journey through James (1)

At MoSt Church, we’ll soon start a three-month focus on the very practical and quite candid letter of James in most of our adult Bible classes. That study is entitled, quite simply, Journey Through James and will run from Sun., Sept. 11 through Sun., Nov. 27.

As we work through this letter, I’ll be saturating myself will all things “James.” What that means for you is that most of my weekday devotionals, Sunday picture Bible commentary posts, and sundry other postings here during that time will come from James. I realize those of you who like a lot of variety in where stuff is coming from will likely be “Jamesed out” come the end of November. At the same time, I know those of you who enjoy depth and like to have time to contemplate and ruminate on a text are probably looking forward to this journey. To the former, I beg your indulgence; to the latter I say, “The party’s on at James’ place!”

I’ve asked the adult class teachers here at MoSt who will lead our journey to repeatedly read a chapter every day in the book of James in the weeks leading up to our study. Perhaps you’d like to do the same. Start today and you’ll have read through each of James’ five chapters six times come the day we start our study. Let me also encourage you to follow my lead in this by using a different Bible translation each time to you go through James’ letter. The translations I’ll use for this preparatory reading will be the NRSV, NJB, CEV, The Message, NIV 2011, and the CEB. You can access most of these online at BibleGateway and, of course, have access to many other translations and versions, too.

Watch for most posts on Fridays in the coming weeks that will help you prepare for an intense focus on the wise words of a great man of God, James.

a prayer for all who are in trouble

God our Father, bless those for whom life is very difficult now:

Those who have difficult decisions to make, and who honestly do not know what is the right thing to do;
Those who have difficult tasks to do and who fear they may fail in them;
Those who have difficult temptations to face, and who know only too well that they may fall to them, if they try to meet them alone;
Those who have a difficult temperament and nature to master, and who know they can be their own worst enemies;
Those who have difficult people to work with;
Those who often have to suffer unjust treatment, unfair criticism, and unappreciated work;
Those who are sad because someone they love has died;
Those who are disappointed in something for which they hoped very much;
Those who have been hurt by the malice of their enemies, or, what is far more bitter, by the faithlessness and the disloyalty of their friends.

Dear God, through the work of your Spirit, pour your love into our hearts. Give us more self-denial, and more likeness of Christ. Teach us to sacrifice our comfort to others, and our likings for the sake of the good of all that all might do good. Make us more kind and thoughtful, more gentle in our words, more generous in our deeds. Teach us afresh how it is better to give than to receive; that it better to forget ourselves than to put ourselves forward; and that it is better to serve than to be served. And to you, great God of love, be all the glory and praise, both now and forever. Bless us all tonight, with whatever need we come to you, we pray in the name of your son, our only true Savior, Jesus. Amen.

Excerpted, and lightly edited from, A Barclay Prayer Book by William Barclay (Westminster John Knox Press, 1990), first published under the titles Epilogues and Prayers (1963) and Prayers for the Christian Year (1964)

american grace (5)

It is common to hear the charge that among whites religion and racism go together. For example, a recent article has concluded that based on a series of psychology studies from 1964 to 2008, “only religious agnostics [are] racially tolerant.” Given the tiny proportion of agnostics in the United States, this would mean that a preponderance of the population is racist. Such a claim compels a close look.

The backdrop for any discussion of trends in racial attitudes must be that over the last forty years America has undergone a dramatic transformation in opinions on race. According to the General Social Survey, since the early 1970s white Americans have become more racially tolerant on a host of matters. …

If racism is diminishing overall, however, that would not necessarily mean that it is falling equally among Americans at all levels of religiosity. The claim that religiosity fosters racism would lead us to expect that religious whites would be slower to adapt to a diverse America. In fact, however, Americans who are more religious or less religious displayed precisely the same liberalizing in racial attitudes over the four decades.

But, you may ask, even with the common downward trend, are religious Americans more likely to express racist views than their less religious counterparts? No. To the contrary, when we account for our standard bundle of demographic control variables – i.e. , the other factors that might explain differences in racial attitudes – we find that, among whites, religiosity has no relationship to attitudes on race. …

This is not to say, though, that we never observed differences in racial attitudes across religious. In general, white evangelicals are the least likely to endorse government policy to ameliorate effects of racial prejudice. …

… we also note that not all evangelicals are like, as there are significant differences in racial attitudes within evangelical population. No matter how racism is measured, it is most pronounced among white evangelicals concentrated in the rural and small-town South. This is perhaps not surprising, especially given the legacy of the apartheid practiced in the Jim Crow South. But it is still discouraging.

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell (Simon & Schuster, 2010), pp.310,311-312,313-314