You can read the lyrics at rapgenius.com. I am very thankful for these lyrics because they save me from having to transcribe the video and they also give me the ability to represent him correctly and to address him thoroughly.
UPDATE (3/6/12): His interview on Nightline provides some context.
Thus, what follows is a line-by-line response to the video above. Bethke's words will be in bold.
"What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion"
This assertion, and really the whole video, depends on how one defines "religion". Surely everyone is going to have their own definition, and ample connotations as well. The glossary from the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines religion as:
"A set of beliefs and practices followed by those committed to the service and worship of God. The first commandment requires us to believe in God, to worship and serve him, as the first duty of the virtue of religion."I think this is a definition most religious people would agree with. To put it another way, one could say that religion provides the form to our relationship with God. When I decide that I love Jesus Christ and I want to hand my life over to Him and live for Him, this must be expressed and lived out in certain ways in order for it to be genuine. I can't just believe any old thing about Jesus, behave however I want, and worship Him however I feel like. There is a right and a wrong way to believe, and act, and worship. Religion establishes the right ways of doing these things so that I can give God the belief, worship, and service He deserves and requires from us.
Once religion is understood in this way, Bethke's statements stand out in stark relief. To return to the statement at hand, in no way can it be said that Jesus came to abolish religion. He specifically said, "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Mt 5:17). The Law established the religion of the Jewish people, and Jesus came to fulfill it, to make it what it was meant to be, not to do away with it. These words of His are very peculiar for someone who supposedly came to abolish religion.
What if I told you voting republican really wasn't his mission
What if I told you republican doesn't automatically mean Christian
This statement is a red herring, and it reveals more about the author then it does about religion. You're a Democrat, we get it. Let's try to stay on topic.
And just because you call some people blind
Doesn't automatically give you vision
Agreed. Moving on now ...
I mean, if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars
First of all, this blanket statement assumes that all religions are the same: they all cause wars. While it is true that some religions have been responsible for wars, not all of them have. Has anyone been overthrown or put to the sword by the Amish recently? I didn't think so. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Secondly, this statement also assumes that all wars are bad. This isn't true either. Sometimes, if you believe in something with all your heart, you have to fight for it. This is a good thing, if it means the defense of your life and your rights. For example, I don't think too many people argue that it was wrong of the Holy League, a coalition of Catholic maritime states from the 16th century, to go to war with the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto to preserve the very existence of Christianity in the Mediterranean. Catholicism, for it's part, has a very ancient Just War theory that establishes when going to war is a legitimate enterprise. Did Catholics always abide by that? Of course not. But that is not the fault of religion, it is the result of sin.
So, there are religions that are entirely pacifist (the Amish) and religions that teach it is permissible, even necessary, to go to war under certain conditions (Catholicism). There are also religions that are indeed war-mongering: Islam comes to mind. I can join Bethke in my aversion to that religion, but not to all religions as a general principle.
Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor
It doesn't. At least, Catholicism doesn't. We have managed to do both for several hundred years now. The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world. I challenge anyone to find an organization that does more for the poor than the Church does.
Also, building huge churches isn't a bad thing. Huge congregations need huge churches. Furthermore, the breadth and height of the great Catholic cathedrals and basilicas are meant to reflect what we believe about the liturgies that take place within them. The Mass in particular is the meeting point between the faithful on earth and the saints in heaven. The Mass is, in fact, heaven on earth, and so our church buildings, which are fundamentally for the celebration of the Mass, should reflect the glory and splendor of the heavenly liturgy. They rise up into the heavens to meet the angels and saints in their perpetual worship of the Lamb.
So, yea, some of our churches are huge ... but some of them are not. Some of the most beautiful Catholic churches in the world are in fact little chapels tucked away in far-flung places, where communities give out of their poverty so that they can have a place of their own to worship and to pray. Religion isn't all about "building huge churches." It's about glorifying God however you are able.
"Tells single moms God doesn't love them if they've ever had a divorce
But in the old testament God actually calls religious people whores"
The teaching of the Church, and of Jesus for that matter, has never been that God does not love you if you get a divorce. God loves us no matter what we do. The teaching is that divorce is a sin:
Mt 19:3-8 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" 4 He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." 7 They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" 8 He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.Paul was adamant on this point as well (cf. 1 Cor 6:16; 7:10-11, 39; Rom 7:2-3; Eph 5:31)
Religion might preach grace, but another thing they practice
Tend to ridicule God's people, they did it to John The Baptist
I'm thinking more and more that when Bethke says "religion" he really means "the pharisees" or pharisaic people. The scribes and the pharisees ridiculed and punished many of God's holy prophets, and many irreligionists understand Jesus' many rebukes of the scribes and pharisees as a general rebuke of religion. But, the scribes and pharisees represent religion gone wrong, not authentic religion. They are the ones who "preach but do not practice" (Mt 23:3), who "bind heavy burdens" (vs. 4) and "do all their deeds to be seen by men" (vs. 5), who "shut the kingdom of heaven against men" (vs. 13), who are "blind fools" (vs. 17) who "strain out a gnat and swallow a camel" (vs. 24). They are the "hypocrites" and "whitewashed tombs" (vs. 27), not religion itself. Religion -- or at least, the religion established by Christ -- is meant to preserve us from that! Jesus, by preaching against those things, was establishing the nature of true religion, which is what Christians strive to follow today.
At any rate, the scribes and pharisees did not ridicule John the Baptist. They asked him many questions, in order to determine who he was (cf. Jn 1:19-27), but I'm not sure this can be counted as ridicule.
They can't fix their problems, and so they just mask it
Not realizing religions like spraying perfume on a casket
This again calls to mind what Jesus said to the pharisees in Mt 23. Religion is not like spraying perfume on a casket, or like whitewashing a tomb. Hypocrisy is. Religion is believing, and worshiping, and serving God rightly. This entire poem is largely the tearing down of a straw man.
See the problem with religion, is it never gets to the core
It's just behavior modification, like a long list of chores
I realize that, for some people, religion becomes just a going through the motions. Mass on Sunday, no meat on Friday, sit, stand, kneel, repeat. But is it not also true that religion is for others a rousing experience of the Holy Spirit, a transformation from within by the power of God's grace? Has Bethke never meant anyone who truly loved being Catholic (or loved being a member of any religion, for that matter)? Surely he has. Why then does religion penetrate some people to the core, but is for others only a surface experience?
This can be for many reasons. Sin certainly keeps a person from experiencing the movement of the Spirit through religion. It makes him rebel against the responsibilities of religion, and it darkens his mind to what is truly taking place in the practice of religion.
Often religion comes alive for a person once that person realizes why he is doing what he is doing: why he stands at the beginning of Mass, why he kneels during the Eucharistic prayer, why he goes to Mass on Sunday, why he gives up meat on Friday, why he receives ashes on his forehead, why we light four candles during Advent, etc. The answer to this question is vital to the experience of religion.
My overall point is this: religion is not without meaning or profound influence. It is up to us to open our hearts to the promptings of the Spirit and to discover for ourselves why we do what we do in the name of religion. When we do this, then religion becomes very much more than what Bethke is describing here.
Like lets dress up the outside make look nice and neat
But it's funny that's what they use to do to mummies while the corpse rots underneath
He acts like religion requires people to act fake and put on a show. But it doesn't. I don't know of any religion that does. If what you do in the practice of your religion is not a reflection of who you truly are as a person, then that's your fault. Don't blame your hypocrisy on my religion.
Now I ain't judgin, I'm just saying quit putting on a fake look
Cause there's a problem if people only know you're a Christian by your Facebook
I mean in every other aspect of life, you know that logic's unworthy
It's like saying you play for the Lakers just because you bought a jersey
You see this was me too, but no one seemed to be on to me
Acting like a church kid, while addicted to pornography
See on Sunday I'd go to church, but Saturday getting faded
Acting if I was simply created just to have sex and get wasted
See I spent my whole life building this facade of neatness
But now that I know Jesus, I boast in my weakness
I agree with Bethke that Christians need to provide an authentic witness to their faith. Religion should indeed be more than just an act or a show. Bethke realized his hypocritical ways, but instead of living his religion more authentically, he simply dispensed with religion so that those pesky things that made him look bad would no longer be required of him.
Knowing Jesus and having a relationship with Him is not antithetical to religion, as if once a person comes to Christ he must cast off the chains of his burdensome religion. Jesus established many of the very dictates of Christian religion:
- repent (Mt 4:17)
- follow the commandments (Mt 19:17)
- be baptized (Jn 3:3-5)
- receive the Eucharist (Jn 6:53)
- obey Church authority (Mt 18:17)
- serve the poor (Mt 5:42; 25:40)
- fast (Mt 9:15; 6:16-18)
- do not be angry with your brother (Mt 5:22)
- do not look at a woman lustfully (Mt 5:28)
- do not swear (Mt 5:34)
- love your enemies and pray for your persecutors (Mt 5:44)
- be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48)
Because if grace is water, then the church should be an ocean It's not a museum for good people, it's a hospital for the broken
He's right: it should be ... and it is. This is how the Catholic Church understands herself. Nothing new here.
Which means I don't have to hide my failure, I don't have to hide my sin
Because it doesn't depend on me it depends on him
See because when I was God's enemy and certainly not a fan
He looked down and said I want, that, man
Amen. Well said. We "slaves to religion" certainly share with Bethke an experience of the love of Christ eradicating sin and shame.
Which is why Jesus hated religion, and for it he called them fools
Don't you see so much better than just following some rules
As I've been saying:
1. Jesus enacted many rules for us
2. Religion is more than following rules
When Bethke says such things, I am convinced he really has no idea what religion is.
Now let me clarify, I love the church, I love the bible, and yes I believe in sin
But if Jesus came to your church would they actually let him in
You know it! We let Him in every day the Mass is celebrated. He is in the members of the Body gathered together. He is in the person of the priest. He is in the Word proclaimed. He is, really and substantially, in the Eucharist we receive. Jesus Christ is very much at home in my religion!
See remember he was called a glutton, and a drunkard by religious men
But the son of God never supports self righteousness not now, not then
First of all, getting rid of all religion because there are some bad religious men makes about as much sense as getting rid of the police force because there are some bad cops, or getting rid of the presidency because there have been some bad presidents. Like I said before, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Furthermore, there may be some religions that believe one can achieve righteousness solely through one's own effort, but the Christian religion has always been against that sort of thing. This is again more tearing down of a strawman.
Now back to the point, one thing is vital to mention
How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums
Hopefully you're beginning to see by now how silly this statement is. Jesus Himself was a very religious person. He was circumcized. He was baptized. He celebrated the Passover and the other Jewish feast days. He worshipped in the synagogue. He followed the Ten Commandments. He prayed. He fasted. He went on pilgrimages. He is the fulfillment of the Jewish religion and the very creater of the Christian one. Yes, a religion -- not some warm and fuzzy "me and Jesus" experience, but a religion, a church, with bishops, priests, and deacons, and commands to follow, and things to do, and words to live by.
It only takes a cursory glance at the New Testament to realize this. Earlier Bethke said he loved the bible. I'm beginning to wonder how much of it he has actually read.
See one's the work of God, but one's a man made invention
See one is the cure, but the other's the infection
See because religion says do, Jesus says done
Religion says slave, Jesus says son
Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free
Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see
And that's why religion and Jesus are two different clans
I wonder what Bethke thinks of baptism. I'd imagine he considers it, like all the sacraments, to be just more trappings of man-made religion, more "do" and less "done." Well, the thing is, Jesus Himself instituted the sacrament of baptism (Mk 16:16; Jn 3:3-5), and gave the apostles, as His last will and testament to them, the command to go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them (Mt 28:19). And guess what else? That's how I became God's son -- through baptism, through the function of my religion. Not a slave, a son, a free man, with eyes enlightened by the grace of God. Bethke's words here are borderline insulting to me. Who's really doing the "ridiculing" here?
Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God searching for man
Wait, now I'm confused. I thought Christianity was the problem. It is a religion after all. Bethke needs to supplement his video with a glossary of terms. That would aid tremendously the discussion that he has begun.
Which is why salvation is freely mine, and forgiveness is my own
Not based on my merits but Jesus's obedience alone
Because he took the crown of thorns, and the blood dripped down his face
He took what we all deserved, I guess that's why you call it grace
And while being murdered he yelled, "Father forgive them they know not what they do."
Because when he was dangling on that cross, he was thinking of you
And he absorbed all of your sin, and buried it in the tomb
Which is why I'm kneeling at the cross, saying come on there's room
This part is really quite beautiful. It's a shame that his history with religion never gave him an experience of this. Perhaps he should give Catholicism a try ;)
So for religion, no I hate it, in fact I literally resent it
Because when Jesus said it is finished, I believe he meant it
Yes, He meant it, that much we can agree on.
PS: Also see "In Defense of My Response to Jefferson Bethke: Part 1 and Part 2"