition of a ritual washing for the repentance of sins? That sounds suspiciously like “religion” to me.

Cant 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,
Its funny that’s what they do to mummies, while the corpse rots underneath,

Okay, I get what you’re referring to here, and of course it’s the whitewashed tombs that Christ uses to characterize the scribes and Pharisees of His day. But even while He has such strong words for them, He doesn’t “abolish” their position. Instead, He actually says “whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do.” His problem with them is their hypocrisy, not their “religion.”

Your basic error here is that you’ve identified hypocrisy with “religion,” but Jesus Himself actually criticized the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees while explicitly endorsing their religion, which is kind of a problem for your whole thesis.

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

Hey, I agree.

In every other aspect of life you know that logics unworthy

I honestly have no idea what this means.

(Update: Someone sent me a better transcription for this line (I Googled for the one I originally used; I didn’t transcribe it myself), but my comment above was based on an earlier version I found which read In every other aspect of life you know that logics are worthy.

I must admit now that I’m a little disappointed he didn’t actually write “that logics are worthy,” because logics has a certain droll quality to it. He meant logic’s, of course, though his official transcript left out that apostrophe.

His meaning is clearer in his official version, though I do wish he’d’ve used an apostrophe.)

Its like saying you play for the lakers just because you bought a jersey

Again, I agree. Hypocrisy is bad.

But I guess you like the Lakers.

But see I played this game too; no one seemed to be on to me,
I was acting like 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,

You know what? This is the predicament of almost every Christian I’ve ever known. Perhaps their sins aren’t pornography (though that is unfortunately becoming frighteningly common), drugs (which is what I assume “getting faded” means) and sex and getting wasted (wait… that’s drugs twice!), but every single Christian is a sinner, and indeed just about every member of every religion would probably admit that he fails to live up to his religion’s moral code in some manner or other.

The problem lies not in the sin but rather in hypocrisy (which is claiming to believe something you actually don’t, not merely failing to live up to your beliefs), in pretense.

You say below that the church is a “hospital for the broken,” but you seem to believe that the broken are all just a bunch of fakes who have built a “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 absolutely agree. And that’s what the true Christian religion actually is. The fact that you’ve apparently been a hypocrite and that you probably have been burned or offended by hypocrites doesn’t mean that there really is actually no true religion.

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.

Actually, it depends on you, too. If you don’t cooperate, then it won’t do anything for you at all.

because when I was Gods 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

There you go again. Jesus never said any such thing. Indeed, He seemed especially intent on establishing His Church, which is an actual community, a body—in your words, a “hospital for the broken” (that image comes from “religion,” by the way).

Don’t you see hes so much better than just following some rules?

Who actually claims that religion is about “just following some rules”? Yes, there are “rules” in the sense that there are moral standards and traditional ways of doing things, but that’s because, if you’re going to have a functioning hospital for the broken, there will need to be ways of keeping the peaceful atmosphere, passing on the wisdom of the Great Physician, and also in informing the patients what kinds of behavior will help in their healing and what kinds are going to make them sicker.

Now let me clarify, I love the church, I love the bible, and I believe in sin

These are all things that “religion” has revealed, I’m afraid.

But my question, is if Jesus were here today, would your church let Him in?

Well, since you asked about my church… He comes to my church every day, and He actually is present on my altar at least once a week, and we not only let Him into the church, but we let Him into our actual bodies.

Remember He was called a drunkard and a glutton by “religious men”
The Son of God not supported self-righteousness, not now, not then.

But He was also called “my Lord and my God,” and “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” and “Savior” by “religious men.” He came precisely to give righteousness to those who would participate in it. Being “religious” does not make someone “self-righteous.”

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.

Actually, I thought sin was the infection. When Adam and Eve infected the whole human race with what they did, was their error the founding of “religion”? I seem to have missed that part.

Because Religion says do, Jesus says done.
Religion says slave, Jesus says son,

There’s a whole lot of “do” from the mouths of Jesus and His chosen Apostles in the New Testament. As for the “done,” yes, His work is done, but even the Apostle Paul had the impression that he needed to keep working on “laying hold” of what Jesus had done for him.

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,

Well, like someone said, “just because you call some people blind, doesn’t automatically give you vision..” It seems to me that you’ve conflated sin with “religion” and hypocrisy. They’re really not the same thing. Religion is many things, while hypocrisy is a particular type of sin. The bondage and blindness that Jesus and His Apostles preached about are slavery to sin and the blindness of hypocrisy, not “religion.”

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.

“Religion” is a lot of different things. I agree that it is God Who has come to reconnect (religio) with man, but He also created man to have a longing for God. What you’re revealing here actually has a technical theological name, and it’s the heresy of monergism, the idea that the whole of salvation is exclusively the act of God. You’re right that salvation isn’t based on your merits, but you’re wrong that Christianity isn’t about man searching for God. It’s both about God Who has come to be with man (“searching” seems to suggest that He doesn’t know where man is) and about man’s response to his desire for the divine.

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.

That’s not why we call it “grace.” Grace (in Greek, charis) actually refers to a “gift,” not to the substitutionary atonement theory of the crucifixion.

While being murdered he yelled “father forgive them, they know not what they do”,

I missed the part where it said He “yelled.”

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,

Sure, though the “murdered” and “dangling” language strongly suggest to me that He was somehow helpless. But He wasn’t.

Which is why im kneeling at the cross now saying come on there’s room

Really? You know what they call it when people pray together in front of a theological image like a cross, right? I’ll give you a clue: It starts with an R and ends with -eligion.

So know I hate religion, in fact I literally resent it,
Because when Jesus cried It is finished, I believe He meant it.

Hatred and resentment (and I really mean this, too) are very dangerous places from which to build a theology. I also believe that Jesus meant it when He said “It is finished” (literally, “the purpose is fulfilled” or “it is consummated,” depending on whether you’re reading Greek or Latin), but there’s absolutely no indication anywhere in His words, the words of His Apostles, or the words of those who received the Apostles’ teaching (the Church) that what was “finished” is “religion.”

…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18).

If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:26-27)

It’s worth noting that I touched on some of these same themes in this March 2011 post: “Spiritual But Not Religious” and the Path to God.

It’s probably even more worth noting that Fr. John Romanides wrote extensively on what he calls “The Cure of the Neurobiological Sickness of Religion,” and perhaps that’s what Bethke is attempting to get at, but his use of religion is so irresponsibly vague that I honestly don’t think there’s any real comparison between Bethke’s poem and what Romanides is addressing.

Update: For some reason unbeknownst to me, this post is getting a lot more attention than most of my posts do, and I know that there are a lot of folks who are not members of the Orthodox Church who are visiting.

To all of my non-Orthodox visitors, welcome! This site is written by a priest/presbyter/pastor of the Orthodox Christian Church, the oldest of all Christian churches, to which all Christians can ultimately trace their roots. Want to know more? Start here.

Update: Here are some other critiques of this, representing various traditions, which you might also find interesting:

Feel free to comment with others, if you find them.

Update: Because of the now thousands of hits that this post has quite unexpectedly received, it should be noted that I will not be publishing any more comments whose contents could be summarized as “How dare you criticize this nice young man, you big meanie!” or “Poetry which is rife with theological words and theological statements should not be treated as having anything to do with theology!” or “Everyone has his own interpretation, and how dare you put a different one forward than this nice young man!” (On that last point especially, the phrase you’re searching for is sola scriptura, and we Orthodox types don’t believe in it one bit. We’re also not relativists, so, yes, I do think that some theology is just plain wrong.)

Carry on.

Update: I suppose I should also mention that I’m not going to be publishing the many (more) comments whose purpose seems to be to convince me of Evangelical Protestant theology (especially soteriology, i.e., the theology of salvation). That is the theology I was raised with, so I am indeed familiar with it, and I explicitly left it behind in becoming an Orthodox Christian.

If you’re interested in my more detailed critique of that theology (which this post doesn’t include), I strongly recommend checking out my book Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy or the podcast of the same name (which has much of the same material, though a bit less).

Final Update: I’ve decided to close comments on this post. Details are here.

See also this post on why, curiously enough, I am not in fact arguing that one is saved by “rules” and “religion,” etc.



  1. I’m honored to be the first to comment. It was frightening to see how many people were “liking” and cheering about this video. Thank you, sincerely, for taking it line by line, using your sharpened mind and ever-sharp tongue. 🙂

    Maybe some will read and gain real understanding, something good will come from this.

    Pax, from your favorite wandering “AngloTribesman”

  2. After reading this long attack of a kid who appears to have recently been through a conversion experience and read “Hatred and resentment are very dangerous places from which to build a theology”, it doesn’t really jive. Try reaching out and encouraging him instead. Otherwise this is just arrogance; not an attempt to rectify ‘religion’.

    1. Elvin, thank you for your comment.

      If this genuinely were simply someone who had recently converted posting his personal testimony, of course it would not merit a post like this. But if you take a look at his website and his fan page on Facebook, it’s clear that this man is a professional. He has submitted his work to the public in order to get his particular message across and also to promote himself as a professional speaker.

      There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but what it does mean is that his video constitutes public discourse and is therefore appropriately commented on and critiqued. That it’s getting so much attention is all the more reason to respond. Though he may not be aware, this is a dangerous theological position that he’s taking, and it merits a response.

      As for “religion,” I don’t attempt to defend it or “rectify” it. There are religions, of course, and if you’d care to know what I think about many of them, I of course welcome you to buy my book! 🙂

      1. Buy your church book??? I understand some priest wish to reach out to people by writing a book. But why not offer your publication free of charge? The fact that you have a ‘SALE’ on your book leads me to believe that this book is for profit. You can always ask for support through donations IF this is in fact a fundraiser to benefit the church. But IF this is for personal gain, I call you out on your oath and charge you to retake it. A shepherd of the Lord’s heart wouldn’t charge his sheep for guidance.
        There is a difference between providing a service( selling books for no profit) and setting up a business enterprise that exploits the Lord and His people. I know a group of young Boy Scouts whose slogan is ‘do a good turn (deed) daily’. ALL… of them are taught to do good works without thinking of any reward. They also have Oath which states on their HONOR they will do their best to do their duty to God and country. Meaning their sole motivation to help other people is something straight from the heart.
        Then again, they repeat their Scout Oath at the end of every meeting. Do likewise and remind yourself of your duties to God and HIS country.

        1. Yes, it is true that the book is for sale. The majority of the profits go to the publisher. By contract, I get 12% royalties from each print copy and 25% for each e-book. After the various discounts that get applied, that means I make about $2 or less on each copy.

          10% (a tithe) of what I receive is going to a mission church, while the rest I am putting away for a down payment on a home. (My wife and I have rented homes for our entire marriage.) At the current rate of profits, it will probably take a number of years before we’ll be able to buy a house, as all of our income put together is actually a good bit less than the median income for a US household.

          So, yes, it’s for “personal gain.” I assume that the work you do also generates compensation, as well, or perhaps you are fortunate enough to have all of your expenses paid for you by someone else. Is it somehow dishonorable to receive compensation for one’s efforts so that one can live off of them? St. Paul didn’t seem to think so.

          That said, I would be glad to do all my work for free, if some exceptionally generous person such as yourself would be willing to donate all of the expenses for me, my wife, and my three children (one in the womb), for the rest of the years of ministry I probably have left, which may well be about 40 years.

          My flock are never charged any fees for the work I do for them. It may be indelicate to point this out, but you’re not in my flock. Nevertheless, there is a veritable mountain of material I have published online, both written and recorded, which you can access for free.

          But if, after all that, you are still convinced I am an avaricious “oath-breaker” (there actually is no “oath” for Orthodox clergy), you are welcome to listen to the podcasts which contain about 85% of all the material in the book , as well as numerous other podcasts, for free. Start here.

          But I was never a Boy Scout.

          1. This bothered me for a moment because I felt like John Breaux’s argument had some force. Then I realized that if I listened to your words and appreciated what you said – if I wanted you, as a servant of God, to live well – if I, as one of your flock, really cared whether you and your wife got that house – well, I might be tempted to slip you some cash straight up, but I don’t think you would accept it. It is better to reward effort than grant charity. And if I didn’t want to give you money, I could avoid doing so by the simple expedient of not buying your book.

      2. He’s not a professional, he’s just a kid whose life was changed by Jesus and who wants to tell everyone about it.

    2. . . . just as you, Fr Andrew, are soliciting him to buy your book. It might’ve been Shaw, or perhaps Churchill, maybe even Twain who provided an anaolgue: “”We have established what you are, madam [or sir]. We are now merely haggling over the price.”

      1. Yes, it might.

        The difference here is that no one (least of all, me) is claiming that I am some wide-eyed innocent whose sincere efforts should be above critique.

        But since we have established that you are calling me a whore, it should at least be useful to note that this weblog’s purpose is not to sell books (indeed, it existed for two years before the book was published), and of course I actually do not make very much money from the sale of the book, not even as much as I spend on gasoline and certainly not anything like an hourly wage in producing it. The book was also not my idea, but the publisher’s.

        As for prostitution itself, though, the basic dynamic there is one who is selling himself and committing prurient deeds in exchange for money. I suppose you might well consider that critiquing heretical theology is a similar evil, but I will be quite honest and let you know that, even if I am the despicable evil-doer you have professed, I would do this for free! And, indeed, the original podcasts from which the book came were done for free and are still available as such, and it is verifiably the case that you paid no fees to read this post. (Well, at least, I hope not.)

  3. When I first saw this video it was from a Christian friend who reposted it on Facebook. Many others have done the same. My first reaction is that this kid doesn’t know a thing about religion or Christianity. Thank you so much for dissecting this “poem”.

    1. Same here. My Orthodox friends — whether academic or pipe-fitters — all thought it was a kitschy little thing, and though they appreciated the emphasis on Jesus, they weren’t really sure (given all the wrapping) that the man was actually paving a road to Him.

      Then my liberal Protestant fellow students started posting this. I think they just liked that it bashed “Religion” and Republicans. And that it bashed people.

  4. I think this guy who made the youtube video had the right idea & passion, but he just worded & constructed it wrong. Maybe some biased opinions we’re used aswell. But thanks for the analysis!

    1. Some of his ideas are great, and I have no doubt that he loves Jesus. But this isn’t just a matter of problematic wording. This is bad theology.

        1. Who is he to write this? Who are you to criticize my critique? Your question, of course, is one of authority. His authority is self-given. He does not seem to be ordained by any particular group, and his degree is in Political Science, so clearly he’s essentially taken this on himself.

          As for me, I am a Christian pastor whose job (among other things) is to try to keep the sheep away from false shepherds and from poisonous pastures, from what St. Paul called “another Gospel.”

          I believe it’s also the duty of every Christian to know the true faith as given once to the Apostles and to keep himself and others from false versions of it, because not doing so would be a sin against love.

          1. I love that you only approved one of my comments. Just because that is the only comment you can “defend” yourself and what your saying.

          2. As I stated in an update to the post (see above), I’m only going to be approving comments that aren’t just a replaying of frequently repeated themes. If you’re looking for an argument, I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere.

            Surely one of the many dozens of other weblog posts referencing this video will be glad to host such a thing.

        2. Who is anyone to say anything about anything. I suppose we should all assume we are wrong and cease to believe or research which beliefs are better founded. In fact, who’s to say anything is real? 😉

          I’m not saying it’s wrong to question Fr. Andrew’s (Orthodox) theology, but you seem to suggest (I could be wrong) that all truth is relative and nothing is actually objective. It’s a pretty popular belief now days but is very dangerous and makes faith of any kind meaningless.

      1. Yes, at times it may have felt like you were attacking him and disagreeing with him, but many times it was just pointing out his vague use of ‘religion’ and sloppy usage of words. They might be fine for personal notes where you know what you mean, but when you gain this much attention, you can’t have ambiguous or confusing terms and phrasings.

  5. Great analysis of this “Christian rapper’s” lyrics. If only there were Catholics as creative who could spread the truth so quickly. Thanks for the rebuttals!

  6. love this post. the best of the responses that i have read! 🙂 with just the right amount of quiet sarcasm, or what I read to be sarcasm. keep doing what you’re doing!

  7. Its a call on the church to get their act together, feed the hungry, allow the homeless or “lower class” into the sanctuary of our Lord. Are there many churches out there who do these things, praise the Lord yes….are there a lot of churches who have forgotten their purpose…..yes indeed.

    He states specifically he loves God and the church. Jesus questioned the leaders – as he so eloquently states in the poem. It’s about the people…not the “religion” and as a Christian I am constantly embarrassed by my fellow Christians who have forgotten who God actually sent his son to die for – the sick.

    Its this kind of nit-picky attacking of each other that turn most people off of “religion”…

    Love the video and I can quote you any scripture that someone else can quote to support their polar opposite view. The beauty of the Bible is it’s living, which means it means something totally different to me in my walk then it does you in your walk. We are at different places, so God wants to teach us different things.

    1. Tammy, thanks for your comment.

      I understand what Mr. Bethke is trying to say here, and in some sense I agree with him. But he’s made an enemy out of the wrong thing, and almost all his swipes at it are actually fairly baseless, and they’re based on a heretical theology. It’s not nit-picking to critique false theology.

      As for whether the Bible can mean one thing to one person and another to another, yes, of course, people say all kinds of things about the Bible, especially claiming that it is their only source of faith and theology. But since I am an Orthodox Christian, I believe that Sola Scriptura is dead wrong.

