By Kevin J. Jones
A new popular video of a poem from a Christian who says he “hates religion” but loves Jesus is wrong about religion’s role in Christian life, says Catholic speaker Chris Stefanick.
Stefanick, who is the director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, responded in poetry in a Jan. 15 YouTube video.
“Pharisaism is religion without relationship / Jesus isn’t impressed by it / but hating religion because it’s twisted by some / is like hating diamonds because they might be zirconium,” Stefanick said in his reply, titled “Why I Love Religion and Love Jesus.”
“Religion puts a name on the creed / Religion gives a voice to the soul’s deepest need / Religion keeps His people one / Religion paves a path to the Son.
“True religion, like incense, rises from hearts seeking God.”
Stefanick was responding to Jefferson Bethke’s viral video “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus,” which has received nearly 12.5 million views on YouTube since it was posted on Jan. 10.
Bethke, a Tacoma, Wash. resident, attends Mars Hill Church in Federal Way and works in bringing the Gospel to the inner city.
His video said that Jesus “came to abolish religion” and that Jesus and religion are “on opposite spectrums.”
“One’s the work of God, but one’s a man-made invention / See one is the cure, but the other’s the infection.
“Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free / Religion makes you blind but Jesus makes you see.
“If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars? / Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?
“Tell single moms God doesn’t love them if they’ve ever had a divorce, / but in the Old Testament God calls religious people ‘whores.’”
But Stefanick underscored that Jesus came to start a religion.
“What if I told you the Catholic Church has done more to serve the needy / than any other group in history?
“Our cathedrals, priests and nuns / are serving in those slums. / Open your Eyes! / It helps you get things done / when you’re organized.”
Stefanick is also co-author of a 2008 book “Do I Have to Go? 101 Questions about the Mass.”
He explained in a Jan. 15 exchange with CNA that his book touches on the same questions. Jesus does not treat sacred rituals and sacraments as things that interfere with a genuine relationship with him, he noted.
“If he thought such things would come between us and him then he clearly wouldn’t have given them to us. He wouldn’t have told his apostles to celebrate Mass (Luke 22:19) or to baptize every person on earth (Matthew 28:19).”
“All Christian denominations at least agree on baptism, and no one can make a really good case that baptism isn’t a religious ritual … try as you will!”
Rituals help relationships, Stefanick added, and religion has rituals just like marriages do.
“People can fall into just going through the motions in marriage just as in faith. Would a marriage counselor propose that a couple whose relationship is on the rocks stop celebrating Valentine’s Day? No!”
Stefanick stressed in his video response that religion is a gift from God.
“The heart of religion is relationship / Jesus didn’t come to get rid of it. He gave us Baptism, Eucharist, Last Supper, apostolic structure.”
“Hatred of religion is a modern man-made invention / Playing pure spirit is angelic pretension.”