Return of Religion

When I was in 3rd grade, our family moved to New Jersey when my dad became a full-time pastor.  I’m not sure if it was the spelling of my last name or that my dad was a pastor, but kids soon started to call me Pope.  Growing up in a fairly sheltered Protestant area (Wheaton, Illinois) and family, I didn’t know much about the Pope.  The nickname stuck for a year or two before kids moved onto other nicknames.

Last week, the real Pope resigned.  His resignation was a pretty surprising and rare event in Catholic history.  The last time a Pope resigned was over 600 years ago.  His resignation got me thinking a little bit about religion.

What do you think about when you hear the word religion?

  • Structure.  Organization.
  • Denominations.  Hierarchy.
  • Church.  Buildings.
  • Priest.  Deacons.  Elders.  Pastors.  Order.
  • Corruption.  Manipulation.  Hypocrites.  Power.

Unfortunately, the term religion has come to carry a negative connotation.  People are leaving the church and are being turned away from “religion” because of the inconsistencies and abuse of organized religion and of those who claim to follow Christ.  I’ve been part of churches that stay away from the word religion and replace it with relationship.

When I was in Guatemala this past summer, Joshua Crabbs (our Casas por Cristo project leader) shared a couple of verses from James that talk about religion from a whole different and more positive perspective:

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:26-27

James’ definition of religion says nothing about church or organization.  His definition is about action – about putting sneakers to our faith.  If we as Christ followers pursue this type of action – if we would return to religion under this definition, “religion” would stop being a dirty word.  It would be something that attracts others.

Part of our upcoming trip to Guatemala is about helping orphans and widows (H.O.W.).  This is a real practical way for our family to practice the kind of religion  that James writes about.  (To find out how you can help our family on this trip, click here.)

How can you return to religion as prescribed by James?  What can you do today to put sneakers to your faith?