      Yes, people do say all sorts of things and quote many passages from the Bible to try to back themselves up. But that doesn’t stop them from being wrong. There is one Christian faith that was handed once to the Apostles and has been preserved unbroken and unchanged in a perfectly continuous community for 2000 years, and that is the Orthodox Christian faith, which is practiced only in the Orthodox Church.

      Want to know more? Here’s a good starting place.

      1. My frustration here with the “nit-picking” was the places where you were not nit-picking to critique false theology, but rather nit-picking personal preferences, such as his lack of apostrophe, his reference to grace (substitutionary atonement is as much God’s grace as was creation, as were His warnings sent through the OT prophets; the unfortunate syntax really is just poetic license, not bad theology; it would be worth it for such an in-depth critique to have some knowledge of standard syntax in spoken-word poetry), his use of the word “yelled” (again, a much smaller point that does not serve the main purpose of your article which seems to be the defence of religion), and his use of the words “murdered” & “dangling” (it is possible to use those words & not remove the importance of Christ’s control during the situation; picking on diction is quite a red herring, I think).

        As much as these points may be true or even helpful, in serving the purpose of the critique, they seem to place you more in the position of “traditional, older pastor” who may or may not be in touch with the younger generation than leader with the wisdom to guide those younger in the faith by defending correct theology. I mean really, who cares about an apostrophe when the teachings of Christ are at risk of being misrepresented! Focus on the task & be gracious and forgiving with the smaller, less-important details, please.

        1. Regardless of whether or not a minister is in touch with the younger generation, he or she needs to have the theology right before assuming to lead people to Christ. Art is a powerful tool, but this video is negligent in supporting itself with sound Scripture. It assumes that the people watching it know their Scripture, and many people have accepted it as truth for all of the wrong reasons. Words are important, and their presentation is important. Knowing what the original Spirit-inspired author meant according to context (original audience, time, place, etc.) are paramount to interpretation. As the body of Christ, we cannot accept everything as truth, for it isn’t relative. 1 John 4:1 says we are to test the spirits to see whether they are from God. Are the words being said of God? Do they go against what His Word says? Who is your authority? God or man? Look for yourself, and test your ways against His. 2 Timothy 3:15-17

  8. Bless Fr. Excellent post. I know you wish him well.
    Your response was almost needed. Hopefully he finds out that there is room for him in The Holy Orthodox Church…Christ’s Church which is the pillar and ground of the truth.

  9. Hey Fr.,

    Thank you for this post. It was definitely a unique perspective, and helped me to understand some of what is ambiguous and can be misleading about the video. But is it possible Fr. that some of the purpose of Bethke’ was assumed in your post?

    The assumption being that Bethke’ primary purpose was to attack religion? Because I think the posters, re-posters, and likers’ of the video weren’t so much concerned with that aspect of the video. Many young people today have de facto accepted their religion as not providing them with peace or giving them solace. What they are more concerned with is what Bethke presents as the opposite of “religion” as ill-defined a word that is, in the video.

    A Hindu friend of mine, a very frequent poster, posted this video and stated “well said”. I, from a distance, would never think that anything relating to Jesus would ever appeal to this friend of mine. Yet, something in this video resonated with him. Perhaps its that his religion is missing the one thing that any true religion must fundamentally have, our Savior Jesus.

    So I think while Bethke is strong in his words, and perhaps there is a doctrinal battle at play here that I am not fully aware of, there is something about empty religion that many people can already associate with, everything he says there is already accepted as forgone conclusion for the majority of the audience. And his reference to porn and drugs and liquor is not a religious attack, but the very definition of what living in the world is for our young adult population today. That is not to say that people have not ever encountered true religion as Orthodox or Catholic Christians (i mention these because of the clergy component that it seems Bethke is directly criticizing and casting as “they”), they just happened to have experienced the larger degree of the hypocrisy associated with it. Which, as we all know, can happen, unfortunately, in any Christian church. Its what the enemy would relish people to define their church experience as, hypocrisy.

    For the christian community a video like this may be a call to arms to defend their respective doctrines, but for those who don’t have a Savior, or live for the Triune God, perhaps this is that doorway and entry, a resonating (albiet emotional) appeal to consider Jesus, over the extremely deadening and not-so-life giving experiences with their idolatrous religions, or idolatrous living. The population being impacted may even Include those who have left the church for the world he describes, and are sick and tired of replacing their earnest seeking of God, a desire that we as humans are created with, with false gods .

    I only say this because he is capturing what many, including myself, have felt about their religions BEFORE coming to Christ and then re-defining and humbling yourself to true religion.

    So if a video like this would cause a man to step in a church to hear a sermon? Attend mass? or a non-christian to open up a Bible, trying to find the solace that it seems Bethke now has, is it considered evangelism? Even though it may have doctrinal flaws? In the Apostle Paul’s eyes would this then be considered evangelism? I guess the more important question being in Christ’s eyes? Is a what could be a doctrinally misplaced evangelism call that a man can hear, better than a man not hearing one? This video and your post has me wrestling with those questions, more than this particular man’s experience with his church/religious upbringing.

    I felt led to post, not so much to defend Bethke (who I agree ought not to be resentful at heart, or be prideful in his own understanding), as much as it is to just make those aware that the pain of living in a world without any church, is considerable. And while we critique our brothers and sisters for boldness that is misplaced, you need boldness to drown out all the other noises that would not want us to hear a gospel message at all.

    Please do not think my post is a rebuttal of any sort. I personally felt your analysis is important and his video downplays the importance of Christ’s church and His word as components of true religion (while I do not see monergism as heresy), and I am thankful for your post because I have learned a great deal about the importance of doctrinal consistency any time you share. But I just felt like it was important to comment that God can use this to bring more into His flock.

    For me understanding Jesus as Lord had to come first, before I could see the value of His church and His word. The importance of those things came only after I heard a gospel message. Which is what I think Bethke is attempting to do for many others in their walk.

    I apologize in advance if this insults anyone as it is just my comment that I thought could help promote a bigger picture discussion of the video.

    In Love,

    1. I appreciate what he is trying to accomplish, but I’m actually not one of those people who thinks that anything is in some sense okay if you can just get people to like Jesus. (Bethke, on his Facebook page, says he is trying to “make [Jesus] famous.”)

      But what is critical here is the direction he’s pointing people in, which is actually not toward Jesus. Rather, his approach is essentially gnostic, putting forth an individualized, Pietist religion (yes, it’s religion!) that decries “religion” while supposedly being about Jesus. But how can one attack whatever looks anything like the Body of Christ while supposedly having an affection for the Head of the Body? The great 20th century theologian Fr. Georges Florovsky put great stress on the phrase totus Christus, caput et corpus (“the total Christ, head and body”), and he was right.

      So, fundamentally, I believe that preachers like Bethke are not simply well-meaning but perhaps have a few doctrinal flaws. I actually believe he’s leading people away from the real Christ and toward a simulacrum of their own devising. I will grant that he’s probably not aware of that truth, since what he is preaching is essentially fairly conventional modern Evangelicalism. He’s essentially just functioning within his own tradition.

      (For more on the question of his style of Protestantism being gnostic, I highly recommend Philip J. Lee’s Against the Protestant Gnostics. Lee is himself a Protestant pastor in Canada, a Presbyterian, I believe.)

      1. Thank you for sharing Fr. I will be sure to look into the book you referred me to and pray over some of what you said. While I am not so inclined to believe that he is leading people away from the real Christ, perhaps the oversimplified perspective causes people to be less concerned and less ready to understand more ultimate truths about Jesus. Perhaps elevating works (charity) over the God who answers prayer, as though serving the church and serving Jesus are a separate thing, when they can never be…… Definitely something I need to sort out, but thank you for taking time to reply and enlighten!

        1. Hey Father,

          I had one other aspect about this one my mind. With all this talk about the authenticity or lack thereof of this video and the immense popular response to it. Doesn’t it mean that there is a net being cast here so to speak? Clearly this man thinks that there are people that could benefit from a message that marginalizes their church history.

          What is the Orthodox church doing to preach the gospel for the folks he targets? Or should anything be done? The response makes me think that there are folks that really wanna hear the gospel out there, and it seems that you really understand the theological perspective. Do you have any ideas on how to get a more classically correct doctrine to the young facebook masses out there? Those that apparently love Jesus more than His church?

          Since he is doing so inappropriately, how do you appropriately and invitingly present the gospel to those he is casting a net for ?

          1. My experience (and yea, verily, even my own meager efforts) has been that a lot of work by Orthodox Christians is indeed being done, though of course we need to be doing a lot more. Orthodoxy in America is often pitched precisely in terms of being “the Christianity you didn’t really know about,” that often whatever it is about religion has turned someone off is not in the theology and praxis of the Orthodox Church.

            As for myself, I of course have many podcasts and the one book doing a comparison and contrast of Orthodoxy with other theologies. I am also working on another book introducing Orthodox Christianity to the unchurched and the ex-churched.

      2. wow, this is one of the best reactions I’ve read to that video. Seemed like everyone even remotely christian and even their muslim goldfish were sharing the thing on facebook, and it only annoyed me.

        I’m not part of the orthodox church (I’m a Belgian evangelical who tends to like some aspects of orthodox theology, including the views on atonement) but I agree with a lot of what you say, and you articulate it much better than I did (last 2 posts on http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com/ pt I and II, there are some links to other interesting reactions in pt I, I especially like the other video of the girl on youtube, and the point Sarah Moon makes about relationship)

        God bless you!


  10. Thank you for sharing…I had mixed emotions on this video agreed with some parts and not others…trying to figure out how to tie it into our Orthodox Christian faith. Thank you for doing that for me, meant a lot. Kyrie Eleison.

  11. Religion is from the latin and is, etymologicially, a synonym for “worldview.” It is never a question of does someone have a religion, it is always a question of what religion (worldview) and from where does it come. Mr. Bethke attacks a straw man.

  12. Jesus Himself said, “I have come not to abolish the law and the prophets (religion), but to fufill them!” This kid is still messed up. He needs to be shown the light of the Orthodox Faith.

        1. Oh, it doesn’t. But it does refer to “other Gospels.” And what’s in the Bible is indeed the Orthodox faith, though of course many people outside of the Church interpret it to come up with other faiths.

          But you know, it’s the Orthodox Church that wrote, compiled and canonized the Bible, all for its own use within the existing life of the Church. Did you know that the Bible was not completed in its current form until the late 4th century? Orthodoxy knows this history, because we experienced it, so it doesn’t make any sense for us to define our faith by “Where in the Bible does it say ____?” The Orthodox Church, which was constituted by the actual act of the apostolic preaching, actually precedes and defined the Bible.

  13. This is horrible, the guy wrote a preface to his poem, clearly stating that it highlights the difference between Jesus and FALSE RELIGIONS. The whole video/prom is exactly that, yeah he uses the word hate, and I disagree with that word being tied to Jesus. As far as what he speaks of, it is very true. False religion has turned people away and in no way glorifies God. FALSE RELIGION is a problem, even within modern churches that give people false knowledge about what the bible says. I think maybe a rewrite of your tearing this guy apart is needed, maybe even an apology for taking and twisting the message he gave. You want to point out biblical truths remember you ha e three fingers are pointing back at your faults. The problem with some of todays church is that they are all against each other and ready to jump and start nashik.g and judging people rather than uniting in LOVE. I don’t see any LOVE in the message you are spreading here, I hope that you find it in your heart to at least correct the premise for most of your write up, it is about FALSE RELIGIONS. Thank you and God bless you brother.

    1. “yeah he uses the word hate, and I disagree with that word being tied to Jesus.”

      Yeah, totally. Jesus should never be associated with—

      “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”

      Oh, right…

    2. I can’t say that I saw much love in his passionate plea. Despite his cursory “I’m not judgin'” he most certainly was.

  14. This is an enlightening read. I hope all who have shared and cheered for this video can read your response post and in turn, reconsider their own evaluations on the message that Bethke was trying to relay. Thank you Father Andrew!

  15. I believe, all of your intelligently worded musings aside, that you have completely missed the point of this young man’s poetry, and, by dissecting it line by line, addressing each point in a strictly literal sense, you’ve further reinforced that ubiquitous “Christian zealot” stereotype I would imagine someone as bright as yourself would strive to avoid.

    You seem proud of your ability to explain to the masses just, exactly, what is wrong with this man’s poetry and video, but I say to you, it is extremely difficult to eloquently define your belief in a few lines of poetry, while it is particularly easy to denigrate and denounce when you have the unlimited space and time a blog post affords you.

    While I’m all for you expressing your opinion, allow me to end the expression of mine with this:

    You’ve managed to do this young man a great disservice and yet, the effort you spent doing so speaks more about you than it does him. What would Jesus do? Not this, I’m certain.

    1. Jesus had absolutely no problem refuting the false teachers of his own day. This gentleman, perhaps unbeknownst to him, is a false teacher. You call him a “young man,” and I suppose he is, but he is also a professional. This is what he does for a living. He has a professional website and a Facebook fan page with more than 25,000 followers.

      As for dissecting this as a piece of poetry, well, curiously enough, that’s what I actually majored in in college. Honestly, I’m not going to go there.

      1. Even Arius composed his heresies into songs that he would teach to sailors and travelers, so they would sing them, spreading his false teachings from town to town. Just because he formed his beliefs into a poem, doesn’t make the words and ideas behind them any more right/correct.

    2. “it is extremely difficult to eloquently define your belief in a few lines of poetry”

      I prefer to stick with the Creed. Tried, true, and tested for 1600 years. The beautiful thing is NOT having to come up with your own creative dogmatics. However, that doesn’t say creative expression is unwanted. All of the wonderful hymnographers of the faith do it quite well without stepping on toes, and even, dare I say, profess the True faith amidst crowds of contention. St John Damascene is a prime example, among many others.

  16. Your judgmental tone in your responses about this pretty much proves his point. “True” religion (whatever the hell that means) may be good but when he talks about the judgmental, self-righteous religion, I get what he means. There are so many people who in the name of religion oppress, hate, and kill (and yes, I’m talking about Christianity). THAT is the religion this person hates. And so do I.
    Oh and about the Republican thing, spend some time in the Bible belt and you will get what that means.

    1. What does “judgmental” mean, anyway? Is it that I criticized his preaching? I certainly have no particular prognostication regarding his eternal destiny, damnation, etc.

      If he is exclusively against those who hate and kill in the name of religion, he should say so. But he said quite a lot more than that and didn’t allow for the possibility of the abuse of religion, but only that “religion” was to be abolished by Jesus, Who purportedly “hates” it Himself. If that’s not what he meant, then he should have written something other than what he wrote. Words are important, especially when one makes one’s living off of them.

      As for the Bible Belt (which appears to be made entirely of buckles, as I have discovered through empirical research), yes I am certainly aware that some folks there equate Republicanism with Christianity. But surely Mr. Bethke is aware of the “Christian Left,” as well, and of the numerous folks who would denounce the Christianity of anyone who does not vote Democrat or support the expansion of the welfare state? And no doubt he expected that his hit video would be viewed outside of the Bible Belt, particularly since on Facebook he identifies his location as Tacoma, Washington, which I must say I’ve never heard referred to as being part of that Belt.

      Me, I currently live in the Pierogi Belt, but I spent 16 of my 36 years below the Mason-Dixon Line, including the first one.

  17. To take a poem, a creative expression filled with word-pictures, symbolism, and emotion and treat it like its a theological dissertation is ridiculous. This article is overkill to say the least. If you need to go to such lengths to defend your position and attack one’s expressions of heartfelt sentiment then it makes me wonder if this is your own insecurity being manifested. It seems like a sensitive ‘nerve’ was touched.

    The kid means well, and his message (as a whole) is true.

    1. I’m honestly fascinated by the emerging theme of the detractors here, that Mr. Bethke is a “kid” or a “young man” who’s just pouring his heart out and can’t be held to any sort of theological standards. As I’ve written in several comments, this man is a professional, and I have no doubt whatsoever that this is what he does for a living. His Facebook page even includes information on how to book him as a speaker.

      That his professional “underwear” (so to speak) is so easily ignored is an indication that he’s quite good at what he does, namely, providing emotional content that plays into the existing theological prejudices of his viewers. It’s a testament to his showmanship that such a well-produced and slickly edited video gives not the impression of a sales pitch for his speaking career, but rather simply a direct and honest sentiment.

      Now, I have no doubt that he is indeed sincere. It’s probably why this video has become so popular, because it’s hard (though not impossible) to fake sincerity. Nevertheless, this video represents a carefully crafted, designed, produced piece of work, complete with an emotionally stirring soundtrack.

      All that aside, though, this man is making theological claims. If we’re not supposed to take his poetry seriously in a theological way, then one must ask why he chose such blatantly theological themes and returned to them with such frequency. It is poetry, yes, but he is also making a point. He hates religion, and he believes Jesus does, too. And I say that’s bunk (well, the second part; I’ll grant that he hates religion).

      All that said, I didn’t put forth a particular “position” in this post. Its purpose was critique, not to set forth a particular argument. So there is nothing for me to defend.

      As for whether a nerve has been touched, I was actually asked to write this by someone who wanted to know my thoughts. What’s really surprising to me is that this post has received more than 4,000 hits in the space of just six hours. So clearly there are some other “nerves” being touched, as well.

      Nerves are, after all, what give us the ability to see.

      1. I wonder if anyone feels the Psalms of the Prophet and King David are just ‘creative expression in the form of poetry written by a kid who loves God’? Or those of St Ephrem the Syrian? If it rhymes, and has some form of meter, then you can’t analyze it? I don’t understand why people aren’t treating this as a theological statement…I think that does disservice to ‘the kid’, who is clearly treating it as such.

