It’s more or less viral. The snazzy YouTube with the young Christian man professing his love for Jesus right alongside his hate for what he calls “false religion.” Because so many will watch this video without thinking it through, and follow a cultural assumption that seems pretty popular right now, it warrants a response.
Full confession: I’m a religious person—in fact, a professional religious person—therefore I have a bias. I also love Jesus, and therefore have a bias. Keep that in mind.
I think this devout Christian young man has some points to make that the Christian religious institution should heed. We aren’t perfect—we are at least as sinful and corrupt and broken as everyone else. And that includes those who have little use for religion. Many of this YouTube poet’s accusations are valid. We ain’t perfect, folks. We need to do a much better job of confessing that, recognizing we are forgiven for that, getting over ourselves, and getting on with Jesus’ work in the world.
But here’s the problem: it’s impossible to separate our views of Jesus from our religion. In fact, whatever it is that has shaped our views/relationship/love for Jesus IS in fact our religion. To believe one can come to some objective and clear perspective on the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus all by one’s self is naïve at best, foolish at worst. We are all products of our culture. We have been shaped by societal, historical movements and see the world through the lenses produced. Scientific method, empiricism, individualism, the industrial revolution are only recent influences that have formed our perspectives. Our religious eyes are part of who we are, and we are products of our culture.
So when an enthusiastic young Christian vows the worthlessness of religion, he’s expressing a shallow view and a misunderstanding of who he is. Disavowing “religion” as an institution is actually a religious perspective. It’s just one that is shaped by current cultural trends rather than the wisdom and struggle of wise followers throughout the centuries.
I have a bias, yes. But I will choose to make sure I listen to those ancient Godly people—most of whom are wiser and more spiritual than me—who’ve learned from God, wrestled with God, and gained some insight from God. The forms and practices of Christian religion have weathered the centuries and helped create some sacred space for people like our YouTube poet to come to know, and to love, Jesus.