Brass Tacks, Getting Down To . . .

Brass tacks. To me, that’s what religion is about.

It’s an old American saying, “getting down to brass tacks.”

I know there are other explanations for the origin of that old saying, but when I think of brass tacks, I think of repairing leather harness for horses. It’s something I did a lot as a kid.

When a harness breaks, you take a hammer and drive a tack through the two broken pieces. The tack is manufactured so that the shaft will split and spread two ways. Then, you’ve fixed the break.

The tacks are brass, not steel, so that they bend easily out in the field, the real world.

Brass tacks are what you keep on hand (in your pocket) and use to fix a break . . . fast, out in the field.

Sure, religion is heady stuff. You can major in it; you can get a masters or a doctorate in it. There are whole libraries full of it. But religion matters when a brass tack and a hammer matter — out in the field when you least expect to need it.

I’m not talking about praying your heart out when something bad happens. That’s natural, but it’s transactional and no thought is involved — I’ll give you something, whatever gods exist, if you give ME something. You can pray for your harness to grow back together, too. It won’t.

I’m talking about the harness breaking when you’re in the back forty. It’s a hell of a walk back to the house, and the job needs to be done. So, you take the harness off, put it on the nearest solid thing, and drive a brass tack through it. Then, you go on.

Your religion is whatever your brass tack is. Perhaps it’s a belief in an almighty and interfering god. Perhaps it’s a belief in luck or chance. Perhaps it’s self reliance. Maybe you think money will fix anything. Doesn’t matter, really. Your religion is whatever works out in the back forty to get things back on track.

Religion is the brass tack. You need it when you need it. It’s good to have in your pocket. For me, anyway, it’s good to have it thought through.