A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


"Jesus > Religion"

Here's a video currently making the cyber-rounds, with more than 6 million views so far:

I recommend it to you not because I agree with everything this fellow says--though I'd love to have him in class to bring up this kind of discussion! I post this here because I suspect he represents a very widely held set of notions among Millennials. These are the young folks who not only don't darken the doors of churches, but don't see any reason for doing so. As they see it, the Christian churches' concerns simply don't mesh with their concerns. (Ask any campus minister--many, if not most, will tell you that aside from a small group of, often, fervent "traditionalists," most students are not so much alienated from church as utterly uninterested. It's not hard to get a larger group on-board for social justice initiatives, but the whole Church thing? No thanks...)But it'd be a mistake to confuse indifference to religious institutions with indifference to Jesus.So...does this fit with your experience of millennials? And how might the Church address the needs of this generation? Or will we continue to preach to the (aging) choir?HT: The Christian Left. Also, apologies for the ad at the start of the video.

About the Author

Lisa Fullam is associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

These are the young folks who not only dont darken the doors of churches, but dont see any reason for doing so. As they see it, the Christian churches concerns simply dont mesh with their concerns.____________________Why should they see any reason for participation in a church, or the Church? Do the people around them give them any reason to do so? Or is what these young people hear is pervasively negative toward, most especially, the Church?Given the extensive animus for, and attacking of, the Church, including in places that purport to be Catholic, it is no wonder that some young people have rejected it.

How old is this young man? Are these views any different than those people often have at his age? Perhaps it's more so now, but the new new thing seems quite familiar.

Bender --Why should the young people think "the Church" is worth exploring when people talk about the hierarchy as if it were the Chruch, and the hierarchy has been shown to be at best indifferent to the suffering of children? All that many millenials know about "the Church" is that for generations the hierarchy showed little concern for suffering children, and when called out about it lied and resisted legitimate civil authority. If you were young, would you be attracted to such an organization?Face it. The damage done to the Church by the scandal is incalculable. Only some reforming saints can reclaim the young.

I find this sort of reasoning isn't as common as straight up indifference is in my beleaguered generation. I also find this line of thinking could use a quart of thinking-things-through, or perhaps a pint of theological criticism. Either would do. There's lots this guy leaves out of the picture when he tries to divide "Jesus" from "religion"; among other things, he seems to think that he's got Jesus all nailed down as to who and what he was, is, and did; he equates hypocrisy within an institution with the complete falsity of that institution; he ignores the fact that anytime people gather together to pray, there is some kind of spatial, temporal and communal structure, a la religion (in perhaps its most simplistic form); he ignores that the records we have of Jesus were preserved by a spatial, temporal, communal structure (a la religion);... and on and on. As for what needs to be done for my fellow Millennials, one possibility I like is to show that Christianity is a humanism (to parrot Jean-Paul Sarte) and that everything that is fully human (the starting point would be peace of mind and happiness, I think) is fully Christian. Rahner said something to this effect in his Foundations; another way to put this idea is that famous quote by Irenaeus. I do not think the educational structure is there, however.

Jefferson Bethke (the young man in the video) strikes me less as a typical Millennial than as a non-denom evangelical who has had a transformative encounter with grace outside organized religion.He has a FB page where he struggles to amplify some of his ideas. I feel for the kid. These things are difficult to put into words, especially in the first flush of that encounter.!/pages/J... Millennial and his purple-haired girlfriend would find Bethke's video useful ammo in their battle to escape the boredom and indifference they find in the parish church. But I don't think they have really thought about there being a difference between church, faith, grace, and organized religion. When pressed, they will tell you religion has done its job by inspiring our forefathers to enshrine most Judeo-Christian teachings into law, and that religion is now, therefore, irrelevant.

I think he's an American evangelist--he's preaching salvation through grace. He's giving us his own Pauline conversion story. He's preaching the good news. Good for him. Maybe the question is: where do you see more sign of God's working: in this kid's video, or in the Heights and in the Bararonial media empire? And why?

I note on his Facebook page the following:

If you are using my video to bash "the church" be careful. I was in no way intending to do that. My heart came from trying to highlight and expose legalism and hypocrisy. The Church is Jesus' bride so be careful how you speak of His wife. 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 fianc saying he loves his future bride, but hates her kids. We are all under grace. Look to Him.

He says in the video, "I love the church; I love the Bible." He is far from a typical young person who is not interested in Christianity. He seems to be preoccupied with it.

I liked the part where he said the church should be a hospital for the broken.But churches stand empty except for a few hours on Sunday.There are over 300,000 homeless people in this country.There are over 17,000 Catholic parishes in this country.That's 35 homeless people for each Catholic parish. Invite them in out of the cold and rain. Let them sleep in the pews or in the church basement. Why isn't this being done?

Given the extensive animus for, and attacking of, the Church, including in places that purport to be Catholic, it is no wonder that some young people have rejected it.Bender,You know, the Catholics who have their reservations and misgivings about the Church are just as much a part of the Church as you are. It seems to be your mission in life, and to the extent that you give people the impression that you are the "good" Catholic and they are "bad" Catholics, I think you may very well drive people away from the Church rather than drawing them in. Not everyone is capable of the kind of certitude you seem to have.