        1. Exactly. If it’s not a theological statement, why would anyone care? And why would he choose to use the words he does? He says his mission is to “make [Jesus] famous,” which sounds rather like a theological enterprise to me.

    2. You see, I don’t think it’s overkill because even if we give this young man the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t mean exactly what he said for the sake of rhyme and cadence, the idea that religion (organized religion) is bad is actually quite popular among Americans (and westerners in general), not to mention Evangelicals. So, to assume that this young man is touting this very popular view, is not a long shot by any means and is more rational than thinking otherwise. Even without that, I can guarentee that many who are “liking” this DO think this way and DO understand it to mean that rites and rituals and repetitious (wrongly understood as “vain”) prayer and vestments and smoke and bells etc… are automatically empty and empty out others.

      So, if I were to be able to claim I wrote such a rebuttal (I wish I could!) and the young man said “No, I didn’t mean that at all. I think that stuff is important. I meant when religious people ignore what their faith teaches them” I would thank him for the explanation and reword my introduction but not erase my post because MANY who are hearing this song are hearing “organized religion and all of its traditions are bad” when in fact that thinking IS dangerous even if common and mainstream.

  18. You Orthodox sure are quick to charge others with heresy. Look, something like Arianism is heresy. Monergism, while many may disagree with it, certainly is not something reasonable people consider heresy.

    1. One doesn’t have to be quick to know that monothelitism and monoenergism (and therefore monergism, which is simply the soteriological version of monoenergistic Christology) were condemned by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in AD 680. We’ve been saying that this is heresy for more than 1300 years, so this is hardly a snap judgment.

      As to whether that’s “reasonable” or not, well, I think it’s unreasonable to go against the Ecumenical Councils.

    2. And it’s not like we are just saying “You look different! Heretics!”. There is a reason why the H word is pulled out. When a belief attacks the vitals of the Faith, the H word is pulled out to protect the integrity of the Faith. Notice that we also don’t call the person a Heretic. It is generally believed that one who creates a new belief is a heretic, not the (often unsuspecting) follower.

      If you say that we take no part in our salvation, that fundamentally changes the faith into something completely different. It changes what Christ’s death and resurrection meant, who God is, what love is, what free will is (and if it even exists), what sin is and what salvation itself is. Because of that belief, religions (such as Reformed) have different views of all of those things mentioned than the Orthodox Church does and becuase of this they are fundamentally different (at least on paper… I am certainly not saying it is so in people’s hearts).

  19. Father Andrew I don’t see why there are those who see this as an attack. If they looked at it from the view of someone like you, me, or the rest of the Orthodox community they would see it as more of a defensive response. I love how you examined all the diffrent lines to his poem. There is something I was kind of wondering (it may seem that it has nothing to do with the response to the poem) were you born into Orthodoxy or were you a convert? I like to know the stories of the people I meet or comunicate with. For instance I know Metropolitian Jonahs story and His Grace Bishop Benjamins story. I was wondering what yours is, would you mind giving it?

    -Joshua Blake Dillon DiLullo

    1. My basic bio is here.

      The short answer to your question is that I was raised as the son of Evangelical Protestant missionaries. I became Orthodox when I was in college.

      1. Well thats cool.
        I was always interested in church and I would ask my parents if we could go to church.Eventually my mom was invited to go to church by someone who thought they were going to an Orthodox Church. They were more of a combination of a bunch of things like Jahovas Witness, Protestant, Catholic, and many others. Later something happened and we realized that they weren’t Orthodox. So we began seeking out the true Orthodox church and found a Greek parish and since then my family has done a few trips to Alaska to help repair or finish churches. Now my parents are in the process of becoming full time Missionaries in Alaska, while I’m in the process of getting letters of recomendation so that I can attend St. Hermans in Kodiak, Alaska.

        1. If you have the opportunity to visit the wonderful group on Spruce Island, please say hello to Sister Julia for my wife and I, in Bakersfield, CA. She grew up just north of here, and is great friends with some wonderful folks at our parish.

  20. At times your were funny. At other times you were obnoxiously over-critical and nit picky. Allow me to make some theological comments on your theological comments.

    “Which means I don’t have to hide my failure, I don’t have to hide my sin.
    Because it doesn’t depend on me, it depends on Him.”

    “Actually, it depends on you, too. If you don’t cooperate, then it won’t do anything for you at all.”

    COMMENTS – It won’t do anything for you at all you say? So, our action, participation, cooperation makes Christ’s atonement effective for us? When Christ said “it is finished,” when scripture says that Christ propitiated men’s sin, do you believe He actually did it? Did He actually accomplish what He said, and scripture said, He accomplished or did He only make it accomplish-able? If He is the ransom, than He really ransomed. If He is my peace, than He really did make peace between God and I. If He satisfied God’s wrath, than God’s wrath actually was satisfied. Christ’s death accomplished what He intended it to and what scripture says it did. It did not make salvation possible or atonement hypothetical. Man cannot make Christ’s death effective since Christ’s death was that which effectively saved. This is the Gospel of the NT, is it not?

    COMMENTS – Further, cooperate? Below you mention how monergism is false. This doesn’t sound like the gift you made mention to when you defined grace, nor does it sound like Paul’s words in Ephesians 2 (“by grace, not of yourselves”). More, John 6 doesn’t sound like much theological cooperation with grace (although I will acknowledge that from a human perspective that God’s grace working within someone will produce things such as faith and good works; but this is solely grace and theologically not man’s meeting God half way). Dead people don’t cooperate with much at all do they now (Eph 2:1)?

    “He also created man to have a longing for God. What you’re revealing here actually has a technical theological name, and it’s the heresy of monergism, the idea that the whole of salvation is exclusively the act of God.”

    1. The work of salvation absolutely was completely accomplished by Christ, but it won’t in any sense be effective for a given person unless he “work[s] out [his] salvation with fear and trembling.” Salvation is certainly a free gift, but if the Giver is left standing with the gift in His hands, and the recipient decides not to receive it, then the gift is useless.

      God will not overcome our free will. He gave it to us so that we would love Him freely. That means we are also free not to love Him, and if we do not love Him and do not keep His commandments and do not endure to the end, then we cannot be saved. God created us to be His co-laborers (in Greek, synergoi, just like it says in the act NT text), not His automata.

      This is pretty standard, textbook stuff. If you’re a Calvinist or some kind of double-predestinarian or other monergist, of course you won’t buy it. (But, then again, I won’t be able to buy your version, because I’ll be predestined from before all time for damnation and incapable of true faith. So there’s no point in trying to convince me otherwise, from the monergist point of view. I’m hopelessly reprobate.) But it’s been the Orthodox faith since Christ first gave it to the Apostles, and the Orthodox are not exactly known for being interested in trying something new, so to speak.

      Monergism is a heresy because it requires a heretical Christology, which is monoenergism. It makes Christ into something less than human, because He thereby does not have human energies.

      1. I really don’t see at all why monergism requires monoenergism. As far as i can tell, the only thing they really share is the prefix mono. I don’t know any Calvinists that would deny the humanity of Christ in any way. I don’t think any monergist I know would affirm monoenergism.

        1. No, they may well not, but nonetheless, they really are the same thing. Monergism is simply the soteriology of monoenergism. Salvation is to become by grace what Christ is by nature. If, therefore, the actual model of our salvation eliminates human energies from the picture, then we can only conclude that Christ does not have them. The dots are automatically connected. Monergists would do well either to make their monoenergism explicit or to shed the heresy entirely and embrace the robustness of the Orthodox faith.

          1. Just a quick note: I can give you a short list of Reformed authors/professors who confess monenergism, even openly admitting that they’re heretical under the 6th Ecumenical Council. The average Reformed person who cares about history really only affirms the primary findings of the first four Councils (not the canons of those four), largely ignores the Fifth, contradicts the Sixth, and abominates the Seventh.

            This is because, in essence, if you take the view that human beings don’t have a natural energy corresponding to their natural will, then there’s no real reason (in fact, it makes your whole soteriology fall apart on its principles) to affirm that Christ’s human nature included one.

            But, I’ll leave it there before this becomes a thesis.

    2. Jesus saying “it is finished” implies that path to reconnecting God and man is finished. It is still up to us to follow that path. Jesus, by His death and resurrection, became the way man can once again “walk with God” so to speak, Kim before the fall in Eden. It’s still up to us to walk with Him, and to walk with Him is the way we live our life. Just believing in Jesus does mean you have walked down the path, for the demons know Jesus exists. Jesus saying “it is finished” is like a road pager finishing his duties and saying the road is finished. Well, I does you know good to just acknowledge and accept the road is there, you actually have to drive down it to get to the destination that lies at the end of it…..forgive me Fr for answering.

      1. Need to correct a few misspellings (that’s what I get for replying via cell phone). “Kim” should be “like”, “pager” should be “paver”, and “I” (Well, I) should be “it”.

  21. Thank you very much, Fr. Andrew, for taking the time and effort for doing this, and doing it so well.

  22. I haven’t read the comments, so someone else may have already addressed this.

    I don’t think there is any reason for alarm at the popularity of this poem. As you very astutely observed, “religion” in the poem mostly means hypocrisy. I think this is because so many people regard religious people as inevitably hypocritical. Part of the problem is that people don’t really know what hypocrisy is. Some people think it is the failure to live up to one’s principles. Certainly, hypocrisy involves such failure. But falling short of one’s principles is not enough to qualify as hypocrisy; one must also pretend that one has not failed. “Hypocrite” in Greek means “actor.” It is someone who pretends to be something he or she is not. If you think of replace religion with this kind of hypocrisy, then the poem makes sense.

    1. Then he should have just said “hypocrisy.” But he didn’t, and I don’t think he meant to, neither. Opposing Christ to “religion” is a standard Evangelical trope.

      1. You are correct. He didn’t mean to say just hypocrisy. When he uses the term religion, he means “faithless works which often lead to hypocrisy.” This is society’s common definition of “religion.” When most people hear the word “religion,” this is what they think of, not your definition. Now, society might be defining “religion” incorrectly, but that should be a criticism of society, not of the poet. In fact, he clarifies his definition in his description of the video on YouTube: “A poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion.” If he had inserted the word “false” in front of every use of the word “religion” in this video, would you be as critical?

        1. Actually, I think when “society” uses the word religion, they mean it pretty close to the dictionary definition.

          As to whether I would have been as critical if the main term in his argument had been exactly negated, well, of course not. If a man argues for abortion, and then you put the word not in front of every instance of abortion, it becomes a rather different argument.

          1. Society does not think of religion as the dictionary meaning. If you ask a random person, not associated with your beliefs, they will cringe at the word.
            This is a poem, that has a rhyme, if he would have said false religion rather than religion, it would not have flown like it did. Now, if you read the writers forward on the poem as expressed above, he is speaking against false religion.
            A man of such education as yourself (assumption) should understand poetry. I think you are continuing to have an empty argument in responds to this poem. We have clarified that you would not have criticized this poem if he wasn’t talking about true religion, and it is clear that it was written in regards to false religion. You continue to brainwashed people into seeing this as a horrible poem, meaningless and full of false teaching. Your write up is meaningless and empty because it ignores what the poem is about, twists the words, and teaches on a meaning this poem was never meant to have. I forgive you for the irritation that your ignorance has caused me. If you want to be a man of Christ, as we yearn to be, with a heart after God’s, then put down the guns and fly a white flag. Separation of churches is sickening. I don’t think Christ smiles at that. I know I don’t. We are meant to be better than this.

          2. Most of what you write has been hashed out elsewhere in the comments.

            I will say, though, that there are no such things as “random” people.

            That said, I fail to see how people can be “brainwashed” by reading a weblog post.

            (Maybe I need to put an emotive soundtrack behind it. I bet that might sell some books.)

          3. The point is, he didn’t insert “false” in front of “religion,” and false religion does not equal religion. They are different things. So by not saying “false” in the poem, the poem doesn’t make sense (if he meant false religion). By just saying religion, his poem has a different meaning than what he intended. It’s a problem he needs to rectify if he wants it to mean something other than what he wrote. Hypocricy might be a good substitute for religion if he doesn’t want to say “false religion” each time.

          4. Hey Fr. Andrew, Since Nate mentioned the whole “Separation of churches is sickening,” topic, I was wondering if you have seen this similar youtube poem.

            I just saw it posted by a friend on facebook today and think it too needs to be defended against to counteract the heresy it aims to spread.

          5. While I appreciate the invitation, I’m afraid I actually have rather a lot of work to do in my 3D life this weekend.

            Perhaps you would like to post a response on your own weblog! 🙂

        2. But he is saying any organized Christian institution is a false religion. That is the problem.

  23. Reading the post as well as all of the comments has been…. enlightening.

    I’ll be honest in saying I haven’t done enough of my own research on this dude to have a well-formed opinion of him or his ministry, but I understand what he’s getting at. And I agree with some of my other commentators in that picking apart a piece of poetry line by line is… well, a very bad way to interpret poetry.

    I TOTALLY understand where you are coming from theologically though. (yes, some of his theology is… underdeveloped). I also understand the beliefs of the church and it’s practices. I do. However, I think that often times these are gone about in the wrong way. “Religion,” so to speak, is best summed up (by me) as the practices and traditions of a group of people adhering to a certain belief system. I can’t say that I truly believe in some of the practices and traditions of the orthodox church, even though I understand their meaning and intention. I think that what this guy is saying is that it’s VERY easy for practices and traditions to create a space where the placement of our hearts does not matter as long as we keep up with these practices and traditions. I also think that it’s a safe assumption to make that when he says he “hates” religion, what he means is that he despises shallow tradition. Although I too think it is unwise to sling the word “hate” around so loosely.

    I was recently studying Leviticus and the stipulations of sacrifice as a background for teaching from Matthew (I co-lead a high school small group). God gave those laws to his people so that they could exist in relation to him, their sins covered by the blood of their sacrifices yes? So, essentially, it did not matter whether someone’s heart was in the right place, they were covered by their practices and traditions (religion). This is what Jesus taught against. This is WHY God made a NEW covenant that includes non-Hebrews! It did not matter if one was a descendent of Abraham anymore, it did not matter if a person lived perfectly according to the law, what matters is the condition of the heart and its submission to God. Jesus came to tell us that “religion” (practices and traditions) gets us nowhere. He came to get our hearts in the right place. He PAID our blood price so we wouldn’t HAVE to participate in “religion” anymore. Our justification before God no longer relies on doing something that doesn’t require our hearts! (Man, it makes me want to whoop and hollar and have a parade!)
    So yes, I agree that this guy may not be the most theologically accurate. I DO think he has some good things to say.

    Some background on me: I have grown up in the church (“nondenominational”). I’ve grown up going to Christian schools all the way through college. And coming out of all that “religion” I really had to take some time to figure out what I believe and why. And let me tell you, I love Jesus. I believe in him and his mission and I believe in his teaching. I believe in fellowship among believers. I also believe that man is flawed and is ridiculously addicted to finding “formulas” for all things. There is a place for spiritual discipline in our lives, but there is no formula of “doing” for justification with God. He meets us where we are when we cry out to him and none of our journeys are perfect. While I think you made some insightful points about his theology, overall I think the argument is fairly petty. The only conclusion that I can come to is that by your assertions, is that you think he is not working for the kingdom but is in this for his own personal gain. He could use a theology course for sure, but do you know his heart?

    Instead of stirring up ruckus and pointing out the shortcomings of others shouldn’t we be voicing concern for our brothers and sisters and asking that the Holy Spirit be with them and that his ministry succeeds in bringing those who are lost and broken who don’t feel like they’re “good enough” for church to Christ? You’re a pastor! You of all people should be well aware of how unkind and judgmental “church people” can be! (In fact if I was a non-Christian reading your blog, it would turn me off to the church right quick.)

    So how about we agree to pray, pray and pray some more for God’s will to be done, no matter how flawed people are. Let’s pray for love to be sown where there is dissension. Pray that we are gracious with others as He is gracious with us.

    Wow, I did not expect to write this much…

    1. Does it make sense that God would create a “religion” of empty ritual for the Jews, that He would then come to save us all from when He comes on the scene as Jesus? No, it doesn’t, and Christ explicitly says that He wasn’t an abolitionist, but rather than He came to fulfill that which came before.

      For the point of view you espouse, there is also the very real problem of actual Christian history. All the evidence we have from the earliest years of the Church points not to a people who have rid themselves of “empty” ritual, etc., but rather of people with a highly developed and complex liturgical life, one led by bishops, priests and deacons and centered on the Eucharist.

      I challenge you to do some exploration of early Christian history. Go find the actual sources, the writings of people like St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was a disciple of the Apostle John, which describe pretty clearly what life in the Church was like. These are the first few generations of Christians, and if they didn’t do it right, then who are any of us to say we’ve got it right?

      The good news, though, is that they did do it right and that their faith has been preserved whole and unaltered for 2000 years in the Orthodox Church. I very much recommend that you see for yourself. Don’t let anyone rob you of the fulness of your inheritance as a Christian.

      1. Thank you. I appreciate the gentleness of your response. I WILL look into St. Ignatius and do some historical study on the church.

        I think a lot of the hesitancy on my part in regards to orthodoxy is because I feel like (not based on actual research) a lot of the hierarchy of the church clergy becomes a play for social and political power. I know that this is not true in all cases, and admittedly the Orthodox church has produced many great theologians. However, whenever I’ve gone to an Orthodox church, I have NEVER felt a sense of welcome or community. If anything I’ve seen and felt a general vibe like everyone there is being watched by everyone else, waiting for someone to fall of the train and get a full dousing of judgment from others. And I just can’t get down with that.

