Look, I get what Bethke is saying, and he says a lot of good things: church is not Republican, church should help the poor, the inside rather than the outside is crucial, the church is a “hospital for the broken,” and Jesus never liked self-righteousness. But his overall premise is, in my opinion, harmful and unbiblical. For an initial rebuttal, look here (thanks, Katie).
Bethke’s premise is that Jesus came to “abolish religion.” I believe this to be directly contradictory to the Canonical Gospels. Rather, the Gospels claim Jesus as a radical Judean (Jewish) reformer. [“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”--Matthew 15:24] Never once does Jesus break stride with Judeanism (the predecessor to Judaism) in terms of following the law. Admittedly, there is some debate over Mark 7.19, but it is an enigma in an otherwise clean slate as comes to following the law and challenging some religious authorities over their interpretation and implementation of the law:
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.Mt. 23.113-28
Point: the Pharisees nor the scribes represent the entirety of the Judean religion. In Jesus accusation, the Pharisees and the scribes are hindering the people who are practicing their religion of following and worshipping the very same God that Bethke worships. Not only does Jesus not critique these “religious” people, but he uses the Torah to critique the religious leaders–the very same Torah, they use to neglect justice and mercy. Jesus is reforming the religion the authorities have corrupted.
There’s more to critique from Bethke, like his use of pornography or his claim that religion starts wars, but that would take more than I have time. There will be other pundits, I’m sure. The truth is that Bethke is not the problem. This video went viral because so many Christians loved it, without thinking critically about their own faith or Bible… or religion. People, faith is something you DO; Not a work to be judged by, but a way of life. Get into it. Call out hyprocrisy and be vessels of “justice, mercy, and faithfulness.” For in the words of Shakespeare and Edward R. Murrow,
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ but in ourselves.”
Good day… and good luck;)