The Church as a hospital for the broken. That's very much part of the Christian tradition. That's exactly what I don't see in Opus Dei/the Heights.

This is a very standard Evangelical Protestant appeal. And for at least some of them (I do not know about this speaker) "religion" means historic Christianity, especially Catholicism.

(Correction: There are over 600,000 homeless, not 300,000. 35 for each of the 17,000 parishes. Sorry.)

Hi, Gerelyn, it actually is being done in some places.

He is dissing, not the church, but religion. I don't know how you can believe in Jesus and yet claim to hate religion. So I don't understand him. Thorin is probably right - it's the only way I can make sense of it.

"Thats 35 homeless people for each Catholic parish. Invite them in out of the cold and rain. Let them sleep in the pews or in the church basement. Why isnt this being done?"That's a great question Gerelyn, besides your bitching and moaning on here what are you doing to make this happen?

Richard Smith,You are being rude.

Thats 35 homeless people for each Catholic parish. Invite them in out of the cold and rain. Let them sleep in the pews or in the church basement. Why isnt this being done? It is being done in at least one church in San Francisco (sorry to steal your thunder, Ed Gleason): get a substantial portion of my charitable donation each year and it is growing more and more.

Re: certain kinds of certitude:Bishops break out in shingles in the face of ambiguity; laity live with it each day in their homes, jobs and social life. (Tim Unsworth of blessed memory)The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. (William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming)People reach conclusions when they are tired of thinking. (Mark Twain)My daily trifecta ----

This caught my eye: "many, if not most, will tell you that aside from a small group of, often, fervent traditionalists."Interesting, no? A creative minority? A smaller, purer church?

I think Cathy had something important to say about how religion is and neds to be perceived.There are a number of creative minorities in the Church, including not only young bu told, but I don't see much creativity among the trads.Hence the bankruptcy of Bender's comment.It's quite sad to me that the policy makers are so resistant to anything oher than trad proclamation.

I could be misinterpreting Bethke, but I heard him as seeing "church" in more of a "people of God" sense, while "religion" is about rules (his term,) dogma and doctrine, controlled by the insiders in religious institutions, often at the expense of the people of God. The comments by others on his facebook page would cohere with this distinction. Church, then, is the small communities of those who try to follow Jesus, not the building, the denomination, the institution. Boomers, unlike millennials, will tend to conflate the two, but the youngsters are driving home the distinction. Clearly, he's passionate about Jesus, and perhaps his antipathy toward religion is stronger than the usual millennial indifference. So to Budida20 and any other millennials out there--is millennials' indifference to religion, or to church, or does that extend to Jesus too? I guess I see in those I've met who are enthusiastic about social justice-y projects a sense of connection to Jesus, while the indifference to religion and the institutional church runs deep. Groups of, or friendships among' intensely motivated friends of Jesus, or less-intense fans of his, are more common and less structured. But, again, open to correction on this.And sure, he's a straight-up evangelical--but have you heard the analogous from ostensibly RC young people? Indifferent to church as institution, perhaps anti-religion, and strongly pro-Jesus?

I think I'm most concerned about this young man's understanding of Jesus. It seems that for him it all boils down to Jesus suffering the punishment that we deserve. That's what grace is, in this view. This is not biblical, it is Calvin/Luther, and the standard evangelical line. But it's bad theology and creates the belief that God requires blood before we can be forgiven. I think a number of Millennials do agree with this young man's sentiments, and also share his Calvinist views about Jesus and his death, because of a lot of lousy catechesis they've had. An accurate rendering in every respect.

Indeed, Calvinist as the dickens--so how can friends of Jesus offer a different vision of God to the un-churched generation? I fear if we continue to think of seminary education as preparing people to lead in the institutional churches, we'll basically blow our mission--the people who most need, and are perhaps most receptive to, better theology, aren't coming to church any more, if they ever did.

It seems to me that the liberal project within Christianity over the past 150 years is perhaps even less compatible with Mr. Bethke's view than is theological conservatism, because it has been a project of deconstructing Jesus himself and belief in him as a reality, leaving at first still religion and ritual without heirarchy, though eventually only horizontal social activity and affirmation. Someone who believes in Jesus can at least be opened up to "Thou art Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church." Much less so with those who take away belief in the scriptural sources for our knowledge of Jesus as true, as well as attacking the authoritative character of the church that claims he founded it. Evangelicalism is hardly a movement embraced on sites such as this one, with faithful (meaning pro-life) Catholics being castigated with them. So it is just a bit shallow to cheer them on because they seem to be attacking a common enemy in the organized oppressive Church.

"does this fit with your experience of millennials? And how might the Church address the needs of this generation? Or will we continue to preach to the (aging) choir?"This does firt with my experience of many people of all ages, not just millennials ... hell, it fits with me :)I think the most effective thing the church can do to turn around this perception of a dichotomy between what Jesus taught and how the church operates would be to actually change and brng the institution in line with what Jesus taught. The criticisms the guy in the video has are mostly valid.

