Nothing like starting out with a bad pun, eh?
But seriously, I’m not exactly sure why Lent has made such a comeback, so to speak, in recent years. It used to be only Catholics and some holdover Protestant denominations took part, but lately it seems everyone is onto the concept of Lent.
Perhaps it goes back to the movie “40 Days and 40 Nights” from 2002 starring Josh Hartnett (of “Pearl Harbor” fame and very little else). Never saw it because it looked terrible, but essentially, the story is that following a break-up with his girlfriend, Hartnett’s character decides to be celibate for the 40 days of Lent. “I’m not a scholar” or anything, but it seems to me that:
- The observance of Lent is for people who are committed to their chosen faith.
- Actively giving up sin (in this case fornication) is sorta the goal all the time, right? Not something you do during a 40-day period to earn some Kudos.
So Hartnett’s character chooses to give up something he shouldn’t be doing in the first place? Wow that’s tough. That’s like giving up something you already don’t do. I will give up eating squid and granite smoothies for Lent. Go me!
So what is Lent anyway and why do people observe it?
According to Wikipedia (which according to Michael Scott “Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information.”):
The traditional purpose of Lent is the penitential preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday, which then culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So essentially it is a ritual created by the Catholic church — like so many of their rituals — to give people a feeling that they are doing something for God that is simply a man made observance. Nowhere in Scripture is such a ritual prescribed. Regardless, the Catholics and some other denominations observe this as part of their religion and that is their choice.
What is shocking to me is the number an traditional, fundamental Christians who have begun to adopt this custom. It was never part of their faith, but still it’s starting to creep into their observance of the Resurrection.
Perhaps the increase of the popularity of Madri Gras has been the source of increased awareness of Lent. Fat Tuesday is always a big party in New Orleans and in other part of the country and the world. And as we’ve seen with the previous century’s rise of St. Patrick’s Day and now even Cinco De Mayo as “any excuse for a party” days in America, maybe the partying of Fat Tuesday has given way to further adoption of the customs surrounding the party day.
I have asked some friends who observe Lent even though it is not a recognized part of their denomination and they simply claimed that it doesn’t hurt anything and helps you to set aside ones “self” and think more of God. Not speaking to them directly, but in general, I believe more time in prayer and His Word would have more benefit than an attempt to “do” some work.
There has been a rise in the study of so-called “church fathers” from earlier periods of history. Rituals that until now most people had never heard from are becoming commonplace in some local Christian congregations, especially the so-called “Emerging Church”. This could be another aspect of that rise…
Regardless, I’m definitely puzzled on this one as to why it’s happening.