It is not uncommon – actually it is fashionable these days – to hear people express anti-religion sentiment, saying, “I am spiritual but not religious”, especially when talking to strangers or new acquaintances. (There are some good examples in Match.com). The impetus is the desire to distance oneself from formalities.
Criticism of empty rhetoric and expressions lacking tangible application to people’s lives is not new. Indeed, those who would rather refer to themselves as believers (in contrast to religious) or play faith against religion, have at times been in the very camp they chastise.
In this Sunday’s Epistle Reading from James 1:17-27 the writer states: “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”. Faith is practice, and so is religion; not systems or thought forms, but relating to one another.
This goes back to the very beginning of the church, as evident from some ancient Christian commentators of scriptures whose comments are in the next post.