6 million views. That says something in itself. His questions an concerns are getting to someone. Barron and Groeshel on you tube don't top 40 k as far as I can see.So maybe someone ought to pay attention to what he's saying ( which is a remix of Paul) and how he's saying it.

It is perfectly orthodox Catholic belief that God is not bound to the sacraments. St. Thomas said as much.Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote briefly of a religionless Christianity.There is much that is true to what he says and he says it in a very alive, poetic and powerful way. However, all that said there is a relationship between the two (religion and Jesus) and any corporate body including loosely affiliated associations will require organization and an organizational structure to further the idea or spirit. That is human.As much as I am in sympathy with his view, I do think that he presents a romanticized view of Jesus. According to Meier (author of A Marginal Jew) who was written about here some time ago, Jesus was not an irreligious itinerant charismatic figure, he was deeply engaged in the religious controversies of his time and was integrally connected to religious Judaism. His interpretation differed but that is different than saying he was not religious.

Of course, st. Paul never met Jesus of Nazareth in his mortal existence. And he won at least one big argument with his closest friends on earth about what the Church should do.I have always found that utterly amazing in human terms.

This love Jesus but hate religion has been around as long as I have been around, but without the rhymed poetry. And I am really, really old. I was a campus minister in the early seventies and heard the same theme. But notice, he is already trying to build a church of sort, or at least a following. Somehow there are human dynamics that cannot be avoided. Still, there are some things to consider. Younger priests, for instance. But that is a toughie and lots of young men who consider priesthood feel no call to celibacy. You can blame that problem directly on the Pope, who could change it in a heartbeat, but for whatever insane reason can't see why. Another thing: A parish and diocese have to be willing to spend huge resources on young adults and young marrieds, because that is the future. Instead, we pour our treasure into parochial schools,which leave two-thirds of the kids in the parishes I am familiar with out in the dark in some kind of luke warm religious education program. The whole thing is so lame. And third, something I see in Protestants all the time, but not in so many Catholics. A sudden spiritual awakening. Again, tremendous Bible study programs (my sister is in one now). Huge effort at personal spiritual renewal. Protestants do a much better job at getting men involved. Believe me--and I love 'em--the Knights of Columbus are not an answer.

Jesus was not an irreligious itinerant charismatic figure, he was deeply engaged in the religious controversies of his time and was integrally connected to religious Judaism. George D,The big question for me is the following: Would it make sense for the "halakic Jesus" to found the Catholic Church? Why would a Jew who was going to found a new religion have wasted his time explicating Jewish Law if his followers weren't going to be bound by it? Something does not compute.

I disagree with this video in a number of places and have written a more detailed argument against the video here: Refuting Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus video - I do think that this video does start an interesting conversation and I would like to see that conversation continue.

Brian,I agree with you regarding the Calvinist bent to this young man's preaching, and as a Catholic, I can't buy into that. But you have to give him this: his understanding of Christianity seems very stark and even demanding. It is not something you can be vague or indifferent too. It seems like some of the mainline churches preach a fairly bland Gospel. Are all we inviting people to is to be "friends with Jesus"? It sounds awfully like going on a play-date. Is there nothing "life and death" that hangs in the balance of our decision?I am attracted/sympathetic to the C.S. Lewis quote: Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. How do we communicate to people that the invitation by Jesus to follow (and to befriend) him is VERY important?

Now that "Dangerous Talk" has provided an atheist (!) rejoinder to this video, here is a Catholic rejoinder:

Thorin -=I'm an 81 year old southerner myself, and that site turns *me* off. That picture of Aquinas, for starters, is enough to give you nightmares. He wasn't dour! What sort of appeal is that to a 16 year old kit? And the "arguments" (at least the first two -- I couldn't take more) weren't arguments at all, just sheer, dogmatic yelling. Not a reply at all, at all.

Now I aint judginWhy does he say that, when its so transparently untrue? I can think of 2 reasons:1)He has bought into the fashion that judging is the single worst thing anyone can possibly do, so saying you are not judging is the ticket to admission. In a similar way, people use to preface remarks with, Now Im not a racist, but2)The gentlemans lack of self-awareness is profound, though not uncommon among men of a certain age.

This young man is very intelligent and certainly has a decent rapp. Much of what he says I can't disagree with, however he is deleting two things: forgiveness and community. He is not forgiving mankind for trying to carry on Christ embodied in an imperfect chrurch run by imperfect humans. He is also not recognizing that the community can help individuals when they can't help themselves. I agree with Ann when she says the church did incalculable damage with the priest sex abuse scandal that went on for years. This cannot be emphasized enough. Our church has suffered a credibility knock that will not go away anytime soon. It is imperative that we as Christians find a legitimate way to reach out to the young so that churches survive into the next generation. Go bless us all, especially "the Church"!

