It’s funny that I started out this week thinking about religion. The word is related to the word ligament and means to tie back or to tie together, and that is definitely what our belief systems can do, constrain us (sometimes from doing the things we shouldn’t do, sometimes from doing the things we need to do) or connect us. I know a lot of people have been hurt by organized religion, but I have been very lucky to find myself in times and places where it has been very beneficial. Going to Catholic school (because we were getting beat up in the public school) in the 1970s right after Vatican Council II meant, among other things, that I got some of the most comprehensive sex and drug education compared to anyone I know, even and especially those who went to public schools. Go figure.
During Holy Week it is easy to see the two sides of religion. The Jewish authorities of Jesus’s day had the Roman Empire breathing down their necks; Israel was a nation occupied by a superpower that didn’t like trouble-makers. Executing Jesus was a way of protecting the status quo that he was always complaining about. In our own day we can see people like Martin Luther King, Jr., whose faith gave him the strength to help lead the fight for Civil Rights and to speak against poverty and war; on the flip side, we see the court clerk refusing to do her job and sign gay marriage certificates because her faith constrains her ability to see that love is bigger and wider than she thinks it is.
Back around Thanksgiving when I was starting to think about these things in earnest, I bought a cornflower blue suede string necklace as a reminder to try to be open to possibilities. It was too long to wear as a necklace so I looped it three times around my wrist and wore it that way for the last three months, day and night, in the shower, at the gym. Every time it broke I retied it. A few nights ago it broke for good and was too short to retie, so I put it away. Its work is done. Now I am on to the next stage, where I write these posts like threads to cast out into the ether and see if anyone out there gives a tug on the other end. As King would say, “We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality” (“Letter from Birmingham Jail”). There are worse fates.