        I recently read this:
        and I’m curious to what you might have to say about it.

        Thanks again. 🙂

        1. Well, I’m sorry to hear about your bad experiences. If you happen to find yourself in Eastern Pennsylvania, please stop in and see us, and you’ll find yourself in an exceptionally welcoming and authentic place. I’ve been a member of five different Orthodox churches (mainly due to moving), and of course some are doing better than others, but there are many very welcoming Orthodox churches. The lack of welcome you seem to have experienced has nothing to do with Orthodoxy but simply with human sin. The Orthodox faith commands us to welcome every person who walks through our doors and to invite those who haven’t yet done so.

          As for the link you posted, I think what it’s actually addressing (though perhaps unwittingly) is the problem of being a text-based religion. Protestantism, in most of its forms, is essentially text-based: its faith and authority are derived from the Bible. But Orthodoxy doesn’t function that way, having the actual ecclesial memory of having written, compiled and canonized the Bible. So no text (even a very holy one like the Bible) will be taken as a series of “laws” by Orthodoxy.

          We don’t really function with “law” at all, not in a legalistic sense. There are certainly canons and traditions and so forth, but their purpose is not to trap or obligate anyone, but rather to serve as a guide to what really works in the spiritual life, rather like there are a set of customs and practices undertaken by athletes (diet, exercise, etc.) that are not to hurt them or make them uncomfortable, but rather to make them strong enough to do what they truly desire.

          So it is with Orthodox Christianity.

    2. “picking apart a piece of poetry line by line is… well, a very bad way to interpret poetry.” No, it isn’t. Poetry is usually interpereted line by line. That is why poems, especially long poems, are printed with line numbers instead of page numbers. It is in going line by line, slowly, peering deeply, that the meaning of a poem is found. Just consider Longfellow’s “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” If you go quickly through the poem, you think it is just a fun rhyme to teach a little history to children. But if you go line by line you might see that in almost every stanza is death, and cold, and dark. Poetry is a species of literature. And in literature, words matter.

  24. Father,

    Thank you, both for linking and for writing such a thorough and thoughtful response. This response, while charitably written, is a pretty devastating critique.


    Joe Heschmeyer

  25. Thank you father for taking the time to write this article, and opening peoples eyes to the true meaning of religion and voicing your thoughts on this video. at a first glance people see it as great because they think that it is only about how we should look at the root of Religion and that being Jesus but religion would not exist without Jesus establishing his church. i am proud to say that i am a true believer in my Catholic Religion and a true believer in Jesus Christ.

  26. Thank you for your reply. You started a firestorm, but it was well worth it. “Stop being meaaaan, i’m a relativist gnostic. and youre not being NICE TO ME! HoW dArE yOU!!!!”

  27. Fr. Andrew. Even though I disagree with some of the theology mentioned here in the article, I sincerely thank you for challenging this video. Something in it struck me, and you were able to put into writing what I was feeling in my gut. Many Thanks!

    ~ An appreciative Reformed Anglican.

  28. Brilliant Father, Absolutely Brilliant. please remember me when you pray at the Altar during the Divine Liturgy.

  29. In several instances it appears that this “kid” (professional) was willing to sacrifice theological (or even logical) soundness for the sake of a rhyme.

  30. What would it take for it to finally get into “religious” people’s brains that atheism does not lead people to indiscriminately kill each other? There are plenty of other things that can accomplish that job. You claim that there is ample research to demonstrate that the wars in Europe were waged not due to religion but political factors, etc. Why would atheism be any different? Who kills someone else in the name of nothing? Could it just be that people like Mao and Stalin were drunk on power? How about the fact Hitler’s soldiers were Lutherans and Catholics, and seemed to forget “Thou Shalt Not Kill” when rooting through Polish ghettos for Jews? Your critique of the young man’s video has some merit, and I do agree the concept of “religion” is too broad to attack like this, but the comment on atheism sort of proves that in fact you are just as close minded as you make him out to be, and it’s ludicrous.

    1. Context is important. I did not say that I believe atheism automatically kills. My assertion was that, while some may point to blood on “religion’s” hands, officially atheistic regimes have far more blood on theirs (usually not wars, though, but rather through internal policies, such as extermination of religion). The point is that trying to pin wars on “religion” as though it were some inherent cause of them is really ridiculous, especially when the body count for the explicitly anti-religious is so very much higher, i.e., the minor correlation between armed conflict and religion is far less than the major correlation between atheism and violence.

      I know full well that correlation does not equal causation, though I think perhaps Mr. Bethke may not.

    2. I thought Fr. said his point was specifically NOT to use it as a critique of Atheism but rather to point out that jsut as it is false to assume that atheism caused these extermination that religion caused these past wars.

    3. I made a comment in a similar vein which was apparently moderated out. The parenthetical at the end of that section which tries to qualify the ridiculous assertion was added to the blog post after myself and Jon had commented. And Fr. Andrew, your qualification still doesn’t account for the fact that the “major correlation” between atheism and violence is that the evil people who perpetrated the acts you mention just happened to be atheists — they were not killing to advance atheism, they were killing to advance communism. On the other hand, religious people all over the world kill in the name of their god, to advance their religion (whether it is officially sanctioned by their religion or not). Which is worse?

      1. If it was just to advance Communism, as you say, why were clergy and other religious believers targeted in the millions? If that was merely about Communism, then it was a curiously anti-religious Communism. They didn’t “just happen” to be atheists. The regime was officially atheist, and they explicitly opposed religion with mass-murders and various other crimes against humanity. (And a lot of them were also “Ex-Orthodox,” even ex-seminarians, actually, including Stalin.)

        Come now, you’re showing some pretty gross ignorance of 20th century history.

        I am not saying that atheism necessarily turns people into killers (though nihilistic philosophy does tend in that direction, and why not? there is only power), but official atheism has killed millions upon millions, precisely because they were religious people, and it’s absolutely the case that every officially atheist regime has persecuted religious believers en masse.

        Here’s the most meager of introductions to this rather disturbing subject.

        As for whether “religious people all over the world kill in the name of their god, to advance their religion,” such an assertion is not only vague, but it is pretty grossly inaccurate, whether in terms of the present or even the past. In those terms, it’s essentially an urban legend.

        Honestly, it’s clear you’re big on prejudices but little on legwork. I strongly suggest you do some reading.

      2. They were definitely killing to advance atheism. They saw religion as a threat to scientific atheism. They propagated atheism, turning closed churches into museums of atheism. Socialism can be non-atheistic. In fact, there are so-called orthodox communists in Russia today (though I think they are certifiably insane). Athiests, in they name of atheism, have murdered many tens of millions of innocent people.

  31. I mean in every other aspect of your life you know that logics are worthy.

    I honestly have no idea what this means.

    That’s because that’s not the correct lyrics…

    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
    Its like saying you play for the lakers just because you bought a jersey

    He’s referring to the fact that if you lived your whole life based upon the same logic as people only knowing that you’re a christian by your face book that it would be like calling yourself a Laker because you bought a Jersey.

    I think you may have gotten a few others incorrect also… they’re available for free download though 🙂

    1. Thanks for the correction. The transcription I used was one I Googled, not one I made myself. In any event, I’ve noted your correction in the post.

  32. Father,

    You are absolutely brilliant. Thank you for the both entertaining and enlightening response. I pray this response will receive as much attention as the video by Jefferson so that people are not deceived (surprising how anyone could be convinced by such irrational and absurd “logic”). Thank you for shining the light of Orthodoxy in a confused world.

    In XC,
    Jennifer Athanasia

  33. So proud to be Coptic Orthodox. When I hear people complain about churches they’ve been to or attended as children I tell them they should try ours. A peaceful religion that welcomes open discussion about topics such as this video and offers a voice of reason.

    I wish people could see Orthodox Churches for what they really are and hopefully someday it won’t be so “Cool” to hate church.

  34. Fr Andrew,

    Thank you for your response to this video. I had been wanting to respond to it myself, but now I’m afraid I wouldn’t have anything to say! You said everything better than I could have possibly hoped to; also, you are much more equipped for a response than I, to be sure!

    Also. I love your writing. You have such a clear voice, and I must admit, a couple times, I laughed out loud. Not because you tore him apart, but because you made your point so clearly, articulately, and winsomely. This was my favorite: “You know what they call it when people pray together in front of a theological image like a cross, right? I’ll give you a clue: It starts with an R and ends with -eligion.”


    Thanks again.

  35. I am a 19 year old who was raised in a very religious Christian family. I stopped going to church when I was about 13 or 14 and got involved in the wrong crowd. I made a lot of mistakes and I sinned time and time again. This past year I reunited with a childhood friend from my old church, and she urged me to get back into the church life. I instantly realized that Jesus had never left my side through all the things I went through in my life…instead, he was there the whole time supporting me and carrying me when I couldn’t walk. The reason I say this is because I was blessed enough to have a friend care about me enough to push me to get back into church. For those who don’t have that friend, this video opens up a lot of eyes and a lot of hearts. Jefferson Bethke has reached out to more youth in a few months than most priests do in a lifetime. Its sad to say but this generation is all about social networking and Jeff was smart enough to use that to his advantage. I believe Jesus Christ is working through him and delivering His message to many who would have otherwise ignored it. Also, I think Jeff brought up many valid points that a lot of the youth think about when turning against religion. I known that a huge reason I stopped going to church wasn’t because of the belief in Jesus Christ but because of the Christian people. They always threw rules in your face and basically told you you were a horrible person going to a horrible place if you didnt follow them exactly and truth be told they were right. I most certainly believe that Jefferson Bethke did the youth, the church, and many Christians a huge favor by making this video and opening the eyes and hearts of many! And again, you cannot take his poem word for word and expect it to make perfect sense…it is a poem.

    1. Most of what you write here has been hashed out in the comments, so I’ll just refer you to them. But you did add one new thing: Jefferson Bethke has reached out to more youth in a few months than most priests do in a lifetime.

      To that, I will simply mention that Rebecca Black has reached out to more youth in a few months than most priests do in a lifetime.

      1. So as Joel Osteen has reached not only youth but adults more than priests. And we all know he is a false (religion) teacher.

      2. The best thing about this comment thread is that I now have been exposed to the music of Ms. Black, and have a new phrase, “I see a crime scene on the dance floor”, ready to whip out when necessary. Truly, this is the best blog ever!

  36. Fr., your main response to this video, which is evident every time you used “religion” in quotation marks, is that the person in the video doesn’t adequately define religion. But in a sense, I don’t really think he had to. At 3:08 in the video, he says “Religion is man searching for God. Christianity is God searching for man.” Although this is untrue because Christianity is God COMING for man AND man searching for God, I see more significance in this statement. Here he doesn’t define religion, but he defines Christianity (even though he didn’t do a good job at it) as something MORE than religion, right?

    I don’t agree with you using the original definition of the word “religion,” because words in today’s society have continuously evolved (or devolved) to mean different thinks. Here, he speaks ill of religion, whatever he means by the word, but perhaps the important thing is that he doesn’t include Christianity as a religion (in the sense he’s speaking of).

    However, even considering this, I don’t agree with this video, as his argument is clearly flawed in other parts. For this reason, I’m not sharing the video on my Facebook account. However, I’m also not sharing your response either, but for different reason (I really didn’t understand some of the words you used, so it would be unfair for me to agree with them.)

      1. It’s a start.

        But it’s also an indication that he realizes that what he published is at odds with central Christian doctrine regarding the Church. He may not realize it yet, but you can’t “hate” and “resent” “religion” while also supporting the Church.

  37. Father Bless….

    Hear! Hear! Fr. Andrew. The type of theology in the video is so rampant among Americans; in essence, that each man is his own pope. I pray this young man, who loves the Lord, will see in Truth that the Church is a hospital and the flock needs its shepherd.

  38. I am not going to say that either you or Mr. Bethke are both completely right or wrong. I will ask you this though, what are your thoughts on poetic justice? The idea that you can use any type of simile or string of words to make a point. So, when he says religion starts wars, wars in that sense might simply be an argument between a Calvinist and an arminian, or a broken relationship between a family. To truly understand what an artist is saying you have to know that person very well because in poetry and music things are not black and white. While I do agree that some of the things said were more than likely built off of some stereotype of rigid Christianty (When he spoke on republicans) I do feel like he was simply a man who is tired of people talking the talk but doing nothing else. People who are quick to call you out via scripture, but slow to recognize their own shortcomings and give grace like Jesus does. Who have been in church their whole lives and can say all the right things but have no relationship with Christ. I think when he speaks on religion he is talking about the Pharisee types, those who will make sure others are watching them serve and who understand the law but don understand the love behind it. Jesus didn’t give us laws to judge others lives by, he gave us laws because he knows what’s best for us and he loves us.

    1. I think you are referring to poetic license (not poetic justice, which, I must admit, got me momentarily intrigued!). My undergraduate training was actually precisely in literary analysis, particularly in poetry, and while I see what you are saying, I actually think you’re giving this piece far more depth and credit than it deserves. There’s really no indication in the piece that the speaker intends the kind of layered meaning you suggest.

      Even aside from the atrocious theology contained therein, I do not regard this as even a pretty good piece of poetry. And why should it be? The man apparently got his degree in Political Science. Not that degrees are everything, mind you, but they do tend to indicate someone’s area of serious interest.

      1. I agree with you, Fr. Andrew, the poetry is just terrible. To those commenters who would fault you for analyzing it, instead of just responding, “awwwww”, I would recommend to y’all a reading of really great Christian poets. Start with short works in English by the Metaphysicals, or even re-read the “Hound of Heaven”, a favorite among Evangelicals I have known. These suggestions are just tiny starting points; the field of great Christian poetry is enormous. Think about this: All those poets who wrote superb poetry containing true language about God and Christ might feel just slightly patronized by the attitude that anything verbal constructed with meter is beyond the realm of criticism. Good and great poets alike show their works to readers they respect, and appreciate being alerted to inconsistencies in their work. Evangelical culture can be quite relativistic, thin-skinned and sentimental about any of its young representatives who show that they are unashamed of Christ. It is a great thing not to be ashamed of Christ–He commanded us not to be. It’s also a good thing not to bring shame to Him.

  39. This guy is promoting himself. He is using big words to try and impress people an it’s working. “The church” and “religion” are really 2 different things. His knowledge of theology is probably as good as mine seeing as how I’ve never taken any theology classes in college, or rather any classes in college. He is a well spoken “Christian”, for a better lack of labeling, who is trying to make a living out of “preaching” which to alot of people and by the word of God, is “false teaching”. He says a few catchy things but they have little to no validity.

    1. Actually, I think hes not promoting himself, and I don’t see the need to put “Christian” in quotation marks, because clearly he is one, and what he speaks is sincere. And I don’t see what the problem with “making a living out of ‘preaching'” is either? Plenty of famous pastors make their living like one, Billy Graham for one…

  40. Thank you for this post I really enjoyed it. I am finding my generation (I am a pastor in my late 20’s) is far to quick to say Religion=Evil without much reflection. Worse still they accept wholesale anti-Christian arguments against Christianity instead of challenging them, which is what I think this video has done. While I am quick to admit that the church is not perfect, the church is the body of Christ and to treat it as anything else is not acceptable.

    1. If the Church is as you say it is, the Body of Christ, then how could it not be perfect, as Christ (all of Christ) is perfect? I have an inkling that you are speaking of the individual members of the Body as not perfect, but if we are truly participating in the Body of Christ, then we are perfected by the Body of Christ, particularly through the Sacramental Life. If we are not participating in the active Life of Christ as the Body, then we are not aligned with the Body, and can’t truly call ourselves members as such. This is where freewill comes into play. We constantly, through sin (or missing the mark), take ourselves out of the fold, out of Christ’s open embrace. He doesn’t clutch us in a fist, but welcomes us, and thus allows us to jump out of his embrace at any point. Fr Andrew, or anyone better informed, please correct me if I have jumped off the ship in any way.

  41. I quite like your dissection of the video. I have a few minor quibbles that dissection. There seems to be a mild amount of mixing of politics with theology in a way that makes me uncomfortable. (No so much uncomfortable because I disagree, but for other reasons.) I also think that in some cases phrases are being taking literally rather than in the spirit in which they are offered. For example, I think the point about whether a congregation would accept Jesus if he walked in was more a point about whether or not a congregation would accept someone who wore the modern day equivalent of the attire worn by our Lord and who preached the same doctrines. While those lines are a very nice perch from which to leap into the Mystery of Medicine of Immortality, I’m not certain that they address the substance of the work at hand. But those are really just quibbles, and arguable ones at that. Most of the criticism seems very sound.

    I would like to add a point, one that only becomes clear if one takes a step back and looks at the presupposition being made in order to make the distinction between religion and following Christ, namely rationalism and dualism that is the western heritage of the Reformation and Enlightenment. One can only arrive at the idea of an empty religion or meaningless ritual if one thinks that actions only have spiritual import if those actions are voluntarily, intentionally, and rationally decided upon courses of action (rationalism) and if one holds that body and soul are distinct in such a way that the body has no effect on the soul (dualism).

    Consider the analogy of a parent forcing a child to say “thank you” when the child is given gifts. The child isn’t intentionally choosing to engage in the virtue of gratitude. The child isn’t choosing to say thank you at all. Saying “thank you” in this case is a compulsory act. Yet, by going through the motions even though there is no intentional choice being made and the soul of the child is not engaged in the activity, the child is learning what it is like to display gratitude. And through that process, the child’s soul is formed in such a way that the child wants to show gratitude. Eventually the child will say “thank you” from choice. And, hopefully, that choice will eventually made out of genuine gratitude.

