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Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  6,302 ratings  ·  542 reviews
Abandon dead, dry, rule-keeping and embrace the promise of being truly known and deeply loved. 

Jefferson Bethke burst into the cultural conversation in 2012 with a passionate, provocative poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The 4-minute video literally became an overnight sensation, with 7 million YouTube views in its first 48 hours (and 23+ million in a yea
Paperback, 218 pages
Published October 14th 2013 by Thomas Nelson (first published October 7th 2013)
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JoJo Sutis
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-it-2013

When I was offered the chance to read and review JESUS>RELIGION, I had never heard of Jefferson Bethke. I had never watched his YouTube videos.

One thing I did know and believe is that Jesus is greater than religion, but I was curious to read Bethke’s take on this somewhat controversial issue. I was impressed! I was challenged! I was mad!

I was impressed- that this book puts a voice to everything we know to be true in God’s Word, but aren’t necessary living
Barbara Skalberg
Feb 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, nonfiction
My 14 yo son found Jefferson Bethke on YouTube and loves his Spoken Word videos. I ordered this book to learn more about his theology. My son jumped at it when it came in and read it before I did. I am not a theologian, but I did not spot any glaring issues with what he has to say. As a mom raising kids in this time of crazy huge numbers of young people raised in Christian homes leaving the Church and not going back, I am interested in any (theologically sound) young voices who are doing things ...more
Gosh, this is kinda rough...because I didn't even finish this one. I went into the book expecting a really great message - the title is, after all, Jesus > Religion, and the subtitle is "Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough." Sounds like really good stuff, am I right? But reading it, it made me feel like I *did* need to try harder, do more, and be better to be "good enough." So, I dunno. There's a fine line between really being under grace and following ...more
Benjamin Thompson
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Good news; Bethke understands the essence of the gospel, Jesus, the divine Son of God, came and died on our behalf for our sins. After his death he rose again from the grave, conquering shame and death so that whoever believes on and trusts in him through the Holy Spirit have been forgiven and will have eternal life. But beyond this Bethke gets caught up in some not so useful rhetoric. He doesn’t deal with the Biblical tension between the love of God and the wrath of God. For instance, he seems ...more
Trina Lee
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Jesus > Religion is a game changer; this book has the potential to shift how an entire generation knows Jesus and to clearly see when He’s being falsified and used, especially in the name of religion.

When Jefferson Bethke’s video went viral in early 2012, what impressed me even more than his spoken word poetry was how he responded to his critics. My expectations therefore were high for Jesus > Religion and Bethke exceeded them all.

Thoughtfully unpacking the message from his video and going much
Jan 19, 2014 rated it liked it
This book really sparked my interest. I've been struggling for a while with the concept of faith. For a few years, I've felt like I was living in this cookie-cutter world called "Christianity" and felt like I didn't fit the mold. No matter how hard I tried, parts would stick out over the boundaries, or there wouldn't be quite enough dough to fill in the little nooks and crannies.

I'm not saying this book "fixed" me. Not even close. But it did make me feel as if I'm not alone, and explained that w
Sep 30, 2015 rated it liked it
The author does a good job of correcting our tendencies to put rules and standards ahead relationship, but I think he pendulum-swings to the opposite extreme in forgetting to emphasize that the Christian's goal is to become more like Christ - which necessitates change of life.

Favorite Quote:
"I think the more focused Christians are on external behavior, the greater the possibility they are trying to make up for what they lack in their hearts. When we have no real transforming power of Jesus in
Nov 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jesus
I read this book not primarily for myself, but with an eye toward the students I teach. I often want to point them to books that are wise and Jesus-centered, but most of those [that have meat] are at a reading level that is too complex for them, or just aren't engaging to them [particularly if they don't know Jesus]. I was very pleased after finishing this book - it covers most of the bases of things I'd want them to know and understand. I read a section of it in class the other day and they rea ...more
Dec 17, 2016 rated it liked it
I was surprised at the quality of this one. I'm not wild about Bethke's famous youtube video, as I think it uses bad vocabulary and gives the wrong impression. But he has the chance to explain himself in this book, and I can accept most of his explanations. Begrudgingly I'm giving this one three stars.