Hello All,I found this video Lisa pointed us to both compelling and tiresome, if that is not an outright contradiction. I've been exposed to these kinds of expression of anger against organized religion all of my life. And I empathize with people like this young man.I'll make a general comment I hope will be useful. Everyone loves parts of the Church. To the best of my knowledge, no one I know personally, including myself, loves the Church. (I'm working on it, and hope that someday I really will love the Church.) Some of us hate the hierarchy, some of us hate those mocked as cafeteria Catholics, some of us hate those I call the ultramontanes, some of us hate. . . well, I've made the point. We seem to have a really hard time loving the Church entire, by which I mean the people of God (which includes millions not formally members of the Roman Catholic Church).If I had the opportunity to respond to this young man, I think I'd tell him I am in the Roman Catholic Church and following its rules in hopes that this will help me eventually learn to genuinely love the sorts of people I grew accustomed to despising when I was younger. Is there a point to staying in this Church, the largest of the world's organized religions? I can understand the skepticism expressed in the posted video. In my own opinion, it's too easy to drift into becoming either a Catholic who isn't guided by Church teaching or a Catholic who is a self-righteous, self pitying irritant. (I realize the video was not directed at the Roman Catholic Church alone.) Also in my opinion, I think Roman Catholicism is one of the most difficult routes one can take if one wants to actually follow the teachings Jesus gave us. Maybe that's why I should persevere in this route.

I don't actually see a lot of analysis in that reply. But you must be speaking loosely.I see the video as channeling Paul--not necessarily Protestantism. I don't necessarily think by critiquing religion he's engaging in anti-Catholic polemics. More recent historical critical scholarship has made the point that Paul: Judaism does not equal Protestant: Catholic.

I think this a pretty good (catholic) response:

News flash as my Millennial and I continue to discuss this video: Organized religion has made Jesus into a "graven idol," and, as we all know, statues can't talk. Instead, Jesus' message has been co-opted and codified by unnamed conspirators who want to push their rules on everyone else in order to control people. Some ways they seek control aren't bad--don't kill or steal--but other ways are destructive and make scapegoats--hating gay people and liberals.I had no idea the kid was such an iconoclast.Moreover, Raber and I are not bad people for belonging to an organized religion, but we are wasting our time, b/c we're already good enough. Good enough for what has yet to be established.

Anthony Andreass:My reply - invite young people to actually read the Gospels, especially Jesus' teaching about the coming kingdom of God, what it was to be like, the great reversal that was to come (rich/poor; first/last, etc.), the promise of physical and spiritual wholeness, the special place the marginalized were to have at the table, the reality that Jesus ate with everyone (something we Catholics do not do), and consider the role that his disciples are to play in preparing for God's coming reign. Living for this kingdom is very challenging, requires serious commitment, is certainly not a prosperity Gospel (as some preachers today lead us to believe), is worth living for, and even worth dying for. And I think young people want to see well-adjusted, emotionally mature, balanced adults, who live in "reality" witness to this; say "I am willing to give my life to the kingdom of God; it's a great way to live. Following Jesus is worth your life." But this often does not happen. I can tell you from eye witness experience that children and teens are being taught the following about Jesus (from a Catholic biblical catechesis that advertises itself as "with imprimator"): he came here to give us the seven sacraments and die on the cross. Period. This is supposed to be inspiring?

"I dont actually see a lot of analysis in that reply."Do you plan to offer any analysis of the video yourself?

Mr Pincher,Thanks for your response.One point: "Jesus ate with everyone (something we Catholics do not do)." I take it that you refer to the fact that non-Catholics are not supposed to receive the Eucharist (with some rare exceptions). Would you invite anyone to receive communion, even the unbaptized? And if you would just welcome all baptized persons, isn't that exclusionary? Would Jesus do that? And I guess you would also get rid of the RCIA program? No, need for it really; no real need for preparation to receive the Eucharist or the other sacraments. Just come when you are ready.Thanks,AA

William Taylor 01/14/2012 - 12:39 am :

Still, there are some things to consider. Younger priests, for instance. But that is a toughie and lots of young men who consider priesthood feel no call to celibacy.

I wonder whether this obsession - as it seems to me - with celibacy may not be a marker of our sex-obsessed times. Perhaps in the future - almost impossible as it must be for the modern mind to imagine - celibacy will not seem nearly as much of an awful sacrifice is it does to most of us now.

To Anthony Andreass:It is an incontrovertible fact that Jesus ate with even (and especially) unrepentant sinners. The people Jesus found most detestable were those who already viewed themselves as holy and pious. This is a reality the Christianity has had a difficult time accepting, from the first generation to the present. In the view of the New Testament, it is the very presence of Jesus that transforms one. Thus one might argue that those who are in a state of sin or are not yet initiated should actually be given more Eucharist, not less. The more time they can be in the presence of Jesus, the more they will be transformed into his likeness. (as a regular attendee of Melkite church I am also a proponent of giving the Eucharist to children beginning in infancy.) Regarding RCIA - is it strictly about being admitted to the Eucharist, or about being schooled in the way of Christian living? I grant you point - it is well made, but I am cautious about taking too narrow a view of RCIA.

