Christianity: Neither ‘religion’ nor protestantism
Recently, an online video in which a young man named Jefferson Bethke claims that Jesus is opposed to “religion” (defined unusually) went viral. Although Bethke comes from the perspective of a certain kind of Protestantism, reflecting upon the values espoused by Bethke reveals that he should become a Catholic.
Before proceeding, Bethke’s message must be explained.
In an interview with Ray Hollenbach, Bethke reveals that by “religion” he does not mean worshipping God or other things people associate with religion. Rather, he means “hypocrisy, legalism, self-righteousness and self-justification.” So, when Bethke claims that religious people do not feed the hungry, he merely means that hypocritical or self-righteous people do not feed the hungry.
Rather than “religion,” Bethke wants people to live out a relationship with Jesus Christ. If so, then surely he wants himself and others to believe what Jesus taught and join the church Christ founded.
If Bethke believes that Jesus Christ truly was the Messiah and truly wants to live out his relationship on Jesus’s terms, then he should become a Catholic. The Bible clearly reveals that Christ founded Catholicism, not Protestantism.
In Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus says to Simon, “Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”This of course is a reference to the papacy, since the pope is the successor of St. Peter as Bishop of Rome.
This is also the interpretation of the early Christians, referred to by both St. Irenaeus, (second century) and St. Augustine (fourth and fifth centuries). Since papal authority is established by Jesus in the Bible and supported by the Church Fathers, proving its historicity, Bethke should accept it and convert.
The same applies to transubstantiation – the belief that, at Mass, bread and wine are substantially transformed into Jesus Christ, while retaining the appearance and other external qualities of bread and wine. This is affirmed in the Bible when Jesus tells his disciples to consume his flesh and blood in John Six, and at the Last Supper, when he says of the bread he holds in his hands, “This is my body.”
This belief is not held by at least 99 per cent Protestants, but must be believed by Catholics.
Catholicism, unlike Protestantism, has a historical connection with the Apostles, who handed down the teachings they received from Christ. Catholicism has retained these teachings, while Protestantism has smuggled in foreign doctrines over the past 500 years.
In the 19th century, John Henry Newman, an Anglican priest, wrote An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine thinking he could undermine Catholicism. Through his research, Newman became convinced that Catholicism is true.
Newman writes, “Whatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it exaggerates or extenuates, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Christianity of history is not Protestantism.”
Yet some might object that there are too many hypocrites in the Catholic Church and that it is too legalistic.
Taking the second objection first, it is true that the Catholicism has a lot of rules, but they are not puritanical like certain Protestant groups that forbid drinking even in moderation, nor is Catholicism about the rules.
There is a profound spirituality within Catholicism, found in popular devotions such as the Rosary and the writings of great saints, like St. Theresa of Avila and St. Francis de Sales.
There are also hypocrites in the Church, just as everywhere else. Yet hypocrisy is not the defining feature of Catholicism.
Many Catholics fail to be charitable, but there are also many Catholics that seek to help others. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Mary’s Meals are just two examples of Catholic charities that do much good for the less fortunate.
If Bethke is to live out his relationship with Jesus Christ fully, he should go where the teachings of Christ are preserved – in Catholicism.