Perspective is the key to “good” religion.
I have a no religion shirt, which has on the backside the words written Embrace Jesus. No one can argue the point that many “bad” and destructive things have been done in human history using religion as a cover. From nations and people groups to individuals, religion can be used for selfish purposes. What is it that makes for “good” religion? Perspective or definition is the key to that answer.
James 1:27 “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.” Many point out that the orphans and widows would be those people who are poor in that ancient society. Therefore, they make the point that we should care for the poor. I have no disagreements with that assessment. However, are these people overlooking something more?
The widows and orphans are the neglected and victims of that ancient societies political and social structure. Widows and orphans would be completely dependent on others and have nothing to be able to sustain them. Single mothers can find work in today’s society, and un-married women can be quite successful (as well as married women). Therefore, the idea of a widow being poor just because she has lost her husband is not something that is epidemic in our society as it was to James’ readers. So, who are the victims of today’s political and social structure? One of these is the students of this nation (not that they are the only). Suicide is the third leading cause of death among those from ages 15-24. Many churches still see ministry to the young as teaching them bible stories and showing them that church can be fun. Yet they do not engage their minds on what true discipleship is and show them the reality of God’s presence. Many pastors want a “youth minister” to run some programming so that the church looks better to it potential prospects. Moreover, many pastors do not view the “youth minister” as a leader in the church, but simply the youth person. This view of the person seeking to reach the students is also telling of the view of the students themselves.
It is not just the students who are “loners” or dressing odd that are susceptible to the suicide problem, but also many students who are “popular” and doing well academically. Students live in an academic system that looks over the individual in favor for the corporate all the while the philosophy of our society is “me.” They are inundated with age equivalent peers, while the “world of adults” is non-age specific. These factors plus several others has led to an entirely different culture among the young that leaves them suspect of adults and cling to their “friends.” Church is therefore just another adult place and they typically do not open up in adult places. They may comply for a while and show some interest, but once they are in college or out on their own, their worldview, which classified church as not really a place for me, manifests. Many walk away from not only church but also faith in the reality of God’s presence and the power of the resurrection of Jesus. In many ways, the students are the victims of our society. True religion will look after the young of our nation and not persuaded by our culture!