"Thus one might argue that those who are in a state of sin or are not yet initiated should actually be given more Eucharist, not less."I would look to the example of the Early Church as we have done so often in recent decades regarding liturgy. There is no evidence whatsoever that the first Christians offered the Eucharist to those not yet fully initiated into the Life-Death-Resurrection of Jesus (i.e, baptism). Recall also that in the early church when those who sinned grievously (murder, apostasy, adultery), they had to go through a process of readmittance to the Eucharist and to the Church (which are really one and the same Body). As you well know, the Eucharist is not magic and grace builds on nature. So we as humans often need to do concrete things to make our souls more fertile ground for the grace that comes to us in the Eucharist.As far as children/infants receiving the Eucharist in the East, I have the highest praise for this practice. As pure innocents, they are raised by their parents to pattern their lives on Christ while also being nourished weekly by his Body. No magic here. Grace and natureAnd regarding the RCIA: why do you separate the Eucharist from Christian living? I see if of one piece and there should be a time of preparation so that an adult knows

Anthony Andreass:Was Jesus wrong? Should he not have eaten with those who were unrepentant and uninitiated? As I said, Christianity has had a most difficult time accepting the reality of his example since the beginning. Should Jesus not have taken a drink of water with the Samaritan women? Should he not have eaten with tax collectors and other undesirables? I agree that the Eucharist is not magic, but if one has a desire to approach the table, that must count for something. I wonder if Jesus is amused by the fact that we Catholics are exclusive when it comes to eating (counter to his example) but we blatantly disregard his express and clear prohibitions, for example, when it comes to taking oaths (it seems that this is something we love to make people even inside the church do, although Jesus forbad it). Why is this?

Now the Southern Evangelicals have endorsed Rick Santorum. These are the same Evangelicals that were timid on civil rights and went to the Republican party because blacks got their civil rights. They were phonies then and they are phonies now. Along with the Catholic Conference with their obsession with same sex marriage and abortion. Easy why people are turned off. We should tax all ministers of religion. Let them work for a living so they will have less time to do nonsense.

Brian,Was not the Last Supper celebrated by the Lord only with his disciples? I think that this point cannot be overlooked. The fact that Jesus ate and drank with sinners and the unclean is absolutely true and says to us as his followers that we too much include and see communion with all human persons. But I am not sure how you jump from that to offering the Eucharist to every and anyone, baptized or not, believer or not. Can you offer an example from the Apostolic era or the Early Church where the Eucharist was offered to the unbaptized. As a Catholic, I look to the teaching of the apostles for many things and there is no evidence of this in the time. "but if one has a desire to approach the table, that must count for something." When this is the case, the person should be invited to come to learn more about the Lord and Christian discipleship and not just be given the Eucharist and sent on her way.In your Melkite tradition, the sacraments are strictly orders as baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. In calling for open communion, you are clearly rejecting this.I think that there is a general uncomfortability when the Church (as well as deep and venerable Tradition) hold that the Eucharist is reserved for only members of the Church. For some reason that smacks as being exclusive. I am sorry you and others feel that way. This has nothing to do with these people being less holy than I--absolutely not. They are no more or less worthy than I am. None of us are worthy. In baptism we are initiated into the Body of Christ. In receiving the Eucharist, we become what we are: the Body of Christ. It makes no sense to me for those who have not been baptized to receive the Eucharist since they have not baptized into Christ's Body.

"Should he not have eaten with those who were unrepentant and uninitiated? As I said, Christianity has had a most difficult time accepting the reality of his example since the beginning. Should Jesus not have taken a drink of water with the Samaritan women? Should he not have eaten with tax collectors and other undesirables?"So I'm confused, when did the Church begin teaching we should not eat, drink and be merry with non-Catholics? Don't we do that all the time?On the other hand, he chose relatively few for the Last Supper.

ok, so I should be more patient.

I find the response from "Bad Catholic" linked to by Studebaker to be pretty lame. It's more a listing of standard Catholic proof texts than it is a response to the video.For example:

So onto the first bit of silliness the idea that Jesus came to abolish religion. Unforgivable. He literally said the opposite: 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. What were the Law and the Prophets? Judaism. What is Judaism? A religion. What did Jesus specifically say he was NOT going to abolish? Thats right. A religion.

But what in the world did Jesus mean (if he even said such a thing)?The New Jerome Biblical Commentary says of Matthew 5:17-20:

. . . They are the most controversial verses in Matt, and there is no consensus on their interpretation. The interpreter must try to state the problem clearly and to provide a historically honest judgment, even at the price of theological tidiness. The problem arises because the plain sense of the words is that Jesus affirms the binding validity of theTorah; but this contradicts Paul (e.g., Gal 2:15, 16; Rom 3:21-31). Moreover, no major Christian Church requires observance of all 613 precepts of the OT law, ethical and ceremonial, but only the ethical command such as the Decalogue and the commands to love God and neighbor. Thus, there is a gap between the teaching here and the teaching and practice of the churches.

John P. Meier, in the fourth volume of A Marginal Jew, comes close to being scathing on this point:

A prime example of such a naive tendency is the way many exegetes of the pastand some still todaythink that the Gordian knot of Jesus and the Law is easily cut by parroting the famous declaration of Matt 5:17: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill." Alas, this apparently clear statement of principle is probably, at least in its present form, a creation of Matthew or his church. Matthew's redactional hand is clearly visible in both wording and placement of 5:17 . . . . If insteadto change the metaphorwe start tugging critically at the loose threads hanging from Matt 5:17-48, the whole garment soon unravels into disparate strands of yarn. Some of the strands may indeed go back to the historical Jesus, but the not-quite-seamless garment of Matt 5:17-48, so prized by critics, goes back to Matthew's loom. Thus the artistic and literary whole of 5:17-48 tells us much more about the theology of a Christian evangelist in the second half of the 1st century than it does about the teaching of a Jew named Jesus in the first half of the 1st century. The reader must pardon me if I keep harping on this point, but it never ceases to amaze me that scholars who should know better keep citing Matt 5:17-48 as the magic mantra that solves the enigma of Jesus and the Law. It doesn't. For anyone questing for the historical Jesus, Matt 5:17-48 does not offer a solution; it poses a problem.

