A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask ,”Why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous?” Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition! – Tevye
Years ago, I brought a friend to a Baptist church. I had been talking to this friend for a while about my faith, the best way I knew how as a high school student. Two years older than I, my friend attended a local Jesuit college. He also had a nominal Roman Catholic background.
One distinction I made sure to press during our religious conversations was the emptiness of traditions. I wasn’t slamming empty traditions; I was slamming traditions in general. In my mind traditions were contrived, manufactured, man-made attempts to earn favor with God while true Christianity was a personal faith in Jesus Christ. I thought that everything I believed came from the plain teaching of scripture and nothing else. Even the very practices and methods used in my faith were authentically biblical, not traditional.
My friend told one of his professors he went to a Baptist church for the first time. He told me the conversation went something like this:
“Did they say they have no traditions?”
“Did they ask you, as a visitor, to fill out a card and drop it in the plate?”
“Yes! How did you know?”
Yes, Baptists have traditions. Evangelicals at large have traditions. We all do. To deny such a thing is to deny reality.
I’ve been toying around with the idea for this blog for almost a year, but a recent viral video prompted me to begin now. On January 10th, Jefferson Bethke posted a video of a poem he recites called, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” At the time of this blog post, the video already has over 3 million hits and his been linked to and commented on from a variety of online sources.
Let me say at the outset, I am primarily satisfied with the message of the video and happy that it has reached so many people and caused us all to think. I took special notice of it the day after it went viral, in which many of my friends on Facebook were sharing the video, most favorably. Some other friends commented on the poet’s misuse of the word “religion,” and several discussions ensued.
Here is the video:
Before delving into the issue about the word “religion,” I want to note the things I enjoyed from brother Bethke’s poem.