Coffee, Theology, and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Why I hate the “Why I hate religion but love Jesus” Video – Tim Whitaker

Ok so we’ve all seen the video by now.  For those that don’t you can watch it here:

Let me start by saying the good about this video.  I like this guy, his heart seems in the right place.  He genuinely wants Jesus, and wants to know Jesus.  Wow, awesome.  He also understands some of the MAJOR issues plaguing our church culture today.  He understands that just because you say ” christian” on facebook doesn’t mean you are one.  He understands that we have cared far too much about the outside appearance instead of the heart of people.  And he also understands that we need to really understand our faith.  The problem is, I don’t think he undersands the faith he is claiming.

I’ve heard all the slogans in the Christian culture “It’s all about relationship and not about religion” “It’s against my relationship to have a religion” and “I hate religion but love Jesus”.  I used to say some of these slogans myself.  The problem is looking back, I really didn’t understand what the heck I was saying.  I became a casualty of what I call slogan Christianity.    Slogan Christianity is when your faith goes about as deep as the slogans you’ve heard, and the 10 verses you grew up with (maybe more if you went to AWANA or VBS).  It’s dangerous because when you rely on catchy little phrases and a handful of verses to define an entire life, and when some of the slogans go viral (such as the “It’s against my religion to have a relationship”), people blindly follow the slogan without defining the terms.  In the example I gave we have to ask what exactly what is religion? What is relationship?  If we don’t understand what they mean, then they are useless.

This is the problem I see in this video.  While it sounds nice to the ear, it is empty. there is no depth, nothing is defined, nothing is articulated clearly.  What is this guy’s definition of religion?  Because religion can mean MANY different things.  In fact the word religion can mean several things.

  1. set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing amoral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
  2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
  3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
  4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
  5. the practice of religious  beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
Now look at some of those definitions.  Almost all them can fit in to the Christian faith.  There are general things Christians agree upon and practice (such as prayer), there is a body of people (the church),.  Christianity is a religion by definition! There is no way getting around it.  Just because we use the word “religion” doesn’t mean it is necessarily a bad thing.  The word religion is from Latin, and (at least in its etymological parts) it literally (and yes, I mean literally literally) means “reconnection” (re + ligio).  the word itself is completely Christian!
This is what I mean when I say we have to define what we mean.  Just because it’s a popular notion for Christians to be against “religion” doesn’t mean it’s right.
But what does he mean?  Well any Christian who grew up in the culture probably gets what this guy is saying.  He is saying that the core and fundamental heart of Christianity is not morality but it is Jesus. Jesus must be our starting point, NOT morality.  Once we start with morality we then believe that we can somehow earn the love of God.  This idea is completely contrary to the Christian belief system.
Also it is important to know the Scriptures.  At one point in the video the speaker says “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion”. This is not true.  Jesus is pretty clear in Matthew 5:17 “”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”.    Jesus did not come to abolish the Jewish religion and laws.  He came to be a fulfillment of what was spoken prior to His coming.
This brings me to my other major issue with this video.  The speaker exudes a terrible understanding of Judaism, the Torah, and exactly who the Pharisees were.  I don’t blame him, because I didn’t know much better until this past semester, and I still only have a tiny grasp on the issue.
The Pharisees were masters of the Torah.  By age 12 the Jewish children had the first five books of the Bible memorized.  From there only the best became Pharisees.  These were not ignorant people, they were immersed in the Torah all the time.  They were some of the greatest teachers and minds of the day.  The new the Law EXTREMELY well.  Sometimes in Christianity we don’t give them enough credit.  We just write them off as idiots.  This is not the case, they were extremely intelligent.  It is important to understand that the law at the time was the only words given by God to the Jewish people.  There was no understanding of a “trinity” to a Jew before and up to Jesus’s day.  The common Jewish person did not have  a “personal” relationship with God.  In fact in Exodus the people told Moses to be the communicator between God and them.  These are just a few things to keep in mind when it comes to the Pharisees, and the Jewish people.  They thought that the coming Messiah was going to establish an earthly kingdom (and after reading more of the Old Testament I can see why!), they had no idea he was going to be God himself coming down among them. There is a a huge context that we need to understand before we go around throwing God’s chosen people under the bus in ignorance because it is a popular talking about.
What’s my point? My point is this.  Jesus loves religion, He came for religion.  Jesus literally came to reconnect us with God.  So before we as Christians go around throwing slogans around like a beach ball at a nickelback concert ( I can’t take credit for that one liner), we need to understand what the terms we use actually mean.  Part of the Christian life is trying to understand and define basic ideas that we grew up with.  Here are a few I recommend to try and break down.
Define Grace
Define Salvation
Define the Gospel
Good luck, and welcome to the conversation.
For a much more in depth view on this.  Check this blog out.  Really well done when pertaining to this subject


  1. These are semantics are you sure that you are not missing the essence of his poetry by look across his canon?

  2. As I stated in my post, I get what he is saying. The problem is however, that he is not clear. Poetry still has to be true especially when dealing with theology. You can’t just spit out words for the sake of making them sound nice. This is even more true when dealing with the Christian faith and claiming to speak for Jesus. – Tim

  3. When I think about how much Christians are trying to get away from the “Religion” aspect of Christianity by saying, “It’s not religion, it’s a relationship,” I see it as a way to make it ear pleasing to unbelievers. We know unbelievers hate religion. So, lets call it a relationship instead; that way, they can see it as not being tied down to some church-going belief. This guy said, “Religion puts you in shackles but Jesus sets you free.” I believe that religion is “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices.” So, is religion as option for you? Do you have free will in choosing to believe in something or not? I believe so. If you can choose to believe in Jesus or not, than you are not put in shackles, because then it wouldn’t be an option. It would be brought unto you by force. Jesus doesn’t force you to love Him. You freely choose to love Him or not. Religion is an option. Religion has been around for centuries. To start removing it from Christianity just so we can be set apart from other false religions is not going to get more unbelievers to start converting to Christianity. Jesus offers us a gift. We are free to take it. Faith only makes you stronger in your religious beliefs and practices. You believe in something. You are able to believe in it or you can object to it. That’s religion. You choose to have a relationship with Jesus because you believe in Him. It’s okay to call it a religion. It’s not going to make you less holy.

  4. I liked the video the first time I saw it, but I get what you are saying. To me, it boils down to laziness.

    First, many people don’t want to spend time exploring WHY they are a Christian to begin with. I am guilty of this myself. For the longest time, I just went along with whatever I heard at church even if it didn’t make sense to me. (Salvation? Oh yea that means I’m not going to hell, sweet. Jesus died for my sins? Cool now I’ll go to heaven when I die). It wasn’t until I took a step back and admitted to myself that none of it made sense to me. I started over and sought out the truth. Its hard to question yourself and admit that maybe you were wrong and maybe there is more to Christianity than you thought. People don’t like change or things that are difficult. It’s a lot easier to just say “well I love Jesus” and that’s all that matters.

    Second, its much easier to bash something than try to change or help it. Why stick around to fix someone else’s problems. I can just take Jesus (and the good Bible stories) and start my own religion. Screw you guys and your boring church music!

  5. In putting across this sort of message, He thinks he is actually being welcoming. What he actually communicating is unadulterated egotism and irrationalism. In attempting to redefine their beliefs as a “relationship,” they’re pushing away any responsibility for his beliefs, as well as any accountability for his actions. A large part of this is that he refuse’s to define what that relationship means, or what kind of relationship there is. A wife and husband have a relationship. A master and slave have a relationship. A prison guard and a prisoner have a relationship. A mother or father and their children have a relationship. A relationship is not of itself in any sense superior to a religion or doctrine. Just as the superiority of a religion or belief-system depends on its character, so the superiority of a relationship depends on its character.

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