Thursday, March 25, 2010

On Lent. (With an “e,” not the sort you find in your belly-button.)

We live in a generation that craves experience, belonging and meaning. A characteristic of postmodernism is the drive to be a part of something bigger than our miniscule existence. In the process, more worth is given to artificial things than reality… simulacra rather than a real existence.

Take any celebrity death, for instance. People seek to become a part of the famous event by participating in the tributes in spite of the fact that they have no connection to the person who died. Participation gives a sense of belonging, or experience.

In a similar way, Christians today have an affinity for the ritualistic and liturgical elements of past beliefs. They crave the self-discovery that a personal interpretation of the tradition brings. It seems that this year, more than ever, Lent has become just such a trendy practice. There is always a personal benefit that can be had from such an attempt, but there is also a very self-centered aspect to it.

Even when you overlook the selfishly motivated fasts that many people engage in, (Girls in the Catholic country where I grew up regularly did “religious” fasts from bread when they got too heavy—it benefits your eternity AND your bikini body!) there is still a bit of a “navel gazing” aspect to Lent. The idea of denying yourself something to please God, in light of the very fact that Jesus on Easter removed any need for payment on our part, makes Lent a bit ironic.

Of course, most people I know are doing it for the personal experience, not the religious requirement.

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