Yesterday I wrote a hastily worded response to Jefferson Bethke’s viral video on Jesus and religion. Now I realize that had I taken more time over my thoughts, I probably would have written that response differently.
It might have looked a little bit like this:
“If you want a real discussion of Christianity, don’t look on the Internet. Go read Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. Or the Summa. The whole thing. In Latin.”
Religion is . . .
So misunderstood but what’s the world without some mystery?
People on the internet revising all of history.
By now you’ve heard the claim, “Jesus hates religion,”
Despite his founding one called Christianity. Now listen —
Glad the guy found Jesus, but he should have been more subtle.
Gave us false dichotomies, I give you my rebuttal.
I’m a big believer in the license of a poet:
Alexander Pope’s ironic couplets were heroic.
But still you have to note that when he wrote about Belinda,
He didn’t redefine his words to suit his own agenda.
I say we consult a standard definition
Of this murky word that’s thrown around — I mean “religion.”
Oxford English Dictionary says it with acumen:
“Belief in or acknowledgment of powers superhuman
Which typically is manifest in reverence and worship.”
Not about publicity, not entrepreneurship.
The problem with the Pharisees was not that they’re religious,
But that they were self-righteous: their pride was prodigious.
The thing about the Son of God is that he had a Father
Who gave a Law to Israel. Now let us briefly ponder:
Why would God institute religion for his people —
Observances, rituals — if all of that were evil?
Jesus didn’t come to curse what is external.
He came to heal our eyes when we were blind to what’s eternal.
And part of what’s eternal is our eyes, our bodies.
Let me catch my . . . breath . . . alrighty.
The essence of our nature is to be body and soul.
Inner faith and outer works are never gonna cancel.
Antinomianism is a leech that will bleed ya.
(If you don’t know the meaning, look it up on Wikipedia.)
Jesus didn’t come to take away the Law, or kill it.
He honored the Old Testament, came to fulfill it.
Gnosticism reappears in every generation,
Misreading Paul, and preaching segregation
Between outer works and inward salvation,
Between the God of grace and the Demiurge of creation,
Saying, “Hey, I’m spiritual, but no, I’m not religious.”
Man, without a creed, it’s only superstitious.
Faith without works is perfume on a casket.
Obedience is love, so how could it mask it?
You call the Church a hospital? Then it must have a structure.
Doctors and their medicine, food for our hunger.
We are Christ’s body even though we’re broken,
And saying we’re a body is no metaphoric token.
Bodies have blood, and bodies have a skeleton.
The way these people talk it’s like the Church is only gelatin.
I lost my mind reading Martin Luther,
But John Henry Newman saved me from my stupor.
The Church must be visible; pietism’s risible;
Unity in Christ should never be divisible.
Think for a minute of a faith without religion:
Say goodbye to Christmas, say goodbye to mission,
Sunday morning worship, common prayer and baptism.
Ritual is not a slope that slips into fascism.
Of course, it’s true that going through the motions
Can cover up a heart that lacks true devotion.
But what a non-sequitur to criticize the motions —
The saints have been religious with a love as big as oceans.
God is a lover, he wants to romance you.
Religion is the rhythm that a fervent heart can dance to.
Worldwide communion — how is that monotonous?
Go read St. Augustine on the Donatists.
The Church is corrupted, lots going wrong there,
All of which tells me that, in fact, I belong there.
I’m a sinner, too, I fail to live out
The calling I believe in, the words that I spout.
Who am I to instigate a detrimental schism,
To leave in the worst form of judgmentalism?
No, as for me, I’ll stay where the grace is —
That’s in the Church, and what the Church embraces:
Sacraments and love, charity and missions,
Doctrine and prayer, Scripture and Tradition.
The bottom line is false religion can’t negate the true one:
Relationship with Christ is religious communion.
Now THAT’S some good writing.