It's Bethke trying to speak to disillusioned youth at large in this book -- those who do not understand the importance of, and place for, the Christian church in the world today. Okay fine, for the
Dec 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: evangelicals
Shelves: read-in-2014
In Jesus > Religion Jefferson Bethke asks many of the same questions and wrestles with many of the same ideas I myself have been asking and wrestling with over the past few years. I wouldn't say I agree with every single word he writes, but Bethke and I have come to a LOT of the same conclusions at this stage of our journeys.

Bethke's rise to recognition came as a result of his spoken word YouTube videos, which are excellent, but that also means he didn't set out to be an author. He acknowledges
Robert Sutherland
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
A pretty affected rant, Bethke gets the essence of the gospel and how many think incorrectly that a works based religion will make one right with God.

His theology is ok but his writing is quite frankly annoying. Maybe it's the 20 something west coast style but he over uses the dramatic triplet. For example

It's free.
And it's life giving.
Will you trust him.

That's ok once or twice but by the 20th time it had gotten on my nerves.

That said he made several excellent points.

All sin is paid for eithe
Katlyn Saley
Sep 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This wasn't the easiest book I've ever read. Not because I didn't enjoy reading it, but because the author really used God to get to my heart and thing about issues that sometimes I try to avoid. This book is powerful, and inspiring. It took me a while to get though, but I'm glad I read it. If you have not seen the youtube video Jesus>Religion I would recommend to do so. This book is an in depth explanation of that video and is the reason I bought the book in the first place. In my opinion ...more
Hufflepuff Book Reviewer
A potentially life-changing and thought-provoking book written in a successfully casual tone. I love Bethke's heart and his ideas. This book changed the way I thought about myself. If we truly believe that Jesus's grace is sufficient, then we can quit trying to change according to our own efforts and simply let God do the work within us.
Luis Dizon
Aug 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-religious
I didn't really know what to think when Jefferson Bethke first came out with the hit YouTube video Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus. The video highlights flaws in many institutional churches in America--what is referred to as "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" in some circles. At the same time, the way Bethke defines "religion" has not gone uncriticized (on this point, I highly recommend reading Kevin DeYoung's review article, "Does Jesus Hate Religion? Kinda, Sorta, Not Really"). While he still ...more
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved the authors take on Christ and the Church. He is very passionate and writes a clear picture of Christ and salvation. Jesus is greater than Religion, and I enjoyed reading in this author's words just how much he is.
Denae Christine
Reader thoughts: Very similar to Not a Fan and Crazy Love and Radical. All of them even have fancy theological subtitles that I just ignore. Once I've read the other three, this book didn't really add anything new.

This book is straightforward and reminds us that the Bible isn't a rule book; it's a love letter. In the same page it'll say religious do-gooders are trying too hard and then that they aren't humble enough (ish). It'll say that broken sinners need Jesus.

These are true, but it felt a li
May 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grace-gospel
I encountered Jeff on a youtube video about a year ago, describing why he hates religion but loves Jesus. At first I thought that the title was a contradiction but after watching it, I noticed that my views lined up with his. This book explicitly stated that it is Jesus plus nothing, no rules or behaviors to adhere too. It is simply Jesus living his right through you, I can relate to his vivid testimonies on how I got burned out by religion. All I heard growing up was "do more to get more." "Do ...more
Joshua Bane
Oct 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In all reality this is a book I believe everyone needs to read. Whether you’re a Christian or not, it is a challenging book. Jefferson walks the reader through his history with religion and Jesus. He communicates a strong message of how Jesus is greater than religion. The resounding theme of the book is everything is about Jesus, it’s a message of the love of God through his Son.