    But if we follow Bethke we have to throw out such methods of parenting. Since the child saying “thank you” is neither heart felt nor an intentional choice of the child, it is entirely devoid of merit in his view, it has no value for either the child or the people who have bestowed gifts upon the child. Bethke has to conclude that saying “thank you” does not help the child grow into a better person, does not foster a greater relationship between the child and the people imparting gifts. Rather, for him, it is necessarily meaningless and entirely devoid of value.

    So Bethke would have us forgo the very things that help those most in need of help, those who are immature in their faith and who have not fully engaged their hearts into the ritualistic aspects of Christianity. I’ve seen this story play out before. It starts with people giving up on attending services because they think that they can be “spiritual” without being “religious.” Usually, but not always, it ends with people not even being spiritual.

    The antidote to the dilemma is not to abandon the formal aspects of religion but to seek out ways to improve one’s engagement with those acts. It’s not that ritualistic aspects of religion are devoid of meaning if we don’t intentionally participate in them with our souls. It’s that unless we do that, we don’t realize the fullness of their meaning. So what needs to change is not participation in institutional religions but something internal to us in the way that we participate.

    1. For whatever it may be worth, the politics bit was of course Bethke’s contribution. My point was that there are also people who identify Christianity with the left side of politics, so it seemed a bit silly for him to single out Republicans. (As for me personally, I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I will, however, be voting for Ron Paul.)

      In any event, I think your analysis is spot-on. The inner problem here is indeed dualism, the gnosticism common to modern Evangelicalism.

      My approach was line-by-line, so I didn’t get into this level of depth. Thanks for adding it, though.

    2. Thank you, Lee Malatesta. I was noticing how much of these discussions are dependent on a worldview coming from memes introduced (I dunno, I guess by Descartes? maybe even Plato) which probably weren’t shared by the people in the Bible. When you read 1 Corinthians 15:35-50, it’s very clear that dualism just doesn’t fit.

      1. Probably Descartes more than Plato.

        I’ve never been a big fan of Leo Strauss, nevertheless, his philosophy has fascinated me. This is in part because of his influence and in part because of the conclusions he draws that just seems so out of synch with what would expect a scholar of the history of philosophy to draw.

        But earlier this week I read an article that supplied a bit of the missing link. In his Restatement on Xenophon, Strauss explicitly drew out what he considered to be the cardinal difference between pre-modern and modern political philosophy: pre-modern political philosophy knew that the ideal state was unobtainable and drew images of the ideal state as though experiments while modern political philosophy actually tries to obtain the ideal state.

        If we take this idea and put it into the sphere of metaphysics we have a rather interesting proposition to consider: ancient dualists like Plato constructed their dualism as a thought experiment while modern dualists like Descartes thought that their dualism was the certain foundation on which to build modern science.

        So, if Strauss was right, I think we may have located the core of the mistake of the modern turn.

    1. Now, we all know that the Lord is on the side of Troy Polamalu, Orthodox Christian convert and all-around big-hair guy. That the Steelers lost recently is irrelevant, because at Armageddon, Troy will get to command a whole battalion of demon-slicing halberdsmen.

  42. OH MY GOODNESS, THANK THE LORD FOR THIS!! Do I have your permission to re-post this on http://www.orthodoxmom.com? God bless you for these responses. It is so sad to see people put so put trust and faith into this young man’s words. How much destruction can be caused from a lack of knowledge! Thank you for interjecting the Truth into his claims.

  43. Its obvious from many of these replies that you’ve thoroughly intruded on the intellectual safe haven of hipster Christianity. So many in here are truly upset that you shined any sort of light on this confused attack on an undefined enemy (religion). I love it!

    Thanks for saying what I was thinking while watching this.

  44. Feels like 2 sides of the same coin. Theologically, I agree with the rebuttal. It’s the spirit of the video and the rebuttal that seem to be the same. Neither one says “I think you’re wrong, my brother” as much as saying “You’re wrong you idiot(s).” The first approach has some chance of making a difference and, while the second will always get an “Amen!” from people who already agree, it will almost certainly get a defensive response from everyone else. I think it’s a really difficult thing to criticize with loving and compassionate language that will have the best chance of changing someone’s mind. I would like to learn this skill myself. If we all had this skill, just think how many religious, social, political, economic and many other problems we could be much closer to solving.

    1. I don’t think Mr. Bethke is an idiot. But I do think he’s wrong about some crucial things, so I don’t think the spirit between his theology and my commentary really are the same. They represent two radically different approaches to God. His is pietist (religion and doctrine don’t matter, but feelings and sincerity do), a 20th c. revision of a 17th c. Radical Reformation movement, while mine is the Orthodox Christian faith as preserved in the Orthodox Church for the past 20 centuries.

      Apologetics and critique go back to the very earliest days of the Church and are even found in the New Testament.

      1. I don’t mean to imply that you think Mr. Bethke is an actual idiot or that the theologies are the same. It’s just that the language used in both the video and your rebuttal are more adversarial than instructive. You don’t have to think he’s an idiot to imply that he is one, or for your readers to get that perception. And I’m all for apologetics to help explain the faith, but we should take care to give critique rather than criticism. I know they are technically synonyms, but I think most people recognize that critique is more likely to inspire self reflection and dialogue, while criticism is more likely to inspire the kind of defensiveness and arguement you see in some of the comments posted here.

        1. What is the difference between critique and criticism? No doubt you mean the latter to be the mean variety of the former.

          At its base, criticism simply means discernment or judgment. Literary criticism, for instance, has nothing to do with being mean or adversarial, and indeed, the critic may be a proponent of the work he is writing on.

          Yes, I do have negative things to say about this work, but that is because it presents a heretical theology that is therefore spiritually dangerous. While I of course do not remotely compare to the Lord, His Apostles, or the sainted apologists of yore, none of them had any problem using much, much stronger language than I have and, indeed, of directly criticizing the spiritual character of their interlocutors. I’ve spared this gent the classic “most impious,” “most blasphemous,” etc., business that our forefathers routinely used to describe heretical teachers.

  45. This young man seems to be forgetting that if it weren’t for “religion,” he probably never would have heard of Jesus.

    Excellent analysis, Father! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the post and its responses. I was so glad to find a response to that video from an Orthodox perspective (my dad is a priest).

  46. Fr. Andrew

    Thank you very much for writing this. The line- by-line approach is absolutely the right way to go here! It just takes a lot of work and you rolled up your sleeves and got it done.

    My first time here via Joe H. at ShamelessPopery. I’ll take some time to look at your other posts.

  47. I am a college campus minister with a protestant organization and it is really upsetting how many people on my FB are sharing this video. You wisely systematically and logically showed the errors in the video…

    Here is my FB response
    Jesus IS Religion
    He practiced religiously… He fulfilled the Law…. Said if you love me you will obey me… taught us how to pray… Said his followers will fast when he leaves…. Demanded obedience…. created a religious practice… accepted worship… Sure sounds like Religion to me.

    I love the comment about getting on his knees to pray and you said some people call that religion….

  48. No offense Fr. Andrew, but to dissect his poem line by line without truly knowing what he is trying to convey, seems a little unfair. If I were to take the Bible, my interpretation of what It is saying would be completely different than yours and what the original Scripture is actually meant to be. Now I am not comparing his words to the Bible, but just giving you an example. Again, I do not agree with his stance from what I understood of the poem, but to automatically label it heresy may not be the best route. At least his poem has sparked a discussion which is definitely worth having. A lot of people feel the way he does, in that you don’t need church in order to be a good Christian, but rather you should let your actions speak for you. They feel the Church, especially the Catholic Church, has gotten so large that it has forgotten its true mission of serving the people and protecting their well being. Much of what they see is of sexual scandal and the ensuing cover-up by the higher ups. Rather than being attached to this, they have chosen to continue doing great deeds without all of the affiliation to a specific “religion”. I only say this because I’ve had the same discussion with friends and strangers before. Nonetheless, thanks for the response, it did raise some interesting points.

    1. Your post is interesting in that it also follows a theme of the supporters of this video, which is to read more into it than what is actually there. He nowhere mentions Roman Catholicism, for instance, nor its recent scandals. You also see something that “he is trying to convey” which is apparently hidden from commentators like me, but what else is there to go by, really? He has produced a text and given it a visual and musical setting. It now has its own existence, which is what the commentators are replying to.

      Honestly, if he were trying to convey something more than what he actually said, then he should have said all that, too. But he didn’t.

      1. But then it wouldn’t rhyme!!! I kid, but I think it was done more to invoke a feeling than a following. Again, just my thoughts. I’m just basing my assumptions on discussions that constantly come up when discussing the Church with people. He has other youtube videos which I watched after seeing this video, in which he talks about his life and growing up in the Church; I would suggest watching those as well (especially the personal testimony he gave). Maybe it will clear up some of what he was trying to get at.

        1. and you are right, I do sound like a defender (which I am not). I think he raises some good points and then some absolutely ridiculous claims, but then again, its nice to have people discussing religion openly, don’t you think?

  49. I am not going to write a long response because I am assuming anything I would say has already been covered and responded to in other comments (most of which I have not read). That being said…

    Father, I appreciate what you were trying to do, but I think its safe to say that you missed the point.

    Your brother in Christ,


    1. “Safe”? For whom?

      I’m quite sure I got the point, though: Christianity is a private, personal “relationship” with Jesus that is utterly unmitigated by any sort of communal religious structure, which can be blamed for wars, spiritual slavery and blindness, etc. Religion is what’s wrong with the world, and Jesus came to abolish all of that. That’s why the writer hates religion, and indeed, “literally resent[s] it.”

      To that, I simply say, “Bunk.”

      Well, I say some other things, too, I suppose. (See above.)

      1. Father, the fact that you are critiquing the saying “safe to say” is even more proof that maybe your analysis of the video itself was a little too much.

        I think it is important for viewers to find the message of the value of a relationship with the Lord as apposed to go line by line and find the facts.

        Bethke, is not a pastor, he has not drowned his life in theology so the fact that all of his statements are not correct- doesn’t surprise me. He is a young man who used words in this ‘rap’ so that it could be understood by many. He used modern lingo and phrases that could reach a wide group as an audience. And from the looks of your response to this comment alone, shows that maybe you don’t follow the modern sayings as loosely as us in the younger generation.

        I agree with your want to correct the facts in his rap, but your review is the only one I have found that continually puts this man down dissecting his love for the Lord simply because he does not understand the Lord like you apparently do. I am not orthodox so I apologize for maybe getting things wrong in my statement. But it is one thing to correct someones facts, and an entirely different thing to correct their faith. Maybe as this man grows in his life, he will look back and maybe wish he worded things differently, and maybe you will look back and wish you would have been nicer.

        Bethke discusses in his video about the harshness of ‘religion’ and here is a pastor putting him down. No wonder he, as many other followers of the Lord in his generation, feel reserved about the word “religion” because in our mind it is a bunch of pastors putting those who think differently- down.

        I don’t mean to say that you deliberately are putting this guy down, but by your review and comments on the subject, it sure looks and feels this way.

        1. I actually quite explicitly never put him down. In fact, I’ve said in multiple places that I believe in his sincerity.

          Now, I do have some things to say about his message. I believe he’s sincere, but I also believe that he’s sincerely wrong.

          As for being “nice,” well—I believe that a bold contribution to the theological culture of our day deserves a bold response. And though I am least among the apologists, I think I’m in pretty good company in being direct in letting folks know when they’re being led astray. And that’s exactly what this is.

          Only within the Pietist context does sincerity trump sound doctrine. I’m not a Pietist. And I also believe that false doctrine leads to disastrous spiritual results. When someone very sincerely and nicely misleads people, especially when their eternal souls are at stake, the key thing is to make it clear that they’re pointing to a very wrong path.

          In any event, since I have my doubts that Mr. Bethke will even be aware of my comments, it is highly unlikely that I’m being “nice” or “mean” to him at all. His big temptation right now is probably more centered in the gushing of his rabid fan-base that is apparent on his Facebook page.

          In any event, I’m not in the Nice Business. I’m in the Truth Business. And sometimes, the Truth stings.

          But better a little sting now than the Big, Bad Heat for all eternity. Don’t you think?

  50. Fantastic response, and I am saying this as an Anglo-Lutheran Evangelical Catholic! I absolutely think that the concept of “sola scriptura” has been abused and caused a phenomenon of millions of little popes deciding doctrine for themselves. In reality, sola scriptura has become nuda scriptura!

  51. Just so you know, I very much enjoyed your post and I think a lot of your points are spot-on. This isn’t meant as a sarcastic comment at all, but when he says “wasted,” he’s not referring to drugs. That means he was getting drunk. Otherwise, fantastic writing and obviously well-thought.

    1. Anyone who doesn’t think getting drunk is doing drugs has never gotten drunk. But I’ve heard get wasted used to refer to drug usage quite frequently, even when I spent a lot of time in a subculture which has a lot of contact with such things (the theatre). Anyway, of course you may well be right.

  52. It’s fine to break it down line by line, and I don’t disagree with what you’ve written, but I feel as if you’re missing the impact of the video by dissecting it in such a way.

    When he talks about “religion” in his opening line, I took it to mean that he rejects “religion” as it has come to mean in our culture, at least the culture of twenties-somethings, of which I am a part. Many of my peers call themselves “spiritual” or “religious” with no understanding of what religion means. Being religious has become a catch-all phrase for those that see themselves as Christian as well as those that just believe in doing good or being good people. I think he’s saying that he rejects religion in this sense, not true religion.

    Also, I love the spirit of the video in that to me, he directly and relatably addresses many issues our culture has with those who claim Christianity. We live in a very culturally Christian country, but much of the “church” is not actually the Church. And we have a bad rap because of it.

    1. For whatever it may be worth, I think you’re reading more into the work than is actually there. Surely his rather fluid use of meter and rhyme could have fit in a distinction between good religion and bad religion somewhere. That said, again, he is making use of a standard Evangelical trope, and that is that “religion” is inherently bad and that what he practices isn’t “religion.”

      As for the spirit of the video, it’s clear (at least to me) that it is the spirit of individualistic, sentimentalist gnosticism. Unfortunately, that approach to Christianity has become so exceptionally common that a lot of folks don’t know that it’s not the real thing.

      But it’s not.

      1. Jesus is GOD’s Grace (charis). This gift was manifested in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (or what you refer to as the Substitutional Atonement Theory). I enjoyed your critique and agree with much of what you believe to be true.

        1. What you describe is not SA. SA is the idea that Jesus had to die instead of us, that God was looking to kill us, but He killed Jesus instead.

          Not all Christians believe that. In fact, some of us actually believe that God doesn’t want to kill us, that He’s not pissed off at us, and that He sent His Son to conquer death and provide us with the opportunity to conquer it with Him.

    2. A lot of people seem to forget that this blog is an Orthodox response to this video. Orthodox means customary or unchanged. When you say the word “religion” in an Orthodox setting it means what it has meant since the word was created not what the new age has changed it to be. The point is that if someone wants to make a statement they should say what they mean otherwise it will mean what they say. If he bashes all religion in a blanket statement then who are we to try to rationalize or pull alternate meanings from his speech. I don’t think he meant anything other than “You don’t have to go to Church to be a Christian” but he’s forgotten that the Church is the house of God and if Jesus was your friend wouldn’t you want to visit him? I heard a great analogy when I was young in Sunday School. If your parent buys you a chocolate bar and asks you for a small piece, wouldn’t you share it with them? If God gives you time to live on this earth, wouldn’t you share some of that with him? Where better to share some time than to visit him in his house.

  53. There are somethings that I disagree with in both the video and your article. I think most likely, Bethke should have said something in the video itself about what he really defines religion as, because the way you and I see it, might be different. The way I see religion, (in the video, not in real life) doesnt refer to the literal definition of religion, but hes using it in the sense that people often times focus so much on the rituals and services that a specific denomination might possess, that they lose sight of what the true meaning of religion is, that we are here to glorify and worship God and spread his glory. That sometimes people keep trying to go through these crazy ways to come and achieve salvation, without realizing that all we have to do is come to God with a pure heart, because that’s what Jesus achieved for us through his mercy on the cross. But because Bethke didn’t really define what he meant by religion in the video exactly, its possible that you could be wrong in saying he really means hypocrisy, or that I might be completely wrong as well. So the way you percieve this might not be how other people really see this.

    And while I really do agree with a lot of what the video says, I think I might be more inclined to really take a look at this article if it wasn’t for the tone. I understand that for some, it seems humorous, and I see it too, but for other, it might be a bit offensive, especially when sometimes you commented on things I believe didn’t need any comments.

    Don’t you see hes so much better than just following some rules?
    I think that here, he’s referring to the fact that sometimes, different denominations of Christianity have different, (I don’t want to express it as an actual ritual) ideas, or specific ways in which one has to worship God, and I believe Bethke here is saying sometimes people get to attached to those specific rules, and that they take primary importance in some peoples lives. For example, I know in my denomination, you’re baptized when you’re a child, but some people choose to be baptized again when they are older because they wish to be baptized when they truly know what it symbolizes. However, some people (not all) in my denomination make a big deal out of that, because they believe that it is wrong, and it goes against what our specific denomination instructs. Now, the way I see it, anyone who takes baptism again is making a personal choice and step in their lives, as a way to get closer to Jesus, and I don’t see a problem with it, which is how for me, what Bethke says here makes sense. Now again, I’m just bringing an example, I dont mean to start comparing denominations of Christianity or anything.

