THIS IS A GREAT REPOST FROM LAST YEAR…
1. GIVE IT UP. Every Lent it never fails: my Facebook news feed is loaded with Christian acquaintances posting what superfluous toy or food they have decided to deprive themselves of for 40 days. I vaguely recall a passage in the gospels where Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for publicly displaying their fasting and how god will not “count” it on the list he is supposedly making and checking (twice). You poor martyrs! How terrible that you have to do without soda, candy, chocolate, video games, TV, etc for a WHOLE FORTY DAYS. Have you given any thought as to all those who live in abject poverty and NEVER have ANY of that stuff? How arrogant of you to think that your god will reward you for giving up such luxuries when so many starve to death every day because they have nothing to eat? Four years ago I gave up eating processed sugars, sodas, fast food and excess. I have never owned a video game and have not owned a TV for 3 years. I do this because it benefits my health and encourages exploration of the world. I fail to see how you giving up candy for Lent and flaunting it does anything to benefit you or those who go without every day of their lives. For Lent, try giving up God instead.
2. FISH. If you have ever cooked a meal for Christians on a Friday in Lent, you know about how they “deprive” themselves on Fridays in Lent (only 4-5 Fridays in the year) and make a big deal to make sure everyone knows they can’t “eat meat”. The last time I checked, fish was meat. This whole fish on Fridays tradition has an interesting metamorphoses through history. Fasting rules for Catholics in particular used to be very strict. It progressed from no meat allowed on EVERY Friday of the year to only Wednesday and Fridays during Lent and then lastly to “no meat” on only Fridays during Lent. Then, as people tend to do, the faithful found a loophole in their rules because they did not “count” fish as meat by saying that it came from water animals, not land animals. After decades of their flock bending the rules so they could have fish on Fridays, the Catholic Church under Pope Paul VI decided to allow Fish on Fridays in 1966. Now, I don’t mind accommodating my vegan friends, people with allergies or intolerance to certain foods. What does bother me is the “poor me” message that “fasting” Christians bring to my dinner table and to the world. McDonald’s even caters to their “fast” season, commercializing and capitalizing on the pointless tradition of one religion. I fail to see how eating expensive fish, now in short supply, is a sacrifice.
Another problem with Christians eating Fish on Fridays is overfishing and how much Christianity has helped to decimate global fish populations.1 Fish is an expensive, rare meat on our over-fished planet. Christians are happy to help themselves to the almost extinct Tuna and Salmon in the name of their religious “fasting”. Eating a delicacy is a far cry from depriving one’s self in the name of Jesus. I also fail to see how encouraging people to consume fish during Lent is an example of good stewardship of the earth.
3. OBESITY. The thin priest will talk about it, but the fat ones won’t touch the subject. Gluttony, one of the ‘seven deadly sins’, plagues a large swath of the faithful across all Christian divides. They sit in their pews and hear about how they should give in charity and deny themselves pleasures. Yet they exit church each Sunday to find a doughnut at the community hall and fail to connect how eating 2 to 3 times the amount of calories needed to live each day equates to starving children dying in third world countries. Even here on American soil, families are finding it difficult to find enough food to survive and the pious obese flock to church every Sunday to be reassured by their pastor that they are checking off all the necessary dates to be admitted into heaven. This type of hypocrisy abounds during Lent when the biblical reading encourage homilies about abstinence, moderation, charity and self denial. Obesity is perhaps the most un-Christian behavior of all, exercising gluttony, sloth, greed, addiction, destruction of your “god-given” body and a complete lack of compassion for those who have no food to eat. I fail to see how being 200 pounds overweight exemplifies Christian behavior.
4. TRADITION. If you ask a Christian why they celebrate Lent, the common response is because Jesus went into the desert for 40 days. There he supposedly ate no food and was tempted by the Devil. The irony in this is that to remember this improbable story, Christians “deprive” themselves of American comforts and “fast” on Fridays, even though they found the loophole of eating meat. It is almost as meaningless as reenacting the cannibalism of eating the flesh and blood of Jesus with wafers and cheap wine. Oh wait… they already do that.
5. HISTORY. Let’s put the record straight. There are rumors out there that Pope Paul IV had monetary interest in seeing a budding new fishing industry succeed. It is not improbable, but still devoid of sources. Pope Paul IV was rumored to have had a mistress who’s husband owned a fishing fleet. What is known about Pope Paul IV was his strong Antisemitism and his major role during the Inquisition. In 1555 he issued canon law forcing Jews to live separate from Christians, which created the Roman Ghetto. He strengthened and reorganized the Inquisition and believed that outside of Catholicism there was no salvation. He also had fig leaves painted over the nudes in the Sistine Chapel. 2, 3