Fat Tuesday and a few more thoughts on Lent

Yes, many protestant traditions have a stronger historical tie to Lent (namely the Lutheran and Anglican/Episcopalian) based on their respective separations from the Roman Catholic church.  Fat Tuesday, the “last” day before Lent for me, has always been some what of an oddity: Hi, gorge yourself before “giving” up something most people will resume.  Like many Christian traditions, Fat Tuesday has origins in older Pagan traditions.  As the Holy Roman Empire conquered/required the adaptation of Christianity, one could say it was done in a maverick way: keep the celebrations, change the name.  An early faster gave up butter, milk, eggs and retained fish as the source of proteins.

As Lent has become more and more common place, there seems to be an emphasis on “giving something up”.  The idea (simplistically) is to replicate the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert facing temptation and the idea to understand the sacrifice of the crucifixion. I might have a simplistic view but giving up refined sugar, alcohol, chocolate, tv do not come close to mimicking the sacrifice of death for another (if you choose to believe that narrative).  I can give up chocolate: don’t buy it.  I can give up television: don’t turn it on.  All of those material items come back.  Death is forever.

Part of my disappointment in the adoption of Lent in many Protestant traditions over the past 15 or so years is the lack of acknowledgement of the basic differences between Catholicism and Protestantism.  Look at the crosses in a Roman Catholic Church: Jesus is on the cross, a visible reminder of the suffering.  Look at the cross in Protestant Church: an empty cross, a visible reminder of the Resurrection.  The Protestant tradition is grounded in the belief of a risen Christ.  The Christology of the Cross and Lent demonstrate the disconnect and dangers of co-opting traditions without an understanding of the historical context in which the tradition was developed.

As a sometimes Protestant, sometimes agnostic, I dabble in adapting first order personal changes during Lent.  40 days is enough time to create a habit that works towards a beter society.  This year, the UCC has created a daily program called Carbon Fasting looking at reducing carbon emissions during the season.  It looks interesting, I am going to try it because it will force me to change some consumeristic habits.  Shopping local is another area I am going to strive at working towards.

For me, Lent cannot be about simply giving up an item: to me, this smacks of self-rightous acts of denial.  My Lenten traditions have to focus on creating a better space in the world. Somehow, I don’t think giving up beer or brownies qualfiies.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: