Learin’ ’bout Lent

So Lent started yesterday.  Or…Tuesday.  Whenever.  There were pancakes involved (which I thought was weird, because isn’t Lent about giving stuff up?) and Facebook statuses revolved around people giving up chocolate, pop and coffee.  Lent is weird to me, so I decided to learn more about it.

Lent is the 40 days between Ash Wednesday (okay, so it was Wednesday) and Easter, and is supposed to be a time for Christians to fast and pray and think about Jesus.  According to Wikipedia, Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert before he started practicing his ministry and while he was hanging in the Sahara (or whatever the desert is over there)* Satan kept tempting him with what I assume are the ancient equivalents of Coke and Snickers. **  Jesus resisted and Satan was all depressed because Zeus bet, like, $6 (which was a lot of money in those days) that he wouldn’t tempt Jesus.  Satan was $6 in the hole and Jesus was able to start converting people to Christianity. 

So today Christians give up stuff for Lent as a way to say “Hey Big J, I get it. I feel you brother. This blows, but think of all the people I’m going to convert!”  Or, maybe they do it because their parents made them when they were kids and they just haven’t broke the habit.  Or maybe they do it because they haven’t stuck to their New Years Resolutions and they feel like they need a detox.  Whatever.

So here’s my beef with Lent: if the whole point is to sacrifice things for Jesus and then convert people for Jesus once Lent is done…why not do something that actually means something and make a difference?  You giving up pop and going to church on Easter won’t change the world.  Sorry.  But you buying a homeless guy a coffee every day during lent?  Awesome!  Helping an old woman carry her bags up the subway stairs?  Rad!  Volunteering somewhere on Sundays?  Fantastic!  THIS is God’s work, people.  THIS makes a difference in the world – isn’t that what Lent is supposed to be about?  Forget losing weight and Satan’s Snickers bars, if you really want to think about Jesus, do something good for someone else and say a little prayer after you do it.  I’m guessing God is all about little prayers.  They’re like brownie points or whatever.

I find the whole concept of “give things up for God so that he’ll let you into heaven” really messed up.  While I respect people who are strong in their faith (minus those bible-thumping, bomb-making, gay-hating haters), I just really don’t get why you can’t do certain things.  If God loves you, shouldn’t he love you no matter what?  Two of my best friends are extremely hardcore about their faith (one Christian, one Jewish) and, while I admire and am in awe of them living their lives for God and believing so SO strongly in something, I just can’t wrap my head around the whole idea of not being allowed to get tattoos or feeling guilty for not attending church every single Sunday.  Shouldn’t God be like “Hey man, thanks for the support!  I love you too!  Let’s party!” whether you’re chowing down on peameal or not?  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  If you believe in a loving God, believe that he’s with you all the time and not on some throne up in the sky, judging you because you slept with someone whose name you don’t *exactly* know. 

So this Lent, instead of giving up pop for the 25th year in a row and then buying yourself a 2L bottle with a swirly straw on Easter, just take a minute to think about your God and how you fit him in to your life.  While you’re doing that, atheists will be stomping in puddles and giddy with spring temperatures, and yogis will be saluting the sun, happy that it rises before 9am, and the world will be a little better because everyone will be smiling. 

And if you’re interested in doing a detox, my co-worker is on one and has lost 5lbs in the first week.  It’s nuts!  I’ll email you the info.

*Wouldn’t it be hilarious to see Jesus on a safari?  Like, Jesus in khakis and binoculars, wearing Tevas and following a pack of lions?  Ha. WTG Jesus.)

** “C’mon Jesus! Try this stick of honey!  It’s only got, like, 290 calories.  C’mon!  Don’t you wanna be cool like everyone else?”



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