“True Religion” as Ligaments of Love

Almighty God, who strengthened your servant Irenaeus to defend thy truth against every blast of vain doctrine: Keep us, we pray, steadfast in your true religion, that in constancy and peace we may walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

“True Religion” turns out to be a whole lot easier to pray for
than it is either to recognize or to agree on.

Here’s my own “religion confession:”
I spent a number years
suffering from what I can only describe as a “religion allergy.”
That is maybe a weird admission from a priest,
but when I was a young adult
I spent a lot of time
explaining to people
that I didn’t need religion in order to be spiritual.

I also spent a lot time avoiding attending the church I grew up in
which was so full of rules and rituals,
do’s and don’ts, judgment, criticism
and cranky old people talking about the love of God
and being mean to each other
that there seemed to be no actual room for GOD –
which I was naïve enough to think
was supposed to be the POINT of this whole thing in the first place!

And eventually I looked up the word “religion” in the dictionary
and here’s what I found:
it turns out to have the same root as the word “ligament” –
that which “binds together” –
and one of its definitions is
“that which binds together people in their quest for the divine.”

• Not “that which insists that our way is the only way.”
• Not “that which gives people license to villainize, exclude and even kill in God’s name.”
• Not “that which creates enough rules and restrictions that everybody you disagree with has to stay out.”

No – in the Gospel According to Merriam Webster, the definition of religion is:
“That which binds together people in their quest for the divine.”

If we are indeed to be that Body of Christ in the World
we need ligaments of love
which will be limber enough to stretch
not only to include all who wish to be bound together in this community of faith
but to speak out whenever any member of the human family is
oppressed or marginalized
wounded or afraid
silenced or in danger.

Because the true religion we claim
the true religion Jesus threw down
is “love your neighbor as yourself.”

All your neighbors.
Not just the ones who live in your zip code or are part of your car pool.
Not just the ones who think like you or vote like you or worship like you.
ALL your neighbors.


The Reverend Canon Susan Russell is the Canon for Engagement Across Difference in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

[Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash]

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