19 May 2009

How to Judge a Religion

We are swamped by religion these days. All religions have now been lumped together into one heap. We have the Roman Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Church of Christ,Islamism, Judaism, Buddism, Taoism, Hinduism, Darwinism (yes, it is a religious belief for those who hold fast to it), and I'm not even counting Scientology, Mormonism, Satanism (a religion officially reocnigzed by the US military), and the list goes on and on (I am just scractching the surface). All of these are now lumped together into one pile and all of them are acceptable to the New Age Religion that permeates everything today with one caveat. None of these religious bodies may claim that they have exclusive truth. To do so is anathema to the system and will cause a person or group to be labeled "wing nut" and cast out of the system.

Is there another way to determine the merit of a religious belief or group without getting into theological truth claims? Of course there are other ways. We could lump religious groups into different clusters based on their polity or forms of governments (that would be another discussion). Or we could diistinguish between and among the different groups by what they DO. That is the suggestion of our text this morning from the Epistle of James, ever the practical person. Here is how he puts it: "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." (James 1:27) Regardless of our religions affiliation we all stand equally judged by James' criterion as groups and as individuals. So, how is your church doing, according to James? And how are you doing today? When judged according to James' standard, perhaps I am not so religious after all.

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