    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.
    I do agree with this, because (personally) I believe that when Jesus died, it was his act of mercy that allowed us to recieve eternal life. This is just my personal belief, and I’m not stating that yours is wrong or anything, I felt that I just wanted to add this. 🙂

    Sure, though the “murdered” and “dangling” language strongly suggest to me that He was somehow helpless. But He wasn’t.
    – I don’t think that either of these words describe that he was helpless. In fact, using a word like ‘murder’ to me, suggests that he is trying to use strong words to push along his meaning. Because (as far as I know from looking it up), the words ‘helplessness’ aren’t associated with any definition with ‘murdered’ and ‘dangling’, and I don’t believe that Bethke is in anyway implying that Jesus was helpless on the cross. So I don’t see the sense of really putting that in there.

    FInally, ( I promise) I just want to make sure its clear that in no way do I believe you are being nit-picky or anything. I see what you’re saying, and it in some ways, makes sense to me, and I’m just trying to make sure this comment is as non-offensive as possible, (which in general, when you disagree with something, is hard to do). And I’m also glad to see that you did make a note of when you did agree with Bethke in the article.


  54. Father,

    I am an Orthodox convert from the Protestant Church (I was originally raised Baptist). There was a time in my life where I would have agreed with this poet 100% and, coincidentally, there was a time in my life where I was more akin to a Taoist or a pure gnostic than a Christian. For myself (I am 26 years old to give context), I feel my generation is one that realizes the hollowness of most Western religions. We see the failures of the generations before us and, whether those failures were individual hypocrisy (as seems to plague the Romans) or the inevitable result of heretical teachings (as seems to plague many Protestant sects), our faith in the belief of our fathers is waning. I am not defending the poet, just stating that his performance is a reflection of this frustration and I would suggest that, while certainly off base, the “looseness” of his terminology is as much due to his being brought up in a world absent of truth as it is a desire to rhyme. Of course, that is me reading into what he said so your mileage may vary.

    That said, your response (and the responses to other commentators) is precisely the answer that needs to be published for this sentiment. Religion and Christ are not at odds by any stretch of the imagination, or, rather, right belief and Christ are not at odds. I will share this page with as many people as will hear it.

  55. Fr. Thank you very much for your thoughts and continued discourse in the comments section. My husband and I are former Evangelical pastor’s who have converted to Orthodoxy. A friend of mine asked about this verse in light of what the video and rebuttal were saying. Honestly, I am a bit unsure how to answer her. What is Paul saying, if not the abolishment of religious practices? Eph. Ch 2. specifically verse 15.

    11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

    Thank you!

    1. Paul’s point is that the Old Covenant has now been replaced by the New Covenant, not that we are now doing away with covenants entirely. The New one, as Christ said, is not an abolition of the Old, but is its fulfillment. So, for instance, baptism now takes the place of circumcision as the entry into Israel (the New Israel).

      Paul is also specifically addressing a theological debate of his time: Do Gentiles have to become Jews before they can become Christians? The answer he and all of the Apostles gave (though it took Peter some time to come around to this) was “no.”

    1. Well, in general response to your question of “What is being done?,” etc., I would say that I’m doing my job as a pastor. No, I don’t post all the details of my job on my weblog, especially since it’s a really rather minor part of what I do.

      As for your other comments about legalism, etc., most are of course just fine. My commentary suffers from the limitation of not being a whole book on the subject, I’m afraid. That I don’t also mount an attack on legalism or whatever else doesn’t make me in favor of such things. It just means I was responding to the text in front of me.

  56. As a Calvinist I would disagree with your theology regarding prevenient/cooperative grace, but that aside you did very well dealing with the video. Religion is too often a strawman set up by people who refuse anything done decently and in order, and doesn’t include a thumping rock concert for a music portion of a service followed by a teary eyed, emotionally fueled altar call at the end.

  57. I normally wouldn’t respond something I didn’t agree with. Especially something I read on Facebook. However, in this instance I just felt compelled to.

    I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that you love the Lord with all of your heart and when you saw something that challenged your theological beliefs you felt the need to pen (type) a reprisal. In my opinion that is a natural human responce. In this instance though, I think you may have been missing the point of what this young man was trying to say.

    Most people nowadays view religion as “man’s” rules governing your relationship with God. Being that man has a sinful nature, this has produced a multitude of organizations that claim what they are doing is the work of God when in truth it is nothing but a platform for hate and greed. The point he was trying to make is that God wants his own personal relationship with you and was encouraging people to pursue that instead of leaning on what in a lot of cases has become a corrupt enterprise. Now, with that being said. Do I think he conveyed that message clearly and in a consise manner? Not particularly. I do however think that his heart was in the right place and perhaps you should judge the intent rather than the delivery. Sometimes you can be so right that you’re wrong.

    1. Once when The Times asked G. K. Chesterton and several other prominent authors to write essays on the subject “What’s Wrong with the World?” Chesterton answered succinctly:

      Dear Sirs,

      I am.

      Sincerely yours,

      G. K. Chesterton

  58. ‎”A person cannot have God as a Father who does not have the Church as a mother.” [St. Cyprian of Carthage] Had he have add this it would make it complete.

  59. I… do feel a bit like I’m overstepping my bounds in addressing a priest and an elder in this manner, but I do feel that I should address something here, although I shall attempt to do so with humility. After reading your article, I have to say I agree and kinda disagree with you Father.

    I agree because your statements about what we as Orthodox Christians believe are wonderfully correct, and to the best of my knowledge, are founded in church tradition and the teachings of the fathers. Glory be to God for these truths.

    Also, before I get to the ‘but’, please allow to preface this with stating I do not agree 100% with the poet in question as he does miss some truths. Okay, now for the “But” section.

    I have thought for sometime about what felt ‘off’ with your article and I finally realized it. Context. Much like reading the bible and the church fathers requires some context for their texts and teachings, this poem too requires context to fully understand. Your upbringing in an evangelical church has you very used to meeting churches with considerably less structure than the Orthodox church. The poet in question is not. Reading about him and his upbringing, and indeed, even contextual hints from the poem itself, will lets us know a bit about what the context for the poem. He is very used to highly structured churches. He is used to the sort of church that uses heavy-handed judgement, a dress code, and where the pastor stand up front and informs you which way you are to vote if you don’t want to burn in hell. He is used to churches where your salvation is obtained via checklist of things you have done. He is used to teachings about what God hates and not about what God loves.

    In other words, he is used to a religion that is all structure and rules.

    Now, he is kinda throwing the baby out with the bathwater in his protest against this. But should we not be looking at that which can be redeemed in this poem to make it Orthodox and not that which we ‘disagree’ with?

    1. Context is, of course, critical.

      But what context does a video on YouTube have? It is little more than an atomic, individuated datum. That said, perhaps he is indeed used to the things you mention. But I am not actually addressing him in particular. (I doubt, with his now millions of views on YouTube, he is even entertaining the idea of having critics.) I am addressing those who are receiving his message, and that message, for better or for worse, is this video.

      Now, one can pick up other clues from his website, Facebook page, etc., but that’s really not the point (at least, not my point). The point is this video and how people are receiving it.

      1. I was born and raised Lutheran and was recently baptized as a member of a Baptist church. I was struggling with trying to understand everything Bethke was saying. He does hit some good points, but also makes some false accusations. I really liked your breakdown of this video and I really couldn’t agree more. This video is sparking a controversy, but I think it’s a good time for us Christians to use this spark to reach people with the true Word of God. Thank you for clearing things up for me.

        Jason – a brother in Christ

    2. I agree, but he has to realize that not everyone will understand his context. If he’s talking about highly structured churches with dress code or whatever, he needs to make that clear. Because, unless the context is given, people will put this poem in THEIR context (which may or may not be what he was talking about).

      I realize a poem may be hard to make such a specific statement, but with something this crucial, I think it’s necessary.

  60. I thank both you and him for providing a great learning experience which clarified theologically the ideas in the introduction of a well-known book I have just begun to read. In “The Celebration of Discipline”, the author warns the reader against falling too far to the right (legalism/hypocrisy) and too far to the left (monergism). “Monergism” was a new term for me. After reading, I thought I understood. After watching his video and your response, I think I now completely understand. If we accept completely that the video poet meant “legalism/hypocrisy/false-religion”, then his response was to reject it completely and go to the extreme: “Religion is man searching for God, but Christianity is God searching for man”. Now I know why the author of “Celebration of Discipline” urges Christians to walk between the two, neither falling towards the legalism-perfectionism of a religion which cuts God out of the picture … nor the monergistic religion which abrogates free will and cuts humans out of the picture. Thank you. Perfect timing.

  61. “Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?”
    I think the following Bible passage is a good response to the above.

    While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
    Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. – Matthew 26:6-10.

    Thank you for posting this!

  62. I appreciate your views of this video. What it communicates to me is “I want to disassociate myself from every group of believers in Jesus, especially the ones that I don’t like and you don’t like. Infact it’s really all about me. I’m not like them, I don’t need them, and I don’t want them. But, oh yeah, I want Jesus and you should too.” Good luck learning how to live in relationship to anyone other than yourself…much less live out the great commission.

  63. I am not Orthodox (I am LDS, by the way), but I greatly enjoyed your response to this video and agree with you on so many points. I too wonder how so many Christians who hate organized religion miss the fact that in the scriptures, Jesus plainly organized a Church. He called and ordained Twelve Apostles, conferring upon them priesthood authority and office. He instituted sacred rituals and commanded us to continue these in remembrance of Him. The Apostles and those they ordained continued to administer the Church as a structured organization, according to the pattern of the priesthood. I cannot see any way to avoid the conclusion that Jesus indeed established a true religion.

    Thanks again for your insight.

  64. Batiushka,

    Thank you so much! This is a video that’s made me want to hit my head against the wall with all of my friends at school showing this to each other and taking this confused man’s words as the words of Christ Himself!

    Thank you soooooo very much!

  65. I will take Jefferson Bethke’s approach over this one anyday. This one is argumentative, snarky and actually sort of bitchy. Pointing out a typo? Really? Organized religion in general HAS become more about itself — so political, focusing on the absence of God rather than His presence. I do get more of a sense that God is working THROUGH Jefferson Bethke than “Father” Andrew. Tear his testimony down point-by-point all you want. Faith is an individual thing. My guess is he will draw more young people toward Jesus than “Father” Andrew ever will.

    1. I haven’t been letting the dozens of comments like this one through (mainly because of their sort of general smug banality), but there’s something I like about this one.

      I think it’s got to be the air quotes.

      1. The air quotes are special.

        This former Evangelical and now Orthodox Christian thanks you Father Andrew for your approach. Listening to your Orthodoxy and heterodoxy podcast helped me in part to make the decision to be Chrismated in the Orthodox Church this past summer. I too was disgusted with what I thought “religion” was as an evangelical….I am so grateful to have found Orthodoxy.

  66. You are amazing! I thank God for you! This needs to be read so people realize that he is attacking hypocrisy and not religion. Thank you so much. God bless you!

  67. This is a beautiful creative poem of expression. One that is not right on everything, but some should hit hard to the heart of a Christian.

    I agree that he is too harsh on church in general, but it isn’t that far from some saints criticism such as St. Basil or St. Maria of Paris. Perhaps judgement should begin first in the house of God as Anthony Bloom would say. Maybe we are not doing enough. Would Jesus be recognized or accepted in most Orthodox churches, I hope yes but feel no…..

  68. http://www.catholicvote.org/discuss/index.php?p=24948
    He Hates Religion But Loves Jesus. Good Luck With That … | CatholicVote.org

    The Importance of Words
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  69. It’s painful to see someone defend American’s 2.5% giving rate just because it’s higher than everyone else. We’re the richest nation in world history! First off, if it wasn’t for other factors, such as the fact that most other wealthy nations have higher tax rates and have much better social security nets and give much more foreign aid through government, then we probably wouldn’t be first in private giving. Second of all, a large proportion of that private giving is for our own benefit (building our church buildings, paying our church staff, putting up concert halls, naming fancy college buildings, etc.) and isn’t for the 95% of the world that’s poorer than us. And finally, what God asks for us is so much more than that tiny 2.5% of our ridiculously high incomes. If you asked Jesus if your giving was in line with what he was asking for you, I don’t think he would say anything like “well, it’s better than everyone else!”

    1. Of course not. But I wasn’t making the statement that our giving was enough. I was criticizing the claim that “religion” builds big churches but doesn’t feed the poor. Religious people are in the forefront of most of the world’s charitable efforts. Should they be doing more? Of course. But are they doing nothing? Not hardly.

      1. How many billions does you suppose the Vatican has? They have their own fund manager, own city, etc.And for what……

  70. Thank you so very much! I found your rebuke quite refreshing and timely. I am exhausted with
    with the assault against churches and pastors that love the fathers of our faith, the doctrine they taught and the theology of The Church!
    If one desires to produce statements, songs or poems that confront Christiandom one should have the willingness to be confronted. Thank you for doing it in a thorough manner. 🙂

    1. I really appreciate this and have wondered why so many people keep postiing this on facebook. I posted the link to this article. May the Lord bless -you and your ministry!

  71. Touche, Fr. Andrew. Let the young hold their tongue.

    And let everyone read the history of their own religion!

    (Especially aspiring evangelical rhymsters.)

  72. Indeed very interesting post and comments. Thank you for sharing it, Fr. Andrew. It must have taken a lot of effort to write and respond to many of the comments. How could there be presence of true faith in a person’s heart when there is hatred towards other human beings?
    Most religious people tell us foolish things about God by neglecting truths of the heart. The most important thing is that God loves us, for he is the very essence of love. Living without love is biggest pain of all! Every heart needs love. The heart lives to burn with love; without that flame the heart sickens. Every major religion has people who understand it’s teaching, and people who imagine themselves wise, and who are wise. Freedom granted is Freedom Gained, in the ever balancing of increasing potentialities.
    May Allah bless you and your efforts.

  73. I’m not a member of any specific Christian Church, nor do I have any plans on joining one. I’m 22 years old, I don’t pray nearly enough, and I commit sin everyday, I say this because I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I am better or that I am a good Christian. It sucks to say it but why should I lie to you guys when the only opinion that matters (God), knows that in me saying so would be a lie.

    Firstly, Bethke is a MAN not a KID, because if you can vote and go to war then your a freaking man, stop calling Bethke a kid, I’m sure he wouldn’t want to be called a kid. Bethke hates religions? use some logic, the guy is preaching his ideas or his “religion” through youtube, he’s basically saying, “I hate religion, but come and join me in saying so” (sounds like a “religion” to me) Also, Bethke is totally a professional, did you see the quality of production of that video? I mean he could win an award for cinematography for that thing. If he was just some “kid” pouring his heart out, he would have done it in his room on an iPhone. As someone who doesn’t really claim a specific christian religion and tries their best to read the gospel and work on a personal relationship with God, I’m quite offended with his video, How can you hate religion when you are promoting your own? Call me all the names you want but I kind of think this guy just wants some attention. trying to make Jesus famous? correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the Bible is the number 1 selling book in the world, and unless my bible is different from everyone else, Jesus is mentioned in it from time to time.

    Fr. Andrew has every right to call the guy out on his slip up’s and doctrinal flaws, he is an ordained minister, and knows what he is talking about, I’m not an Orthodox Christian but I would take Fr. Andrew’s word on theology over Bethke’s any day of the week. You wouldn’t take your car to the bank to get fixed, no you would take it to a mechanic, who has a bit more knowledge on the subject.

    The whole purpose of me posting was to tell the people jumping the Fr. to just relax and respect the man’s opinion, and before you go and point your finger at me, and call me all sorts of things, take a second to see how clean YOUR finger really is.

  74. Mark 4:12 “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”

    You missed the heart of what Jefferson Bethke is making. The difference between religion based on legalism and grace. Rituals and relationship.

    Yes Jesus didn’t come to abolish the laws. He came to fulfill it. The law was NEVER God’s plan in the first place, or else Jesus wouldn’t have had so many problems trying to undo their thinking when he came. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, there was no law. There was no ten commandments. When they complained, God opened up the sea. When they complained, he made the bitter water sweet. When they complained, God sent manna from heaven. When they complained there was no water, God brought water from the rock. Every step of the way, they were sinning (complaining is a sin). They complained complained, complained, God opened, he blessed. God was never dealing with their obedience, or their faithfulness, he was doing something called GRACE for them…based on His goodness and His faithfulness. Had they not said in their pride “All you command of us, we can do”. They didn’t even seen the “contract”, they presumed on their ability. Man presumed on his strength and his ability. God was saying “if you want to me to assess you, to judge you, or bless you based on your obedience and you faithfulness, here is the ten. The moment they fell from grace, what happened? 3000 people died at the foot of Mount Sinai, Right after that, what was there…a golden calf? Why is it they had no desire to worship a golden calf until they fell from grace and into the law? Because when you fall from grace, sin becomes attractive. When you’re in grace, holiness is attractive. I’m not saying here that law should be done away with, no, it is still meant to be respected…but it should be seen only in the light it was meant to be seen. That no one can match up to God’s law and keep all his commandments coz we’re not perfect and we need His Grace. It is not about what we can do or should do, but what has already been done.
    Matt 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    This whole argument from both sides really really boils down to one’s definition of religion. Most people do not see religion as the dictionary definition. People hear “religion” and think of rules, rituals, dogma, pastors, priests, institutions. That is how Bethke (and many of us)see religion – as a man made attempt to earn God’s favour. Religion equals self-righteousness, moral preening, and hypocrisy. Religion is all law and no gospel. If that’s religion, then Jesus is certainly against it.

    Christianity is not a religion! It is a lifestyle based on a belief, quite unlike a religion which is a SOCIAL institution that binds you to follow a belief system or be outcast and ridiculed.

    P.s You use Mother Theresa as an example and of course fail to mention that Mother Theresa was excommunicated by the Church because she was doing what Jesus did, rather than what the institution was deeming right and wrong.

    P.P.s Do you only post up comments that go in line with your theology and interpretation? I ain’t going to argue, but I do wish to see what your thoughts on legalism and grace is. Please add definitions since I’m assuming our definitions defer.

    You can email me back at email hidden; JavaScript is required


    1. I think if you read the other comments here, you’ll find many with which I do not agree. Because I’m getting hundreds of them, though, I’m only publishing those that I feel add something useful or particularly aren’t just rehashing the same old rants or attempts to get me to convert to Evangelical theology.

      In any event, as for legalism and grace, those are categories that don’t really exist as such in Orthodox theology. Yes, of course there is grace, and that is the actual presence, the divine energies of God. But we don’t hold that in opposition to “legalism,” which of course is a ridiculous idea I have never met a single Christian actually believing in. Who out there actually believes that going through the motions saves anyone?

      Anyway, Christ most assuredly did not come to save us from the Law – He’s the Law-giver! But of course this is essentially just another variation of the Western Christian idea that Jesus is here to save us from His Father, Who’s mad and out to get us. As noted elsewhere in the comments, we Orthodox don’t believe that stuff. Christ came to save us from sin and death, not from Himself and not from the Law, which was just a teacher, a foreshadowing to point us to the possibility of becoming partakers of the divine nature.

      1. Thanks Andrews for commenting back. I don’t see how my earlier post was rehashing the same old rants or attempting to convert you to Evangelical theology. I tried to keep it to a very philosophical discussion and I apologize if it came across that way.

        I found your comments confusing (I have never heard of anyone not hold legalism and grace in opposition to each other) and I know it’s simply because I don’t come understand what forms the basis of your theology/worldview.

        This is as much as I know about Orthodoxy – correct me if I’m wrong.

        – Developed from the church of Byzantine Empire.
        – Orthodox claims a direct line of succession back to the original apostles.
        – The break came about in 1054, when church leaders in the eastern empire vigorously resisted Rome’s papal claim to supremacy –> forming the Eastern Orthodox Church (Also known as the Greek Orthodox Church)
        – A notable feature of Eastern Orthodox worship is the veneration of icons.
        – Belief that images of Jesus and the saints are manifestations of the heavenly ideal and a window between the earthly and celestial worlds.
        – The icons of the heaving beings, manifest themselves to the worshiping congregation and unite with it.
        – They stem from the view that Christ is the incarnate God, who came to earth to restore the icon of God in man (created in the image of God).
        – Salvation, therefore, consists of the restoration of the full image.
        – Major themes of Orthodoxy – rebirth, recreation and the transfiguration of man.
        – The church is not a formalized institution; it is the mystical body of Christ constantly renewed by the life of the Holy Spirit flowing through it. It is within this community of love that man is restored to the likeness of God.
        – The religious authority of the Orthodox Church is in the Scriptures as interpreted by the seven ecumenical councils of the church.

        (I only know the overall viewpoint of Orthodox but not the in-depth theology that you hold. I see below that you are not Coptic orthodox – what are you? Could you recommend a book – not your book please, I would rather a neutral party. 😀

        Orthodoxy is something that I have been curious to I read – not to convert, but to understand/educate myself. My hunger is not just for scripture, but also church history and how and where the splits happen and why.

        And it has been mentioned several times here……just because Christians don’t actually consciously believe that going through the motions saves anyone, doesn’t mean they don’t believe it subconsciously. Catholics say they are justified by faith, that Christ died for them so they could have eternal life, but when you ask them where they will go to heaven when they die, they can’t confidentially say heaven. Their practice becomes almost like an ATM account. Good deeds = money in the bank. Bad deed = money out of the bank. When I die, I hope there is a surplus in my bank account. There is a sense of justification always having to be recharged – which indirectly says that sin is greater than God. If sin can tear someone away from the Father’s hand after they have been justified to stand in front of him (which is why Jesus came to die in the first place) then they are indirectly saying that Sin is greater. Good works are supposed to be manifested, not fabricated (Luke 6:45)

        Paul talks about law and grace as well in Galatians. Remember the Judaizers in Galatians who wanted to lead Christians out of the liberty of grace into the bondage of the law. Paul also said that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1).

        You say that Christ most assuredly did not come to save us from the law because he’s the law giver. He came to save us from sin and death, not from Himself and not from Law, which was just a teacher, a foreshadowing to point us to the possibility of become partakers of the divine nature.

        May I question that what does Galatians 2:21 (I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”) and Galatians 3:13 (Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”)

        Lastly, my husband and my latest discovery: Peter, James and John. Peter James and John. Why does the Bible always refer to the inner group of apostles in this order?
        Peter (The Stone – Law), James (Supplanter), John (means Grace) = The Law has been supplanted by Grace. WOW!

        Have you also noticed which group of people never received any miracles – The Pharisee and the Scribes? When people came to Jesus with the law, he gave them the law back 10 times harder. The sinners who came and said, Lord I can’t do it with you, help me…Jesus blessed and healed them.

        I write all this not too argue or to anger, but to seek understanding. I believe that all denominations (Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism) all have areas that perceive the Gospel better. I don’t know much about Orthodoxy, but what I do love about Catholicism (yes I like certain things too) is they have maintain that reverendness of God. The Catholics (not the teachings, the people) have great fellowship, something that I think Protestant churches miss – the tangible bond that binds us to each other.

        From all your writings and comments back has a sense of cockiness and self-righteous tone to it. You have a very “I need to proof myself” attitude. I could be wrong, but I suspect it traces back to your family – coming from an Evangelic background. They probably didn’t approve of you move to Orthodoxy side. My point here is not to put you down, but to put forth this scripture for your consideration.

        “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5)
        “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 18:4
        The danger of studying so deeply in the bible is the development of a sense of “I know it all, I’m smarter than you” attitude. I’m in 1st year Bible College and I am already starting to feel it. The scripture above is something I have been muttering to keep reminding myself that I don’t know it all. Our finite minds cannot possibly comprehend a Being who has no beginning or end, is all-powerful, all-knowing and is everywhere at the same time. And if I truly believe that we are ALL created in the image of God, then we all have something learn from each other.

        I have said all I have say. Just waiting for you to recommend me a good book now. 😀 And again, not seeking to convert, just sharing…


        P.s. Is there a way to change the formatting of comments on wordpress, it’s getting harder to read subsequent messages of each thread.

        1. I can’t give technical advice on how to make WordPress work best for you in your web browser. Sorry.

          As for introductory material regarding Orthodoxy, I of course will point you here, but the standard, oft-recommended texts are The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware and The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware (same author). Those are useful starting points. I also often recommend Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray as well as the text Father Arseny, which is about the life of a holy Russian priest in the Soviet gulags. Some folks are big on Meletios Webber’s Bread and Water, Wine and Oil, too.

          My (current) book is not an introduction to Orthodoxy. I am working on one for unchurched/ex-churched people, however, probably due out sometime next year.

        1. No, I just hadn’t gotten to responding to it yet.

          It may surprise some folks to learn this, but answering hundreds of comments on my weblog is not actually my regular job. And you may also have heard that clergy tend to work on the weekend.

      2. BTW, Celine, just for reference, there are a lot of errors in your description of Orthodoxy. So be sure to check out those standard references I suggested. Another good introductory book, especially for Evangelicals, is Becoming Orthodox, by Peter Gillquist (who was formerly a Campus Crusade for Christ leader).

    2. Hello Celine,
      Along with the books that Father Andrew recommended, I would like to bring one more to your attention: “Facing East,” by Frederica Mathewes-Green.


      It is the story of one woman’s journey into Christianity, then into Orthodoxy. Her husband was an Episcopal priest who decided to leave the Episcopalians and become Orthodox. The book is the story of her growing awareness of Orthodoxy, balanced with writings from an average year in the church. I recommend it highly.

      God bless.

      1. Thanks Pilgram. Thanks Andrews…
        Apologize, I’m not for the states, am in Asia.
        I keep forgetting you’re a day behind…..

  75. You might want to look again for that word “religion”, because it does NOT mean re connect or anything remotely similar to that.
    religion c.1200, “state of life bound by monastic vows,” also “conduct indicating a belief in a divine power,” from Anglo-Fr. religiun (11c.), from O.Fr. religion “religious community,” from L. religionem (nom. religio) “respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods,” in L.L. “monastic life” (5c.); according to Cicero, derived from relegere “go through again, read again,” from re- “again” + legere “read” (see lecture). However, popular etymology among the later ancients (and many modern writers) connects it with religare “to bind fast” (see rely), via notion of “place an obligation on,” or “bond between humans and gods.” Another possible origin is religiens “careful,” opposite of negligens. Meaning “particular system of faith” is recorded from c.1300.

    Modern sense of “recognition of, obedience to, and worship of a higher, unseen power” is from 1530s.

    1. The “ligio,” as your quoted section points out, does indeed mean “connect,” though it uses “bind fast.” This is the root of other English words, such as “ligament” and “ligature,” which are also about connections of various sorts.

      In any event, I wasn’t saying that “reconnection” was the dictionary definition of “religion,” but I was rather using its etymological parts in Latin to draw out something deeper about what religion actually is.

  76. This is a great post. Your response is what most Pastors should be doing in the church today. Too many people are learning their theology from pop culture instead of reading the word and doing their own study.

  77. To slander (or , to Blaspheme) the Holy Spirit is to attribute to a bad spirit a work that is manifestly good.Those who systematically attribute bad intentions to good work done by others, and by the Church, sin against the Holy Spirit, the one who recognizes the truth but not God is better off than the one who says he believes in God but does not recognize the truth. We should be shouting from the roof tops about His body the Church, we are all part of it, and the Gifts and Treasures, the graces and love in which God gives to us all throught his Holy Church. So its time we all stood up for His body and tell the world. This is Peter and on this rock I build my Church and the gates of the netherworld will never overcome it.

  78. Thank you, Father! As a teenager in a high school, with only one other Orthodox Christian, one can only infer that this video has spread like a wildfire through the evangelical Protestants of my school. During my first time to watch it, I wanted to scream. So many parts of it confused me, and didn’t add up. I am so glad I stumbled upon this piece-by-piece analysis. Thanks again!

  79. Jefferson Bethke has made a statement on his Facebook page…

    Jefferson Bethke “If you are using my video to bash “the church” be careful. I was in no way intending to do that. My heart came from trying to highlight and expose legalism and hypocrisy. The Church is Jesus’ bride so be careful how you speak of His wife. If a normal dude has right to get pissed when you bash His wife, it makes me tremble to think how great the weight is when we do it to Jesus’ wife. The church is His vehicle to reach a lost word. A hospital for sinners. Saying you love Jesus but hate the Church, is like a fianc� saying he loves his future bride, but hates her kids. We are all under grace. Look to Him.”

    1. This was posted elsewhere here already. In any event, as I said, this is a start, but it also reveals that he’s aware there is a contradictory tension within his message.

  80. I could be wrong, but I do not believe most people who view the video are relying on it for their basis of theology or are even carefully examining its content. Even though every Christian practices some sort of religion, whether they will admit it or not, the trend of many denominations/non-denominations (which is actually a chaotic denomination) is a belief that religion hinders your relationship with Christ. This belief is common and not anything profound from the poet. Those that hold this same belief give kudos to those who can articulate their same position. Most of these relationship vs. religion people on the relationship side are somewhat rooted in the doctrine of their childhood. It is sad that bad experiences with some religious people have caused these people to now be anti-religious. The whole statement that I am not religious followed by an explanation of a set of beliefs that the claimant has is a little ridiculous. Thank you for reviewing this video and giving your critique. I was deceived by “anti-religion” for years and as a result, my relationship with Christ suffered greatly.

  81. I have to say when I first saw this video, I didn’t understand why I was the only person not liking it or sharing it. You eloquently explained why I was feeling this way. Thank you!

  82. Way to go – when the vid started to go around I ignored it. I didn’t want to do the work you did so I thank you!

  83. I saw this video and thought to myself– another “hip” reasoning for dividing the people of the Church- and who divides? Not God, friends. I will never tire of defending my love of church, but I would also never impose my love of church on anyone. Thank you, Father, for such an eloquent and fact filled piece.

  84. While I do agree with a few of your points, many of them frustrate me. You are, in several places, deliberately misinterpreting the points he is making in the video. Specifically, your comment on the line about whether or not your church would let Jesus in. Yes, during a service believers do spiritually let Jesus in to hearts and minds, and – depending on your denominational beliefs – Jesus may or may not be present in the Eucharist, but that’s not what he’s talking about. He’s talking about if Jesus, in the flesh, walked up to the door of your church. Even more so, if he had the same reputation that he did in his time on Earth – that of a counter-cultural revolutionary, a troublemaker, who was essentially kicked out of his own home town for what he preached.

    Also, you seem to be taking far too literally what I can easily excuse as poetic license. Particularly where you criticize him for using the words “yelled” and “dangling.” Sometimes, a poet has to use the word that fits the beat and the rhyme. It’s called poetic license.

    Also, you respond to his accusations that religion builds big churches but doesn’t feed the poor by citing the good the church has done in America. I don’t deny this, but I also would like to point out that churches are still spending millions of dollars on big, elaborate new buildings, while there are still homeless starving on the streets. I think he’s pointing out that a lot of that money could be spent in better ways.

    My biggest issue is sort of on both sides. It’s the use of the word “religion.” I understand how he is using it. He’s intending to mean the current state of the church, in which many congregations have become stagnant and judgmental. And I mean *many*. So many youth in America have been driven away from the church by this stagnation, and also by the misguided change some churches are attempting in order to become more “relevant.” Your snide references to the original Latin of the word have no bearing on what he’s describing, any more than modern religion has any resemblance to what religion was when the word was coined. Yes, maybe what he really meant was hypocrisy, but in many churches religion has *become* hypocrisy.

    Also your references to the Greek from which we derive the word “grace.” As a student of linguistics myself, I take issue with your assertion that “grace” can only mean “gift.” “Grace” is often used as a gloss for the Hebrew “hesed,” which has no good English equivalent. “Hesed” most closely means that unconditional loving kindness God shows for his beloved people. With that definition, I can easily call Christ taking the punishment for our sins grace.

    This ended up much longer than I expected, but I had to respond. Again, I respect much of what you’ve said, but I had to work very hard to not take offense at the rather snide way you presented it. This video is a young Christian trying to make sense of a church and a religion that is heavily flawed. Criticism is understandable. Mocking is not.

    1. He’s talking about if Jesus, in the flesh, walked up to the door of your church.

      Yes, I got that, but there is also no doubt in my mind that he did not actually mean that literally (since there’s no indication that he actually expects Jesus to be doing such a thing), so I took his metaphor and exposed it for the silliness that it is. It’s a strawman argument designed essentially along the lines of “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” Of course he is saying that his listeners’ churches wouldn’t let Jesus in. But with that sort of accusation and deliberate metaphorical intention, why should I take him literally?

      Also, you seem to be taking far too literally what I can easily excuse as poetic license…. Sometimes, a poet has to use the word that fits the beat and the rhyme. It’s called poetic license.

      As someone whose undergraduate training was precisely in analyzing poetry, I find it rather a sad statement on our times that here you are making the argument that a poet doesn’t actually have to choose his words carefully, and that that is what defines “poetic license.” Poetic diction is precisely the stock of the poets’ trade. If he doesn’t mean to use the words he used, he should use other ones. Being a poet is not an excuse for making bad poetry. Indeed, the poet is held to the very highest literary standards, higher than any other sort of writer, in his choices in metaphor, connotation, etc.

      As a student of linguistics myself, I take issue with your assertion that “grace” can only mean “gift.”

      As a careful writer myself, I very deliberately did not use the word only, so the issue you take is to an assertion I did not make.

      But it is worth noting that the Hebrew hesed is not translated into the Greek of the New Testament as charis (“grace/gift”), but as eleos (“mercy”) or sometimes agapi (“unconditional love”).

      None of that is the point I was making, however. He was deliberately mapping the substitutionary atonement (SA) theory of soteriology onto the much broader theological term grace. That’s just nonsense, both from a purely lexicographical sense and even from the point of view of those who accept the SA theory. They might say that SA is a result of God’s grace (which they would most likely define as “unmerited favor”), but it isn’t what grace actually is. This is just sloppy language and sloppier theology.

      This video is a young Christian trying to make sense of a church and a religion that is heavily flawed.

      “Making sense” is something you do in your bedroom at night looking at the stars. What he did was a very highly produced, slickly edited, carefully crafted video designed to preach his particular message. He wasn’t making sense. (And I mean that in both senses.) He was making a statement.

      Criticism is understandable. Mocking is not.

      I wasn’t mocking him, but of course I will admit to some sarcasm. Alas, though, I must admit to being a graduate of the Prophet Elijah School of Ecumenical Studies. Perhaps I should have used some nicer language, such as something herpetological or something from the morticians’ trade.

      In short, though, there is a long and quite venerable tradition in Christian theology of calling spades spades and even in showing silliness to be silliness.

