I heard this question, yet again, during a radio interview during the week. I’m not sure who was being interviewed as I didn’t catch the beginning of the piece. It was a woman talking, among many other things, about a bereavement she had lived through. The interviewer asked the question …. “ are you religious?” Somehow I knew the answer even before it was given. I felt it would be “no” and sure enough I was right. “No”. Then there was some qualification around that – a wish that maybe she was since she saw the solace religion gave to others. Even more followed in terms of praise and genuine affection for nuns with whom she had worked in the past. “Wonderful” women but “religion” wasn’t her thing. Next question ……
Is “religion” that easily parcelled out? Can it be put into a drawer or the corner of a press as if it’s something that can be parked and put away? Seemingly for some this is the way. Like an old sweater that you once liked to wear but fashion has changed – you can’t quite bring yourself to dump it but it can be left one side. Or can it?
No matter where you leave the jumper, there’s no denying it exists. It even takes up space though not used. Even if you re-cycle it, there’s still something to say it existed and had a place and time.
Religion and being religious are intertwined. Religion, Jesus is shouting at us this weekend, is not just about doing things, saying things for the sake of saying them but about who and what you are, how we respect life, treat others, ourselves with dignity and respect. It’s the flesh and bones we carry around each day. It is “ME”.
Rituals and liturgy feed into and out of religious life. To be religious means to live with struggle, disappointment, joy, contentment, uncertainty, peace of mind, disturbance, joy, sorrow, anger, peace, questions, answers and to try to locate all of them in a place called “God” and a wondering around our “being here”.
Saying our prayers is part of the story. Finding “solace” like the woman mentioned is part of it too. It’s more though, it’s about wanting to be the best we can. I’d love if she had answered “Yes”. We really need people to be religious and we need to be religious ourselves – even struggling with religion – is religion and being “religious”.