The Common Good

Religion, in the Right Hands

I was privileged to attend the ordination of a friend recently. For the first time, Michelle got to say the blessing over the bread, to break the bread and to give it to all of us with her hands.


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Many tears, much joy.

As she handed me a small piece of the bigger loaf, I was reminded of how we, like the communion bread, are in the hands of others for so much of our lives. And how religion can be a thing of so much good or so much pain, depending upon whose hands it is in.

In the right hands, it’s a pathway to the divine. In the wrong hands …

It’s important that we always differentiate between religion and God. The two are distinct. God is always much bigger than any and all of our religions.

In a way, religion is like those food samples we’re sometimes offered at the grocery store, a small taste of something that’s available in a much, much bigger quantity.

It’s never more than a taste.

But in the right hands, it’s a life-changing taste of something much bigger.

In some people’s hands, religion can become a weapon, a source of division, a wellspring of hatred, a warped justification for exclusion and conflict and greed and selfishness. In the wrong hands, religion can turn into a great evil.

In the right hands, it’s full of grace.

When religion is in the hands of someone who is kind, compassionate, humble, forgiving, accepting, and healing, it points us toward the one who is the source of kindness, compassion, humility, forgiveness, acceptance, and healing.

When religion is in the hands of someone who loves, it becomes love.

The more our religions reflect those divine qualities, the more they are infused with the divine spirit and bring us to an experience that reshapes our hearts, our lives and our world.

That’s why those hands are so important.

The hands that break the bread make a big difference. The hands that share the bread become the difference.

It’s important to be the right hands.

Joe Kay is a professional writer living in the Midwest. You can reach him through his blog at

Image: MJTH /

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