James tells us that we should be 'doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves'. This may be a great comfort for those who find sitting in church increasingly unbearable. Perhaps its also good fodder for those who want to take out the easy targets. Of course it's quite possible for someone to hear without listening, just as it is to choose not to integrate what we hear into our daily lives.
Such transitions do not happen automatically. There is often a time lag between when our ideas change and when our behaviour changes. We test our new knowledge against our experience to see if it fits. Frequently (and particularly under pressure or stress) we can find ourselves acting in ways that are not consistent with what we now know, because our behaviour is still based on assumptions which we have in our minds long since given up. Consider the subject of global warming for example. I believe that this is a reality that we all need to take seriously. But I'm also pretty sure that changing the light globes in my house is little more than a token. I've been painfully slow to transition my practice so that it matches my beliefs.
James is also pretty clear about the kinds of things we should be doing. 'Religion that is pure and undefiled' involves caring for people in distress, particularly those most vulnerable. What matters in one's lifestyle is 'right living', 'right action' (orthopraxy) in relation to the rest of the community - to live as an agent of God's compassion to the world. True holiness is not so much absence of bad things, as presence of compassion, especially for the most needy in society
Finally, 'keeping oneself unstained from the world' is not about avoiding engagement where we get our hands dirty. It is about refusing to surrender to the dominant values of society. For James, the world’s values represent greed and covetousness. Those who choose to follow Jesus will demonstrate radically different values - sacrifice, compassion, generosity, hospitality. But significantly, they will live this radical alternative in the world, not apart from it. Ironically, keeping ourselves 'unstained' will often mean getting our uniforms dirty.