Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Just what the hell is lent anyway?

Please, my catholic friends. Don't be insulted. I love you. In fact, here in the fair mother city...the biggest, baddest, most effective and heart-filled food pantry for the poor is run by a catholic church. And nobody knows this. You know why. BECAUSE THEY DON'T ANNOUNCE THEIR GOOD DEEDS TO MAN. Hey, a benevolent machine that has actually read Matthew 6:1-4. Go figure. You catholics can keep your rituals, hail marys, and head/chest finger movements. But if these local catholics are a representation of your kindness to the poor, then you've got my thumbs up and I'll back you for life.

Really...I don't know if lent is a catholic thing or not. I know a lot of protestants who do it. That's fine and all. "Some people's faith won't let them eat meat" and all that jazz.

So, I guess lent is like some kind of late model spiritual discipline. Like a moderated form of fasting. Except instead of washing your face every day and avoiding somber faces, you let the whole damn world know your skipping beef for Jesus. Good for you.

I thought Jesus told us somewhere to avoid all those "new moon festivals and religious feasts" and etc. I assumed that meant believers are free from all that kind of crap.

I'm not trying to be a jack-ass here (key word: trying). I grew up in the coc (church of christ...with a capital "C" on one of the words. I forget which). The coc didn't do lent. They didn't do a lot of things, like play music instruments in church. And I got an instrumental music degree from a coc university. My college career was a huge oxymoron.

I understand a lot of folks are into lent now days. Maybe it's a new cool thing. Like those WWJD bracelets. I really don't know anything about lent other than you "have" to give up something you like until easter. Like coffee. Yeah, as if.

Come to think of whole freaking life is a great big lent. I haven't actually gone out and spent real money on a good beer in almost two years because I can't freaking afford it. We rarely get to buy breakfast sausage and bacon (my favorite meats in the world) because they're a luxury in our life right now. And going out to eat??? Yeah...right. Oh yeah, the other day I gave up my dignity when I walked into the bank with my jar of coins to deposit so a flipping utility bill could get paid. Actually...thank you lord that I have a jar of coins to deposit...

And now I'm supposed to give up, meat? Will this make god like me more? Or just impress religious people?


Deana said...

THANK YOU!!!!!!!! Finally someone else who doesn't get what all the hub-bub is about! I should have known.

ahbahsean said...

You sound frustrated, Agent B.

I agree that a lot of things in Lent are given up irrationally. I like to use these 40 days to really focus on bringing myself closer to God. While some people do this with giving up a food - you don't have to give up anything. In fact, people could use the time to do something FOR God...I've known people to volunteer more during Lent, or read their bible more. Plus you don't have to tell anyone what you're doing for Lent. I think usually only a few people know what I'm doing and that's for my own personal accountability, not at all to be boastful.

I do agree that some take Lent as a cool club to join but we can't judge what they get/give from these 40 days w/o walking in their shoes. ...or taking the time to have the Lenten experience for ourselves.

Mike Exum said...

I won't venture into the lent zone on this comment, but you did praise Catholics in other ways. I am wondering if you saw the news yesterday where the Catholic Church in the US, especially LA, is gearing up to break the law by feeding and sheltering illegal aliens. Imagine it. The church being a benevolent force to be reckoned with by the government of the US.

Sorry, did not mean to get off the subject, but it seems like your bag. (Mine too.)


Jason Ardell said...

Good post. This has always irked me since many of my catholic friends during college would give up red meat on Fridays etc. Of course Friday night they would get wasted and play Halo all night, so it turned in to the common problem of having a religion of traditions and not of following Christ.

Announcing good deeds to the world is another key point to this--glad you mentioned it; I hadn't thought of it before. Seems to me that the exact reason that Christ said not to announce these things is that he didn't want faith to become impersonal, but that's exactly how I feel about most of Catholicism.

agent wife said...

I think the point is that we should ALWAYS be seeking to be closer to God by whatever means He shows us. I can see how temporarily giving up or helping others can draw us nearer, but only in as much as we are doing it as genuine love for God and others. I struggle a lot with performing or doing to make ME feel good about my stance with God, as if feeding someone else or not feeding myself will increase God's love for me, was that not what the cross was all about? He loves us even though we were and are sinners. I have a hard time with this idea of serving for lent, because I see that all our lives should be missional. Some times this identity may take us into another country, to a shelter or better yet, accross the street, but it must be genuine. It's sickening to me to see the myriad churches and services that suddenly spring up for Thanksgiving. I know it helps people, but it comes off as a fake fad. What if people just fed others to love, no matter what the season. Are people only hungry at thanksgiving? should we only seek God during lent? Draw closer, but make the effort year round.

Agent B said...

I wish to reinforce the fact that I do not dislike catholics. In fact, I really like them.

I am disappointed ("frustrated" in abuchon's words) that I grew up in a faith and a region of the world that had nothing kind to say about catholics. Then 3 years ago I had opportunity to work along side them in the izzy group's mass ministerial contraband distribution. All I have to say is...I love those guys.

Now, lent on the other hand...I don't want that noose around my neck. If anyone else wants it, fine. It just seems trendy with southern US protestants in recent years - in a way that says, look how spiritual I am...I do lent!

I would never have mentioned catholics in this post had it not been the fact that they are famous for lent (probably invented it, I guess).

ahbahsean said...

I can understand Agent Wife's frustration that it's only good works attempted 40 days of the year. BUT there is the underlying hope that if you do anything for long enough you make the change permenant.

Lent has become very 'look at me' and that is frustrating. But for all those 'look at me' people out there, we also have the ones that use the time correctly. Do we ixnay the lenten practice because of the squeeky wheels or still utilize it for it's original intention? Remember as pointed out by B, the ones observing Lent correctly are not shouting their practices because they are following the Bible's instructions not to be boastful about these things.

Although yes, i agree people should serve others year-round, we don't. We're a crappy people, but I would rather have 40 days focused with open eyes then no days at all.

Mike said...

Lent comes to us from the early, early church (the one all the Emergers think they want to imitate). It was a 40 day period prior to Easter (when they would baptize new believers). the time came to be used for two things... first it was a time to test the commitment of new converts (back then it was a matter of life and death) second, after persecution began many christians rejected christ to save their necks. the 40 days became a period of repentence/penence for these folks before they would be let back into the community.

today christians use that time as a time of penence and repentence.

just because paul says we don't have to honor holy days doesn't mean he said we can't or even shouldn't.

as with all things it is about the heart.

i think for rich american middle class christians it could be a very healthy time to sacrifice luxuries that the poor cannot afford.

miller said...

preach agent wife.

you need to start your own blog.

great conversation.