A young online evangelist is hoping to epitomize the message that Jesus does not equal "religion" in a YouTube video that has attracted over 6 million views and incited hundreds of comments on the true meaning of faith.
The video, titled "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus," was uploaded Jan. 10 and has since become YouTube's most-watched video. The popular, and apparently controversial video, showcases what Jefferson Bethke says was his "journey to discover this truth – the difference between Jesus and false religion."
"What if I told you, Jesus came to abolish religion?" the poet asks. "If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars? Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?"
"Religion says slave, Jesus says son," he adds. "Religion puts you in shackles but Jesus sets you free. Religion makes you blind, but Jesus lets you see."
Not unlike many Christians, Bethke says he spent his whole life "building this facade of neatness," acting like a church kid yet getting faded and viewing pornography. He accuses many Christians of also putting on a "fake look."
"The problem with religion is it never gets to the core," the poet asserts. "It's just behavior modification like a long list of chores – like let's dress up the outside, make it look nice and neat."
Church, he says, "is not a museum for good people; it's a hospital for the broken 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."
Bethke, a self-described "messed up dude addicted to grace," claims that Christianity is God's search for man, while religion is the opposite – man's search for God. He explains that this is why salvation is free for the taking – forgiveness is his and not something based on "effort, but Christ's obedience alone."
"So I know I hate religion, in fact I literally resent it," he states. "Because when Jesus cried it is finished, I believe He meant it."
Bethke clarifies that he loves the church and the Bible but he wants to expose the hypocrisy and legalism apparent in many houses of worship.
He wrote on his Facebook on Friday, "If you are using my video to bash 'the church' be careful. I was in no way intending to do that."
"The Church is Jesus' bride so be careful how you speak of His wife," he stated. "If a normal dude has right to get pissed when you bash His wife, it makes me tremble to think how great the weight is when we do it to Jesus' wife. The church is His vehicle to reach a lost word. A hospital for sinners. Saying you love Jesus but hate the Church, is like a fiancé saying he loves his future bride, but hates her kids. We are all under grace. Look to Him."
According to the Washington resident, he loves Jesus and is just trying to make Him famous. It's a feat that appears well on its way as the video keeps racking up hits and commentary.
The video was produced by CIKProductions (Christ is King Productions) and is run by Christian hip-hop producer Matthew Robertson.
"Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus," has attracted various responses, with some expressing admiration and others disdain with Bethke's spoken word effort to glorify Christ. The video has garnered over 66,000 comments on the YouTube page alone, and has attracted many more on Facebook pages and Christian and mainstream news websites highlighting Bethke's work.
"You guys don't get it don't you? We Christians don't consider Christianity as religion, but as an intimate relationship with God," one viewer wrote. "Before any of you post false judgments on the video, make sure of it first."
"More people have turned away from Christianity because of religion. Religion is not what gets you in to heaven, it's a relationship with Christ and knowing him as your Lord and Savior," another user wrote.
However, one viewer questioned, "You love Jesus but don't go to church? Jesus gathered people together. Christianity is about community it is not a one on one relationship but like the Cross it has a vertical line, my relationship with God, and a horizontal line, my relationship with the community."
Bethke, currently a member of Mars Hill Church (Federal Way) in St. Auburn, Wash., says he has a "heart to carry the life changing Gospel of Jesus Christ to the inner city." The 2011 Pacific University graduate is also a contributor to Chisel Season – a website that provides "spiritual encouragement, education, and conviction."
Bethke previously created another viral video, "Sexual Healing," which also produced by Robertson's CIKProductions. The poem was originally written for an open mic at Pacific University. According to Bethke, it highlights his discovery that "sex as recreation, is unable to satisfy us the way we were meant to be satisfied." Bethke notes that "Sexual Healing" focuses on anyone who has been "deeply affected, hurt, and damaged by sexual sin."
The "Sexual Healing" video can be viewed below: