Jesus > Religion?

The work has four main ideas. It can be divided into two categories, one containing two truths, the other containing two falsities. Then there are four other lesser points. I will respond first of all to the two categories of main ideas (two of them true, two of them false), and then at the end I will respond to the four lesser points. First, the truths.

This part is true, beautifully and wonderfully true: "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 / 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" (lines 27 to 32).

I would add two points to this. One is that in hospitals people often have to undergo painful treatments in order to be made well: truth and penance are like spiritual surgery and chemotherapy! The second is that, although we don't have to hide our failures, nor should we shout our failures from the rooftops, or our neighbors' failures. We should forgive the failures of our neighbors and confess our own failures quietly and discreetly to the priest. Jesus said, "Whose sins you forgive shall be forgiven." He shared with his Apostles, the first priests, his power to forgive sins, in his name. This was Christian doctrine for fifteen hundred years, until the Protestant crisis, and remains Catholic doctrine to this day, with over 2,000 years of uninterrupted tradition. With the Protestant crisis a huge sector of God's people was separated from the Eucharist, from the Virgin Mary, from the papacy and the priesthood. There are now thousands of Protestant churches. There has been just one Catholic Church for over 2,000 years.

This is an important point because Jesus said, "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church; the gates of hell will never prevail against it." He also said, "I will send you the Paraclete; he will guide you to the fullness of truth," and "Fear not, little flock... I will be with you all the days unto the end of time." Only in the Catholic Church have these promises been fulfilled.

The following part is also true: "Now I ain't judging, 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." Jesus was compassionate and patient with sins of weakness, urging us to fight against them: "It is better to enter into eternal life with one hand than to eternal death with both." He was severe with sins of hypocrisy and hardness of heart. These were the main sins of the Pharisees, who judged people harshly and refused to open their hearts to Jesus or to others. Jesus called them "whitewashed tombs, clean on the outside, full of filth and rottenness on the inside."

 

The work has four main ideas. It can be divided into two categories, one containing two truths, the other containing two falsities. Then there are four other lesser points. I will respond first of all to the two categories of main ideas (two of them true, two of them false), and then at the end I will respond to the four lesser points. First, the truths.

This part is true, beautifully and wonderfully true: "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 / 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" (lines 27 to 32).

I would add two points to this. One is that in hospitals people often have to undergo painful treatments in order to be made well: truth and penance are like spiritual surgery and chemotherapy! The second is that, although we don't have to hide our failures, nor should we shout our failures from the rooftops, or our neighbors' failures. We should forgive the failures of our neighbors and confess our own failures quietly and discreetly to the priest. Jesus said, "Whose sins you forgive shall be forgiven." He shared with his Apostles, the first priests, his power to forgive sins, in his name. This was Christian doctrine for fifteen hundred years, until the Protestant crisis, and remains Catholic doctrine to this day, with over 2,000 years of uninterrupted tradition. With the Protestant crisis a huge sector of God's people was separated from the Eucharist, from the Virgin Mary, from the papacy and the priesthood. There are now thousands of Protestant churches. There has been just one Catholic Church for over 2,000 years.

This is an important point because Jesus said, "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church; the gates of hell will never prevail against it." He also said, "I will send you the Paraclete; he will guide you to the fullness of truth," and "Fear not, little flock... I will be with you all the days unto the end of time." Only in the Catholic Church have these promises been fulfilled.

The following part is also true: "Now I ain't judging, 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." Jesus was compassionate and patient with sins of weakness, urging us to fight against them: "It is better to enter into eternal life with one hand than to eternal death with both." He was severe with sins of hypocrisy and hardness of heart. These were the main sins of the Pharisees, who judged people harshly and refused to open their hearts to Jesus or to others. Jesus called them "whitewashed tombs, clean on the outside, full of filth and rottenness on the inside."

 

Two False Ideas

So much for the true parts. Now for the second category. Like I mentioned at the beginning, it contains two ideas, both of them false. The first is that "Jesus hated religion" (line 33); the second is that because "salvation is freely mine" (line 49) and "Jesus said it is finished" (last line), we don't have to change. Both of these false ideas are repeated often in the piece. For example: "Jesus came to abolish religion" (line 1), "Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrum" (line 40), and "Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see" (line 46). At this point a definition of terms would be helpful.

The word religion comes from the Latin religare which means "to bind fast." It therefore refers to a bond between God and man. Jesus said, "You will be my friends if you do as I command you," because He wishes to bind us to Himself with bonds of saving love. The writer of this piece claims that "Religion says slave, Jesus says son / Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free" (lines 44 and 45). But Jesus said to Peter, "When you are older, someone else will bind you and take you where you do not wish to go." He was promising Peter that he would die as a martyr of love. He also said, "Whoever wishes to be the greatest among you must become the last and servant of all," and "I came not to be served but to serve." He washed his disciples' feet, the function of a slave, and told them to follow his example. St. Paul wrote, "Be slaves of Christ Jesus." Therefore, we are to be servants as well as sons, like Jesus was and is Son and Servant; not one or the other, but both.

