We confuse what really works with what doesn’t.

In all seasons, after my morning run, I perform a ritual. Rain or shine, I am invariably dripping wet, so I remove my perspiration-soaked shirt and undershirt and prepare to throw them down the cellar stairs for laundering.

The throw is anything but a mindless toss: I try my best to make them land not on the steps or floor, but on the banister only—and precisely at the newel post if at all possible. And why do I put such effort into so simple a task? Why do I stand in the cellar doorway frantically putting body English on a couple of soggy shirts? I will tell you why. It is because under all my Christianity I am a pagan at heart. I am convinced that if I land the shirts properly, the day will go well: the otherwise surly powers of the universe will have been induced to smile on my projects. But I am also convinced that if I do not, my personal world will come unstuck: I have made a religion, you see, of taking off my clothes.

You are no doubt disposed to find that a silly business—an exercise that can have no more effect on reality than stepping on a crack has on your mother’s back. I agree. But I would also like you to see that the ineffectuality of such rituals is not the real root of their silliness. They are foolish not because they’re the wrong tool for the job of jimmying the universe into line, but because the job has already been done by Jesus. Indeed, thank God they are the wrong tool: if the likes of us really had the power to straighten out the world, we would make it a bigger mess than it is. What I want to do, therefore, is simply to set these pointless religiosities of ours in the light of the reconciliation freely given to us on the youngest day (the day of resurrection, ...

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