"I want Jesus, not religion."
There's a beautiful, well-made video making the rounds that's become a sort of manifesto for the "spiritual-but-not-religious" folk. The video echoes the views of many "emergent Christians" and modern evangelicals, bemoaning dusty old "religion"--that dated, slavish system which shackles us to mindless ritual and obedience.
I used to believe the same way as this guy. I was convinced that Jesus didn't establish--or continue--a religion. In my mind, Scripture was clear that Jesus was against all tradition, ritual, and rote prayer. I was confident that he didn't want to "tie us down" with empty Rosaries, liturgies, and systematic theologies. After all, he did say his "burden was light". Yet most of the Christianity I saw seemed uncomfortable and demanding.
Even more than that, I thought the supreme distortion of religion were those that were most institutional, with complex hierarchies and leadership structures, and those whose authority was centralized in one place or among a certain people.
Or to say it another way, the Catholic Church.
Though our man in the video doesn't explicitly mention Catholicism, he's no doubt aiming his barbs toward Rome. His dichotomies are simply veiled potshots at the Faith, comparisons of the "empty religion" of Rome with true faith in Christ.
I was preparing a line-by-line commentary on the video, but to my chagrin I found that two of my favorite writers have already answers brilliantly.
Here's Marcel LeJeune over at Aggie Catholics asking, "Does Jesus Hate Religion? Should You?":
"I can't see how Jesus would hate a set of beliefs, a moral code or ritual observances, when he came to teach us these things. The sermon on the Mount, the Last Supper, the parables, etc. all teach us these things. So, Jesus certainly doesn't hate them.
Furthermore, Jesus wouldn't want us to be taught these things and then not follow them or observe the practice of them.
So, the problem isn't with religion, but hypocricy - saying you are a Christian and living far from him. This is a different argument.
Jesus certainly didn't come to "abolish religion". You might say he came to complete it, purify it, raise it up, etc. He certainly didn't want to do away with it."
And here's the erudite Marc Barnes--self-admitted Bad Catholic--who deconstructs the video with hilarity and poise:
"A common theme throughout the video is our man’s complaint that religion is just behavior modification, a list of rules to follow, and thus doesn’t get to the core of the matter — the call to love Christ as a response to his sacrifice on the cross. First of all, this is an absolutely valid critique of what religion should not be. If it is just a set of rules and not a love affair, it is dead. You can’t have works without faith any more than you can have faith without works. But the idea that following rules is inherently contradictory to loving Christ flies in the face — yet again — not of religion, but of Christ. He says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Love of Christ requires obedience to his commands. You cannot have one without the other.
Our man then clarifies — He loves the Bible. This is interesting. Did Christ hand out Bibles before he ascended into Heaven? No. The Bible is the product of a religion. A religion called Catholicism."