"Bad Catholic," in citing such problematic verse from Matthew and claiming a "smack down" of Bethke, comes across as naive and simple minded. "Bad Catholic" quotes perhaps the Catholic proof text of all Catholic proof texts:

He built a Church: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

First, as has been the case with most of Bethke's critics, "Bad Catholic" assumes that the video is an attach on the church, but in the video itself, Bethke says, "I love the church." And on his Facebook page he says, "If you are using my video to bash 'the church' be careful. I was in no way intending to do that. My heart came from trying to highlight and expose legalism and hypocrisy." Second, to claim that what Jesus was saying here amounts to, "Upon this rock I will build the Catholic Church," is extraordinarily credulous.

Anthony Andreass:I do not deny the consistency of the teaching and example of the church on this question. But will you acknowledge that there were examples that Jesus set and things he taught that proved to be too radical for even his disciples, the church? For example, Jesus rejected fasting. We fast. Jesus forbade divorce. We divorce. Jesus forbade the taking of oaths. Ask Pius X and JPII what they think of oaths. Jesus rejected classifications of clean/unclean. I think in the Catholic church a good argument could be made that we certainly do have official and unofficial categories of clean/unclean. Regarding your example of the last supper - nego paralleli. He did not share that meal with women or non Israelites either. But we disregard that, don't we? A number of protestant denominations practice an open table, much to their benefit, it could be argued. In my Melkite tradition, you are correct. We do not have an open table, but we do have a second bread offered to which everyone is welcome. But I ask you this - if Jesus were to enter one of our church, bless bread and break it, and then begin to share it with those assembled, would he deny it to anyone who approached. Based on the record of the New Testament, it would be hard to imagine that he would say no to anyone. As St. Paul in 2 Cor. 1:19, Jesus was not yes or no, but always yes.

" On the other hand, he chose relatively few for the Last Supper. "As, evidently, the current church wishes to do for the ongoing reinactment thereof.

I hit the send button too soon and missed this:But don't forget that, in your example, Jesus only offered the bread and wine to a few Jewish men. Should that be the model going forward?

Jesus rejected classifications of clean/uncleanWithout entering into the debate between Brian and Anthony, I just want to comment that I think Jesus would have been amazed to lean he "declared all foods clean" (Mark 7:19).The Apostles and other early Jewish followers of Jesus clearly did not know this (or at least continued to adhere to Jewish dietary laws), and it was a matter of some controversy as to whether Gentile converts were expected to follow Jewish dietary laws. This is interesting, it seems to me, since Jews had never expected Gentiles to obey Jewish dietary laws.If Jesus had declared all foods clean, bot Jews and Gentile converts should have been free to eat whatever they wanted. But when the question was resolved at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), all foods were not declared clean, even for the Gentile converts, although we actually ignore the restrictions placed on Gentiles there.

It is extraordinarily difficultimpossible, it seems to meto look to the Jesus of the Gospels as a model for what Christians ought to do. One may believe the Christian Church arose under the guidance of the Holy Spirit after the death and resurrection of Jesus, but Jesus himself was a practicing Jew, not a Christian. He was baptized, but so where many Jews of the time. He is depicted as instituting the Eucharistic Meal, but his early followers were observant Jews, and they apparently saw no conflict being observant Jews and followers of Jesus. The early Jewish "Christians" continued to follow the Law and to attend synagogues. Almost anything specifically Christian is not to be found coming from the Jesus of the Gospels. If Jesus were to come to a modern house of worship, he would be much more at home in a synagogue than a Christian church.

So Brian, in looking to Jesus' actions with little or no interpretation, at least in regard to his table fellowship and by extension eucharist, then you would absolutely accept his words on divorce. So the Protestant churches, in accepting divorce, are contravening the Lord's own words. No?I see the issue of whom the Church should offer Eucharist as something that the Church has the authority to teach on. Recall our Lord gave power to the apostles and the bishops stand as their successors. They have legitimate authority in this area and I find their teaching quite reasonable. If you do not see the bishops have legitimate teaching authority, then maybe you prefer a more congregational church structure. As for me: Roma locuta est; causa finita est.

Anthony Andreass,Thanks very much for your posts. They are quite sensible and very refreshing.

I see the issue of whom the Church should offer Eucharist as something that the Church has the authority to teach on.Anthony Andreass,Maybe it is a mistake to think of the Church as taking the place of Jesus, and trying to determine what the Church should do by trying to look at what Jesus did or guess what Jesus would do in present circumstances. During the ministry of Jesus, there was no church. There was just Jesus. He often dealt with people his innermost circle would not have dealt with, and in some cases with people they tried to keep away from him. They (the Apostles) tried to act as gatekeepers when Jesus was with them, but Jesus was there to overrule them. Today, the gatekeepers are in charge. Jesus, it seems to me, was a missionary, and while the Church does missionary work, the local parish (if not most of the Church itself) is an organization for the benefit of those who already belong, not for those who need to be evangelized. The Apostles all were commissioned to be missionaries, too, but their successors (the bishops) are not missionaries, but rulers over divided pieces of the territory that has already been conquered. The pope and the bishops, it seems to me, are not very much like Jesus and the Apostles at all. Jesus was kind of like Rogers and Hammerstein, and the Church is kind of like the Estate of Rogers and Hammerstein, in charge of administering a legacy, but unable to do the things that Rogers and Hammerstein themselves did.

Anthony Andreass:A point regarding divorce in NT context must be understood: the ideal marriage partner in the ancient near east was one's cousin, preferably first cousin. Therefore, one can understand why Jesus so vehemently opposed divorce. It brought division, shame, and feuding to the extended family. In an honor/shame culture (such as the one in which Jesus lived) such feuding can lead to killing.The Holy Father would answer your question about Protestant divorce practices in the affirmative (Light of the World, with Peter Seewald, 144). They are wrong, he would say. The orthodox churches disagree. Divorce can be permitted.But I feel that you have not addressed the heart of my reflections, that there are indeed some teachings and examples of Jesus that we (the church, past and present) find to be so challenging and radical, that we contort, gloss, or simply ignore them/him.Regarding your argumentum ad verecundiam: while there is a long tradition of this in the church, it doesn't make such arguments any more convincing. In fact, in the face of the Millennials' experience of the church, I think that baroque, ultramontanist appeals are not advisable. Ever since that fateful day when Jesus gave the apostles the power to bind and loosen, I fear that much has been bound, and little loosed.

David N. ==You say there was no Christian church in Jesus' lifetime. But He constantly said to his disciples, "Follow me" and they did. Surely they did more than hang out with each other. Certainly after His death the disciples were afraid of the authorities because they were w"His" people. No, they had no Constitution and didn't register with the Romans, but it seems obvious to me that there was a community of Christians that started to form even before His death. And the odd saying to Peter (". . . and upon this rock . . .") certainly gave him some sort of importance that the others were never given. This, to me, is like the last piece of a jig-saw puzzle that fits best in the last empty place, given the other pieces fitting into a whole. These are just common sense sorts of interpretations, but often common sense is often right.

Ann,It depends on how far you want to stretch the concept of a Christian church. Of course Jesus had followers, but they were all Jews. There is no indication that Jesus during his lifetime sought followers who were not Jewish or that he intended to found a new religion that had Gentile members. Jesus was a Jew who had an interpretation of Judaism and sought Jewish followers. (I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.) The Greek word translated "church" in Matthew 16:18 can mean "assembly," "congregation," or "community," and can plausibly be translated "church," but in my opinion it would have to be in the sense of "community." I suppose, if you want, you can imagine that Jesus was foreseeing the distant future, the papacy, the Vatican, and the Roman Catholic Church, but that seems like pure fantasy to me. During the lifetime of Jesus and for a while afterwards, the "Jesus community" was entirely within Judaism. The are plausibly called Jewish Christians, but to refer to them simply as "Christians" or "the Christian Church" makes no sense to me.

Hello All, To follow up on David's and Ann's last comments, there are a number of ways the early Christian Church differs from the Roman Catholic Church we know today that from my standpoint seem both terribly important and mysterious. A few examples: (1) Scripture reports certain women serving as deacons. But do we know what the deacons of the early church did? Did they give homilies and baptize people but not preside over the Eucharistic meal, like deacons of out time? (2) At what point in history did the office of cardinal enter into the picture? And was this office created specifically to identify the electors of the pope? (Rules for selecting the pope are becoming a staple example for students of voting theory. Before the Second Lateran Council (in the 11th century if memory serves) there was a surprising ambiguity over who were the electors and how much weight a given elector's vote would have, so that there are some retrospectively very entertaining stories of disputed papal elections.) (3) At what point did Christians have access to the sacrament of Penance in private form, by which I mean that a Christian has the right to confess and receive absolution in a private meeting with a priest? From what I have read, in the early history of the Church one would confess one's sins only on very rare occasions and this had to be done in a somewhat public manner.I'll add an observation: Ann rightly points out that the "upon this rock" passage is taken to mark the establishment of the papacy. But I wonder why we Catholics seem to pay so little attention to what happens between Jesus and Peter immediately afterwards. When Jesus tells Peter "get behind me Satan" is He telling us that we're all capable of making such serious blunders (and apparently Peter had just done one of his whoppers) that we can seem to be mirror images of Satan (when I think ideally we should be mirror images of Jesus himself)? (Theologians here please help me out - I don't buy the story I've been told that Satan literally possessed Peter at that moment in order to try to prevent the establishment of the papacy at the onset.) Does this mean we need to be very cautious in our understanding of papal infallibility?I'm a bit embarrassed that at this point in life I still have such poor knowledge of the history of some of these monumental changes, plus what to theologians must seem pretty cheesy comments on scripture. Maybe it's partly because the church histories I've studied are all so partisan either to the right or to the left that these and like questions don't get addressed.

David N. --Jesus' whole ministry lasted just three years. I don't find it strange at all that as a Jew in Israel He preached to Jews about the fulness of God's promises. Surely, to attract His initial disciples He had to argue His case within a Jewish context, and arguing with the Rabbis would seem to be necessary for showing both the continuity of His message and what was new about it. In fact, in the OT God is not described as only the God of the Jews. He's called the God of all nations. So within that Jewish context that Jesus ministry applied implicitly to all peoples seems clear to me even though He spoke mainly to Jews..

I dont find it strange at all that as a Jew in Israel He preached to Jews about the fulness of Gods promises. Ann,What is strange is that according to Christian thought, Jesus was God Incarnate, and he came (only) to the Jews, God's Chosen People. He gave interpretations of Jewish thought and Mosaic Law, which of course would have to be the definitive interpretations, given that Jesus was God. And yet God Incarnate had basically no impact on Jewish thought or practice (unless you count centuries of Christian persecution of the Jews). Jesus came to preach about Judaism, and none of his current followers are Jewish.

David -I don't see your problem. What I was taught was that Jesus came for *all* of us, including the Jews. Not many Jews were converted, but some were, and history isn't over yet.

What I was taught was that Jesus came for *all* of us, including the Jews. Ann,But that's not what Jesus himself said. And the Jews who were "converted" weren't converted to Christianity. The Jews who followed Jesus were still Jews. To put it bluntly, Jesus didn't found a new religion called Christianity. His followers did. Jesus followed the Law, and he never told anyone not to. Now the Law is irrelevant to the followers of Jesus, even though during his lifetime he was one of the interpreters of the Law. Jesus was, it seems to me, wasting his breath interpreting Mosaic Law during his lifetime, because the Jews rejected him, and his followers soon deemed the Law to be irrelevant to the "Jesus movement."

David, You seem to think you can't be a Jew and a Christian at the same time. A Jew who becomes a Christian is one who thinks the Messiah has come. He's still a Jew.So Jesus didn't call His movement either a religion of Christianity, or a movement for that matter. But He certainly gave it is message and basic shape with room to develop. But what he founded is in fact a Church. I think you put too much value in keeping your vocabulary consistent. It really isn't necessary, though it is sometimes confusing.It seems to me that Jesus' actual attitude to Jewish Law is one of those things that exegetes argue about. I doubt that He rejected it, but incorporated the basics into a more mature system of what law is and what law is for.

Just listened to the "Jesus > religion" video. It renews my faith and hope that there is a Peoples Church out there among the young struggling to be born.Most of the postings on this blog stream remind me that too many of us are getting too old. We just don't get it.As I listened to this young man rapping, I couldn't help but hear a young Bob Dylan singing:Come mothers and fathersThroughout the landAnd don't criticizeWhat you can't understandYour sons and your daughtersAre beyond your commandYour old road isRapidly agin'.Please get out of the new oneIf you can't lend your handFor the times they are a-changin'.The line it is drawnThe curse it is castThe slow one nowWill later be fastAs the present nowWill later be pastThe order isRapidly fadin'.And the first one nowWill later be lastFor the times they are a-changin'.

I love the way Peter, Paul, and Mary did this one, even if it departed from the way it was written. They sang the whole song full out, except when they got to this part, Peter and Paul dropped out and Mary sang, very gently, Come mothers and fathersThroughout the landAnd dont criticizeIf [not what] you cant understand . . . If your parents could overhear, they may have felt just a tiny little bit less threatened. FWIW, in finding the old PP&M recording on Spotify, I discovered a very interesting Spanish version by Franky Perez & Los Guardianes Del Bosque called Los Tiempos Van Cambiando.

A Jew who becomes a Christian is one who thinks the Messiah has come. Hes still a Jew.Ann,Is he obliged to keep Jewish Law? Eat kosher food? Does he keep two sabbaths? I doubt that He rejected it, but incorporated the basics into a more mature system of what law is and what law is for.And when did he do this?

David--Even in the Old Testament there were laws and laws, and there were also personal directives at times which presented problems (e.g., Abraham offering up Isaac on the altar), and there were teachings and teachings. By that I mean there were changes in the faith of the Israelites at times, and with those came contradictions and factions -- just as Vat 2 has brought change and factions in Christianity. I don't see why you're surprised that Judaism also presents problems. Yes, Jesus came to both accept Jewish law and to reject some of the laws. He did not reject the role of God's laws in our lives, nor did He reject the laws of Caesar. Reconciling them is still difficult at times, as many threads here will show. But His teaching was clear on the fundamentals -- especially the most fundamental laws: Love God and love other people as you love yourself.

Jesus inroduced the concept of eternal damnation, which is never mentioned in the Old Testament. Nobody but a Hitler could deserve such a fate. Furthermore, faith is necessary for salvation rather than damnation. That means you can't know the rules (faith is not the same thing as knowledge) until you are already in Hell and it's too late.Read my essay on the subject:

[...] Lisa Fullam captions: [...]

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment