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  • Writer's pictureJoe Cherry

It's the Law!

When I worked in a boutique law firm I learned the phrase: “Intent is 9/10ths of the law.” The attorney who taught me that was really trying to get me to consider law school. Though I appreciated his vote of confidence at the time, clearly I chose a different path. These many years later, this phrase still pops into my mind, but now I see it through a more theological and philosophical lens.

The word religion has its roots in Latin, of course: religare, to bind fast together. As this word traveled through time its meaning has deepened. It came to English through Old French as religio which had come to mean obligation, bond, reverence. Our modern understanding of the word, at least in the U.S. and other Western cultures, tends to have been associated with Christianity in particular, but the word religion is not dogmatic.

The argument can be made that the word religion is about intention, not tied to a specific theology. Religion practice is a way of repetition and ritual used to find what is of ultimate value to you. Religion of course can be Christian, but it can also be a habitual walk along the shoreline, if that helps you to find your center and focus your spiritual life.

As Unitarian Universalists we have often forbidden certain words from being uttered in our sanctuaries because of the connotations the word might have. But to ban these words is to surrender them to those who would use them to gain an authority that we don’t want these folks to have.

If you live with intention, aiming toward your values and your moral code, you are practicing religion. As your minister, I of course endorse and encourage this kind of radical behavior.

A spiritual path is one in which you strive to become your best self. This is 9/10ths of a religious life.

Rev. Joe

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Rev. Joe Cherry

Rev. Joe is a biracial, gay, Unitarian Universalist minister, and history nerd. He lives in North Easton, Massachusetts, with his husband, Rev. Denis Paul, and their dog, Toulouse.

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