The book doesn’t beat around the bush, Jefferson doesn’t hold back. It is message this generation needs and actually d
Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was heavily involved with college ministry when Jeff's video was first released. I enjoyed it and it started a heavy debate among some of us in the church as to his definition of religion or religious people. This book clearly explains what he meant and how it is dangerous to be religious even if you are religious against religious people (yea figure that out!). While reading the book you can tell that the book is very personal to the author. He puts a lot of personal stories even stories abou ...more
Mar 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
So, this was definitely my kind of Christian theology book. I get very annoyed with watered-down, super sanitized versions of Christ as well as self-serving, issue-based versions of Christianity. This book very much identified with my understanding and relationship with Christ as well as the reasons I believe in being a Christ follower.

That being said, I think this is still somewhat surface. However, when scratching as some deeply embedded views, surface is actually okay. I didn't have the same
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Jefferson Bethke really does a good job breaking down the cultural stereotypes that have been formulated about Jesus, religion, and Christians. He explains why we should be looking at Jesus instead of mere humans when we seek to find an example to follow. As humans, we struggle with hypocrisy, and at times this fog clouds the window through which we view Jesus. Jefferson challenges the reader to make a conscious decision to look to Jesus instead of people and a particular religion. Christianity ...more
Halley Hopson
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, christian
I absolutely love the way Jefferson Bethke describes and explains so many things about Christianity in both this book and his YouTube videos.
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-but-not-read
This was a really fresh look at Jesus. Each one of us is an important part of the church body and we need each other to work properly.
Jessica Gillies
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Exactly what I needed to read. Worth the time.
Shay Prendergast
Jul 11, 2019 rated it liked it
The book's writing style could put it in the YA category. Not terrible, but very young and overly enthusiastic, at least for my taste. He makes many good points about following Jesus versus following religion, but it was repetitive. I also thought he was a bit off the mark with some of his theological assertions. For example, "When we become lazy and only copy other art in order to make it Christian, we are sinning. We are saying God is a copycat and that he needs culture's creativity." I follow ...more
Dec 21, 2019 rated it liked it
"I saw the church wasn't a museum for good people; it was a hospital for the broken. Jesus wasn't trying to create a place to show off His shiny employees; He wanted a place where His children could be healed."
Deena Shoemaker
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Jesus > Religion presents a challenge to the pharisaic rule that has overshadowed much of American Christianity and comes back to the core of who Jesus really is. It's about how far away we've gotten from the true essence of what it means to be followers of Christ. Bethke doesn't just skim the surface of the issues; he digs into them, bringing out the parts of scripture that apply.

When the poem Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus first came out, I shared it. I loved it. I understood it because
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
this book has touched places in my heart that no book ever dared to travel. and trust me I've read quite a few book, YA mostly but still, and none have left the effect on me as this one has.

let me start off by saying now that I discovered Jefferson Bethke when I was searching the web for Christian videos. I felt that I was drifting from God lately so I decided to do something entertaining and interesting by watching videos and that's when Mr. Bethke showed up. I had watched "Counterfeit Gods" fi
Ashley Earley
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Warning: This may make some readers angry.

I read the first chapter of this book and was stunned. I was immediately blown away by the beauty of this man's words. He's so honest and blunt about his past to guide and prove a point to his readers. I can only imagine the amount of courage it took to write such a book.

There were so many things that made me stop and think. It took me so long to read this book because after I'd read a few paragraphs, I'd have to put it down and think about its message.
Virgilyo Souza
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: spirituality
Back in January of 2012, a young boy from Tacoma, Washington put out a video on YouTube entitled 'Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus'. In just a few hours after uploading, the video hit millions of view. Up to this date, the video has more than 26 millions view. This book Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough is based on that poem.

This piece of text is powerful, honest, provocative and challenging. While reading the book, I could relat
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