God loves religion because it is how He saves us. Again, the writer of the piece claims that "religion says do, Jesus says done" (line 43), and "Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God searching for man" (line 48). In fact, Jesus says both: "Seek and you shall find," "Strive to enter by the narrow door," "Go forth and preach," "Feed my sheep," "Do this in memory of me," "I give you the keys." Jesus established and oriented the Church. Man is a spiritual and social being; therefore he needs interaction with the divine and with others. That is what the Church is for. If members of the Church fail to live up to their calling, it is not an excuse to abandon the Church or to abandon Christ. We are disciples of Jesus, not Judas. Even if eleven of the twelve were to betray Him and only Peter remained, our place would be with Peter, because to Peter Christ said, "You are the rock," and "I have prayed for your faith; when you recover, confirm your brothers."

Then there is the declaration of being "addicted to pornography" (line 22), and four lines later: "But now that I know Jesus, I boast in my weakness." This is a hypocritical position. It's like saying, I can slap Jesus in the face as hard and often as I like because He will always forgive me. When Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, He said to her: "Nor do I condemn you... Go, and sin no more."

Underlying these statements is the controversy about grace. Protestants believe that grace is extrinsic and imputative, Catholics believe it is intrinsic and ontological. These are big words but the meaning is not difficult: Protestants believe that God covers us with a white sheet but we remain corrupt underneath; Catholicism believes that we are damaged by sin but that God's grace has the power to penetrate and transform us from within, improving us and making us holy: "Be holy as your Heavenly Father is holy," Jesus said. Saint Augustine, the great Doctor of Grace, said, "Love, and do what you wish." He did not mean that you can do whatever you like so long as you love; "Why can't we have sex outside marriage if we're in love?" No, he meant, fall in love with Christ and then do as you wish because if you love Him you will do everything in your power (the power He will give you through prayer and the sacraments) to please Him and not to offend Him.

 

Four Small Points

There are four small points that we should also answer, as I mentioned at the beginning. One is this: "Don't you see it's so much better than just following some rules" (line 34). Somebody once said that the Puritan lives in constant dread that somebody somewhere might be happy. There are heretical versions of Christianity that invent claustrophobic rules which are not in the Gospel. The Pharisees did that. But the Pharisees were not truly religious. They were neither Christians nor genuine Jews, like Joseph, Mary, John the Baptist and others. True Christianity, Catholicism, does not invent and inflict extra rules. Jesus said: "Keep the commandments." What's wrong with these rules: honor your parents, do not lie, do not steal, do not commit impure acts? Jesus wants us to be happy and He gives us the grace to live in a way that makes us happy, leaving sin behind.

The second minor point is this one: "What if I told you voting Republican really wasn't His mission? / What if I told you Republican doesn't automatically mean Christian" (lines 1 and 2). This is true. Jesus is God, not a politician. Many positions of the Republican party are incompatible with Christianity, and many positions of the Democratic party. Christianity condemns errors on both sides.

The third minor point is this: "I mean if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars" (line 5). Phillips and Axelrod (2004), authors of The Encyclopaedia of Wars, stated that of the 1783 wars they catalogued throughout recorded history, only 123 were fought for reasons that were legitimately deemed religious. If that number is even close to being valid, religion has only been the cause of about 7% of wars. Wars are primarily about power and politics; it is only when a religion is distorted that such are its interests.

When Simeon prophesied that Jesus would be a "sign of contradiction," and Jesus said that He had come not to bring peace but the sword, they were referring to the war in men's hearts: some would embrace Him and change, others would reject Him and remain in their sin and selfishness. "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross every day, and follow me." Not everyone is brave and generous enough to do that. When we say yes and do our best to do what He asks of us, He has the love and power to make us saints: "I will give a hundredfold in this life, with persecutions, and then eternal life."

The fourth and last minor point is this one: "Why does it [religion] build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor" (line 6). Why not do both? Why not build big churches and small churches and feed the poor? Judas Iscariot made the same objection. When Mary broke the jar of expensive perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus, Judas protested: "Why was this perfume not sold for 300 coins to give to the poor?" Jesus defended her and rebuked him. Why not give God the best we have, by building churches and by feeding the poor and a thousand other ways? That's what the Catholic Church does; hence her cathedrals and her saints, like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, among countless others. Catholicism is the both/and religion, not the either/or religion.

In Ecuador the Home of the Mother is building a church and a school and feeding the poor and doing lots of other things, and readers of this response are welcome to come and help!