I've written a new blog entry for the "Opening the Bible" blog at i.ucc. It is born out of the practical advice for Christians from James 1:17-27. Unfortunately we don't often follow the advice and instead do and say things that are pretty useless. (That's the name of the post.)
I grew up in a time where we in the church made up catchy little slogans that really cheapened what was genuine. I think we're still doing it today.
Before everyone goes all "God is still speaking is not a catchy, Christianity cheapening phrase" on me, let me throw a few thoughts out there.
When I was growing up, I often heard the phrase, "I'm not religious -- I'm a Christian!" in response to questions that often were about church and church attendance. I think the response grew out of a disdain for the term "religious" because to many people it really meant "pompous."
In more recent times, I've seen that the word "Christian" is often seen as a synonym for "pompous" or even "hypocritical." In some ways we've come up with the phrase "Not religious but spiritual" as an answer to the newest problem. I've read books that attribute this new phrase to a generation of people who are turning away from the established church and into other postmodern-influenced ways of living and worshiping. However, I really think that it's the writers and church leaders that have come up with the phrase to create a generation of people who are "seeking more" There may be many who would fit into this category, but the latest, credible research I've seen says that statistically there are very few.
I'm not overly concerned with the "God is still speaking" catch phrase -- mostly because of the conversation that is underneath it. I believe that underneath the phrase is profound truth. I believe it moves people to ask for more and to dig deeper into what God is saying. Yet that phrase too could become meaningless if we don't continue to dig deeper.
In this week's Bible passage, James 1:17-27, I see practical advice for how to be a Christian. (in the not pompous or hypocritical way). A verse that stands out for me every time I read this passage is 27: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." When I read those words I think of "Religion" and "Christianity" as wonderful things that we've abused and defiled and made into something undesirable. I look at the words "pure and undefiled before God" and see something genuine, deep and true.
And next to something that genuine, deep and true, everything else seems useless.