Why I love religion and love Jesus: new video

Latest development in the love/hate religion/Jesus controversy: Catholic priest rapper Father Pontifex has a banging, Biblically grounded, lyrically tight response to the wildly viralized “I hate religion but love Jesus” video that I responded to last week. I don’t think it’s one side vs. another. It’s an important conversation that’s happening in a format that young adults can relate to, so for that I praise God! I wish I could rap!

Here are some of my favorite lines:

See, this had to be addressed: the use of illogical terms and definitions. You clearly have a heart for Jesus, but it’s fueling atheistic opinions.

The problem with the pop-evangelical “personal relationship over religion” meme is that different people appropriate it for different reasons. How many of those 14 million viewers saw the Jeff Bethke video and said, “See, this is why I don’t need to go to church to be buddies with Jesus”? (I personally know of people who believe in Jesus but don’t believe in going to church who shared the video with precisely those kinds of comments.)

Lines about building big churches and not tending to the poor sound a bit like Judas when perfume was being poured.

This is of course a reference to the story in Matthew 26:6-13 when a woman anoints Jesus with a very expensive perfume and scandalizes Judas and the rest of the disciples who say the money could have been given to the poor. The question here is to what degree we should decorate our worship spaces to glorify God. Catholic churches generally have very beautiful, sacred-feeling rooms. Evangelical churches tend to have aesthetically plainer spaces with very expensive AV equipment. Both are concerned with different aspects of the worship ambience. One could say that the Catholic concern is more with the sacredness of the space while the evangelical concern is more with outreach to seekers. I’m not saying one is right and the other is wrong. It’s a difficult balance. But one thing I would observe is that I suspect evangelicals would be pretty embarrassed if we really compared side by side how much money Catholics spend on the poor versus how much we do.

We all detest hypocrisy and empty show is just the worst, but blaming religion for contradiction is like staring at death and blaming the hearse.

That was a clever reappropriation of a line in the original video. I’m not sure I can quite go along with Father Pontifex in the sense that I feel like I have the responsibility as a pastor to preach and shepherd in such a way that my congregation responds with discipleship. It’s not completely true that they are fully responsible for their own hypocrisy or lack thereof.

You can’t have Christ without the church; you can’t have the king without the kingdom.

Exactly! For far too long, we have allowed the rugged individualist values of secular Romanticism to taint our understanding of how we relate to Christ in American Christianity. The Bible talks a whole lot more about becoming one body of Christ with other people than going on an individually tailored personal walk with Jesus. Jesus talks about the religion that He’s establishing a lot more in terms of a presently-existing kingdom of God than in terms of a future paradise or punishment. Evangelicals in the last decade have begun to recognize that salvation is much more than a private consumer product; it’s an invitation into kingdom-living.

Jesus said if you love me, you will do what I command; go and baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in every land.

As strongly as I’m committed to the doctrine of “justification by faith” (rightly understood), I think it’s important to recognize that the Biblical waters are a lot muddier than we want them to be. Confessing Jesus as Lord is not just a one-time speech event, but a lifelong perpetual practice of discipleship.

“When Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ His religion had just begun.

This is a very important edit. Too many evangelicals I know talk about being “just pilgrims passing through this life.” It’s a very strong meme in our consciousness, but I’m not sure how Biblical it really is. Yes, Jesus has done everything necessary, and yes, part of what He did was to give us the foundation for a mission to give our lives purpose. We belong to a better kingdom that we ask God every week to establish “on Earth as it is in heaven.” So it ain’t over yet.

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