  85. I read your critique( a friend emailed me the link), and without even getting to the bottom of it, I knew you had to have a position in the Catholic Church. Whom I believe most of the text about ‘religion” in the video is directed at.

    Being a former Lutheran, and having a wife who is a former Catholic, I have a hard time finding much to disagree with in the video. I do believe that he may have painted with a wide brush(religion is a pretty broad term), but this below is a pretty good description of my wife’s life in the Catholic church until a few years ago when she left and was born again.

    Cant 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,
    Its funny that’s what they do to mummies, while the corpse rots underneath

    May I pray? Thank you Jesus for shining your light in my face so bright that I could not help but see it, and filling my heart with your Holy Spirit. I pray for the people in other religions that are relying on there infant baptism for there salvation. Please show them your truth.

    In Jesus name I ask this. AMEN.

    1. I read your critique( a friend emailed me the link), and without even getting to the bottom of it, I knew you had to have a position in the Catholic Church.

      Well, if you’re referring to the Roman Catholic Church, the one centered in the Vatican in Rome and headed up by Pope Benedict XVI, I’m afraid you’re dead wrong. I am not a Roman Catholic and never have been one.

      I invite you to read my full post (and just about anywhere else on my site), which explicitly indicates that I am a presbyter of the Orthodox Church and even includes introductory links explaining what that means.

      As for the rest, well, I appreciate your prayers, but the spirit of “I’m praying AGAINST YOU” is a little much, really.

      1. I saw the Orthodox and assumed it was Catholic by that standard. I apologize for offending you. I am not up to speed on all the different Orthodox religions. There seems to be many…… after Googling it.

        As far as my prayer goes, I was praying FOR all unsaved that are being deceived by their “religions”. Its what was in my heart.

        I will follow up with one more prayer, if you don’t mind.

        Dear God, I pray for Fr Andrew. He is a leader in his church, and I pray for you to use him in the way that glorifies YOU. I also pray for the young man in the video. He is a new Christian , and he needs guidance from other believers in your son Jesus Christ, not bitterness and sarcasm. God please I ask this in Jesus name. AMEN.

        My prayer was not directed at any one individual. Its for anyone reading. God Bless.

        1. Sir, conflating Orthodoxy and Catholicism is a pretty big error. Be sure to know what exactly you’re aiming at before firing your weapon. Googling will not help much, I’m afraid, unless you land in the right place.

          And, really, while I must assume that these prayers you are composing and posting are from the heart, they really read more like sermons than prayers. As a preacher myself, I’m rather keen on the difference.

          1. As I already stated and apologized for, when I saw “Orthodox” I assumed Catholic. I Googled to see the different types and there are many that use Orthodox in their name. Again…..I apologize if I offended you. I’m no expert in “religion” types.

            On the other hand, your criticizing my prayers? May I ask why? Jesus knows whats in my heart and what my motives are or aren’t ,just as in what is in yours. I do and did pray for that kid and you. Frankly I’m surprised that their isn’t more prayers for him on this forum, instead of critiquing sentence structure, and where a comma is or isn’t.

          2. When what is in your heart gets posted into a comment and reads suspiciously like you’re not particularly speaking to God but to me, well, it’s not really a question of criticism but merely of pointing such things out.

            And of course not everyone is an “expert” in religious groups. But is it wise for such a non-expert to declare that a writer is “obviously” the member of a particular religion when it is abundantly clear that he is not?

          3. Andrew………why do you not post the additional comments I sent?

            You own the site. I get that. You have my email address…..email me if you would rather.

        2. There is only one Orthodox Church…I am not sure what you “googled”. Also, in reply to one of your other posts…who exactly relies on infant Baptism for salvation?

      1. Heck, I don’t even belong to the Coptic church, either! 🙂

        Oh, what errors could be avoided if people would take just a few seconds to read.

  86. First, I want to thank you for replying to my comment. I really appreciate you taking the time to do so.

    I do see your point on the poetic license issue. He probably should have chosen better words – or not, if that was the message he was aiming for. But again, to me, his message comes across clearly to me, and is somehow different than yours. Really, this video comes across rather raw to me, emotionally speaking. It’s a struggle I can identify with, and I know I’m not the only one.

    I’m still a bit confused as to what you’re insisting is the dichotomy between substitutionary atonement and grace. I see SA as part of grace, although admittedly not the entirety thereof, but I don’t have an issue with what I see as him attributing Christ’s sacrifice as part of grace.

    The relationship between hesed and grace I referred to is not within the New Testament, but in certain English glosses of the Old Testament – including some of the more respected choices.

    There are certainly Biblical examples of sarcasm and scathing critiques, not the least being Christ himself. I guess I’m a bit sensitive to that – I like my discussions and debates polite to the point of being bland, but that really is just me.

  87. “And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.”
    Matthew 23:9

    1. No doubt this is meant as a devastating blow to clergy who are called “father,” as though perhaps we have blacked out this verse from the Bible and just skip straight from Matthew 23:8 to 23:10.

      But let’s talk about this, anyway. No doubt you believe this refers to such clergy because this is what this literally says: “Do not call anyone on earth ‘father.'” Since it says that, I hope you carefully avoid calling your own male progenitor “father.” “Dad” may be okay, but the etymological closeness of “papa” to various foreign words for “father” will likely land you in hot water.

      Oh, maybe you mean that Jesus intends this only for religious leaders. In that case, Paul seems not to have gotten the message when he refers himself to the Corinthians as their father or when he refers to “our father Abraham” (also: here and here, etc.) or when he refers to his teachers and forebears in Judaism or when he talks about his relationship with the Thessalonians or when he tells Timothy how to treat elders in church.

      One could go on, but surely you see the point. Jesus also goes on to forbid calling people “teacher,” which I suppose could open up some cans of worms for the NEA. But let us not bother with that.

      Perhaps you may be willing to consider that an absolutist, literalist reading of that passage actually yields nonsense and contradiction, even within the New Testament itself, and so therefore the Lord might have been intending to convey something just a touch more subtle about the source of fatherhood and true teaching and authority.

      A rather thorough treatment of this question is to be found here.

  88. one thing you both (author of this blog&the guy speaking in the video) left out. the power of the resurrection of Christ. there is no salvation if there is no resurrection.

    and another thing. (to the author of this blog) i find your narrow-mindedness quite intriguing, but i definitely did learn more of what religion means, in its original meaning.

    1. There are of course many things “left out.” In my case, at least, doing so is in no sense intended to be construed as a denial of them. One can only write so many Summas, you know.

  89. Thank you Fr. Andrew (nice name by the way) for this. Many of my friends on facebook have been posting this video, and I was not sure how to respond to it.

  90. When we were in Philly this past Thanksgiving, there was a group of young men huddled about holding flyers. To me, they all looked like ‘Antiochian’ Orthodox. I thought – cool! Since all of my boys are here, maybe they can help in some way…..They were dressed very stylishly, groomed well, and looked as though they were praying. When we got closer, the cool looking flyers were for the ‘evangelical’ mission of promoting ISLAM. Islam is now using Evangelical Christian marketing techniques. TEST EVERY SPIRIT!!! …. especially this one in this video!!

    1. He’s great! But of course he is responding much more subtly and robustly than Mr. Bethke, and what he is criticizing is related, but not really the same thing. And of course Romanides doesn’t try to isolate Jesus out from “religion.” What Romanides argues for is true ecclesiality, but Bethke’s theology is essentially anti-ecclesial (despite his apparent fondness for “the church,” which likely has no actual communal, sacramental reality for him).

  91. 72% of the millenial generation describes themselves as “spiritual but not religious” More than blog posts and critiques of this video, this trend needs to be responded to both aggressively AND compassionately among all Christians. My take on this – this video doesn’t need to be refuted, these kids needs to be engaged. I would love to have a beer with Jeff and have a real dialogue: http://pursuedbytruth.blogspot.com/2012/01/why-i-hate-religion-but-love-jesus-beer.html

    1. Refutation actually is a form of engagement. Note that we’re not engaging in condemnation or dismissal. We’re taking these ideas seriously and giving serious answers.

      And we’re also responding to, well, hundreds of comments.

      1. “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you”

        Fr Andrew’s quote

        “Well, the irony here is that you later write “Religion makes you blind.” Where’s your vision coming from? You question the authority of the “you” who “call[s] some people blind,” but you haven’t established your own. You yourself call some people blind later on (“Religion” makes you that way,
        it seems), but from what source comes your vision?

        His “source” or “vision” is obviously Jesus Christ. Why does he need an established religion to have faith in Jesus Christ?

        1. A whole lot of people claim that their authority comes directly from Jesus Christ, unconnected in any way with the actual community He established.

          Why should we believe any of them? Because they promise that they really mean it?

  92. I think what this video represents is an Emerging or evangelical strand that detests structure, liturgy, etc. – – I.e., anti-Catholic and, though probably not consciously, anti-Orthodox. The thing about that is this: without structure, religious sentiment cannot endure with any internal integrity. As a church becomes less doctrinally minded, it loses its substance and becomes increasingly indistinguishable from the surrounding culture. Often it becomes a proxy for a political philosophy. The guy who did this wants to feel close to “Jesus”, do nothing but what he himself wants to do, and look with contempt on those who follow a Way to Him. That is a fairly accurate sketch of “spiritual” postmodern America, which is why this video has had such popularity: it tells lazy, ill informed, self righteous people exactly what they want to hear. That good news is that loving “Jesus” but hating religion has no legs. Religion is the means by which we hold the same thought over time. This stuff doesn’t last longer than any other fad.

    1. Do we need an established religion with there own written rules behind us to have honest faith in Jesus Christ as our personal savior? Yes or no?

      What would one think about a leader in a church that writes a book saying “here is the difference between my religion and other religions” and in the preface gives many personal thanks and gratitude to all that helped write that book. Thanks to everyone except his Lord and Savior.

      As a relatively new believer in Jesus Christ, if some one asks me what I think about my faith its simple. Jesus Saves……period. Its not thru our works, efforts or “religion”. Its thru his sacrifice on the cross that we are all can be saved. Praise God for that.

      1. Do we have to accept your false dichotomies and pre-defined theological categories? Yes or no?

        As for why I didn’t thank God in the preface to the book, let us just say that I don’t want anyone blaming Him for it. I make no claims for divine revelation, and I honestly can’t stand it when people speak as though God directly told them to produce whatever it is they have produced. It is possible, of course, but I very much doubt it.

        But, yes, yes, since you have decided upon ad hominem, to Me Alone Be the Glory. (And be sure to buy a book.)

      2. FrAndrew, Do you always answer a question with a question?

        Since you seem to not want to give an answer to my simple question “Do we need an established religion with there own written rules behind you to have honest faith in Jesus Christ as our personal savior?” ……I’ll take the non-answer from you, as you don’t know.

        Are you saying that the only divine revelation that is “real”, is one you approve of? Do your prayers ever get answered?

        Also, I assumed you were being honest. I mean that. There is really no need to tell us that you are.

        1. The point of my response is that I reject the assumptions behind the framing of your question. The classic form of this, of course, is “Have you stopped beating your wife yet? Yes or no?” (I’ll take the non-answer from you as meaning that you don’t know.)

          Look, there really is no point in trying to bait me, so don’t bother.

          As for divine revelation, I will be explicit and say this: As has been held, taught, and preserved for 2000 years, from the time of the Apostles until now, I believe that there is only one Church and that that Church is the Orthodox Church. All other Christian bodies represent schisms (and usually, schisms of schisms) from that one Church, usually because of heresy. There is only a single Christian faith that has been revealed, and that is the Orthodox faith. Anything else is either incomplete or false.

          I do not believe in the current denominationalist agnosticism, which essentially teaches that no one can really know the whole truth, because it is contrary to Scripture, to the very words of Christ, Who promised that the Apostles would receive all truth, not a part of it. They passed on that full truth to their disciples, who did the same for theirs, etc., up until the present time. Only the Orthodox Church has kept that same faith perfect and unchanged for 2000 years.

          Does that mean that Orthodox Christians are perfect? No. Does that mean that the non-Orthodox are all damned? No. But there is nothing anywhere even in the Scripture (much less, in the history of the Church) which says that the Church is an amorphous mass of sincere people who have contradictory doctrines and who routinely abandon the historic faith yet somehow remain part of the Church. There is no authority for setting up a competing denomination apart from the one, pre-denominational Church. Christ said that He would build His Church and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. Anyone who has left that body or who has never been in it cannot claim that he is part of it. Anything else is a man-made invention, usually from pride and/or heresy. Christ never gave any authority for founding new denominations or “non-denominational” churches. There is only the one Church.

          As for whether my prayers ever get answered, that really is none of your business. You may assume for your ad hominem purposes that the answer is no. Why would you ask such a thing?

      3. Again anger, sarcasm . . . When Christ said He would build His church where does it say it is an Orthodox Church – please give me that scripture reference.

        1. Who’s angry? But, alas, yes, I do use some sarcasm. But that is a literary device to make a point.

          As for where in the Bible it specifies that the one Church is the (not “an”) Orthodox Church: Well, of course it doesn’t. The Bible was written before schism became a major problem between Christians. So the question you’re asking is anachronistic. One may as well ask where in the Bible it says that Muhammad is a false prophet.

          That said, nowhere in Scripture does it allow for more than one Church, especially not multiple bodies with contradictory doctrine that are somehow all truly the Church. History shows that various groups broke off from that one Church and also that there is only one body of Christians in which the exact same faith has been preached the same for all 2000 years of Christian history, and that’s Orthodoxy. The term Orthodox came to be used only because heterodox teaching arose—heresy. If there had never been heretics and schismatics, then there would never have been a need to distinguish the true Christian faith from the teachings of those who would alter it.

          That aside, though, you ask such a question on the basis of the 16th century Reformation hermeneutical assumption of sola scriptura, that is, that only the Bible is authoritative for Christians, and, what’s more, every Christian can come up with his own interpretation, even if it contradicts the apostolic faith as it’s been taught for centuries. So “Where in the Bible does it say…?” is an interesting question, but it is not a slam-dunk for anyone who is not a Protestant. But even for Protestants, they argue between themselves as to what the Bible really says, so clearly it’s not particularly working well for them, either.

          But I have to ask: Where in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the exclusive authority for all Christian doctrine, worship, morality, etc.? And where in the Bible does it say that it’s okay to found a new denomination or a new non-denominational body with a new set of doctrine and new kinds of worship, alien to the tradition of the Apostles?

      4. Andy and HIs Child,

        I admire your sincerity and your conviction. However, you write of what you really don’t know. You sound like you have absorbed the same catch phrases Bethke strung together in the video. Like many commenting here perhaps this is your first exposure to the actual facts of 2,000 years of Church History. I am confident the Orthodox and Catholic Churches will still be around at Jesus return. Many of the denominations and non-denominations in America have history and theology that is less than 200 years old and they are forced to continually morph and reinvent or die out. The emerging Churches and mega-Churches are here today gone tomorrow.

        Throughout the ecclesiology is “my bible and me.” That isn’t Christianity. Jesus founded a Church. The apostles and the early Christians in Jerusalem liven communally. Everywhere Paul built Churches the emphasis was on being connected to the wider Church particularly in Jerusalem. Paul also emphasized unity and community within the local Church.

        So to get to the point. You don’t know history and you don’t know much about Christianity. What you are being fed in your Churches is the same cool-aid that Bethke is regurgitating in his video. Fr. Andrew is trying to help you eat solid food as Paul instructs. I’d recommend strongly that you listen to Fr. Andrew and start learning about the historic Church instead of tossing pebbles trying to sink a battleship. The Orthodox and Catholic Churches aren’t going to fall or blow away just because a lot of people think they “have it” – it being the easy answer. The easy answer is a collection of heresies and in the sense that it keeps people from seeking the full message of the Gospel it is the work of the devil. It is a house built on sand and it will not stand.

  93. thank you for saying, repeatedly, that he is not a “kid”. this man is a college graduate, who promotes himself as a public speaker and paid (or had someone else pay for) that very expensive video. that wasn’t a one take youtube video. it was several, plus editing. i have no doubt that it was professionally produced so garner attention for him as a public speaker.

  94. Okay, you completely missed the point of his video. I mean considering the fact that you are titling yourself as “father”. If you knew a little about GOD, you wouldn’t call yourself father because there is only ONE. Secondly, if he would like to make a video expressing how he feels about the actions and behaviors Christians have been displaying, he can do so because it is his right.If you had any ounce of an open mind, you wouldn’t be taking apart his rap piece by piece and giving comments about each and every single sentence written. You’d be trying to get where he is coming from.

    1. Who said he had no right to produce his video? Did anyone here even suggest that it be taken down?

      But, no, I do not have even an ounce of open-mindedness. A few milligrams is likely all I’ve got.

      As for the rest (including your objection to the term of affection used for Orthodox clergy, “Father,” which, if you must know, I actually did not give to myself), it is dealt with elsewhere in the comments.

  95. Father Bless,

    Thank you for posting this. It has given me some insight as to better respond myself to heretical and non-comittal ideas based on self-interpretations of scripture. Pray for me, a sinner. God bless you well in your walk of theosis.

    Sbdc. Ian Lazarus

  96. Reblogged this on sojourner and pilgrim and commented:
    This is a great critic of an evangelical video that has been doing the rounds. Fr Andrew is quite direct in his comments, as on his other blog posts and podcasts, which some folks tend to feel is a little harsh. I find it quite refreshing, however aussie’s are often accused of being blunt and direct. At the bottom of it though Fr Andrew is countering heretical theology which we are called to do, as Christ did on many occasions in the Gospel. I hope you enjoy this . . .

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