Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thinking About Lent, Denial & Proving Something

This post was first posted in Feb. of 2007. It caused quite a discussion! The TV, this morning, has been chock full of those beginning to discuss what they are giving up for Lent, so I am re-printing rather than come up with a whole new post. After reading this one I still feel the same in 2011 as I did in 2007.

This is always an interesting time of year, or at least it was when I was teaching. It just also happens to be a topic similar, but in noway the same, to what the Drew talks about over at his blog today as well. This whole season of Lent and sacrifice and proving that you can give somethging up.
I worked with a fella that taught Social Studies and he claimed to be a Catholic, although I guess, as the Drew points out, many Christian religions have this activity at this time of year. He would make it a big point to tell us how he was giving up beer for Lent. This from a guy who was also not very faithful to his wife. In the bigger picture how can the beer get you in to Heaven? I hope it is not that convoluted!! He never attended any church, except at the time of his wedding, but made it out to be a very special time in his life, this whole Lent process, as if the rest of us were infidels.
I have heard others recently talk about chocolate and other food items as their sacrifice. Is it just me or is this somewhat shallow? Isn't the sacrifice meant to be something a tad more relevant and isn't the person supposed to be more repentant? Isn't this behavior something you should follow all year long and not just at the time that leads up to Easter? I was even told, yesterday, that elderly or older people do not have to give up anything for Lent according to one ladies church. If this is so does that mean that once you hit a certain age that you get an automatic pass in to Heaven? What is that age? Does it come with the AARP or Golden Buckeye card?
Also, why does it have to be such a public display? Why does one have to go around and make themselves seem to be so grand and sacrificing because they ARE giving something up? I believe that even the Bible says that when you do your good works that you are not supposed to be bragging. I know many people with good hearts that do good works, but they do them all year long. They scarifice all year long. Are they any less special because they may not ascribe to the whole lenten ideal?
I have been having a personal question and much debate recently with Christianity especially since many others also have the same ideals. I just began reading " The Way to a Meaningful Life" by the Dalai Lama and he speaks about the same guiding principles. I have been to several web sites that say that one should learn of all the worlds religions and take bits and pieces of them all as opposed to ascribing to one particulare faith.
My mom made a big deal about having to go to work early so that she could go get her "ashes" today. I asked her why? She said just because that is what you do. There was no real reason or philosophy, just because it is the outward sign to everyone else that you believe in something. Does it have to be an outward sign or symbol? Can't you believe in something and have it be internal and go about your life and good works without needing the approval or accolades of others? Isn't that the more "Godlike" way? Can't we just do our good works or random acts of kindness without worrying about the thanks we will/or should get? Why does it have to be in the public forum? Can't we just simply be good people and not worry about certain readings and writings etc.?
Why do we have to deny ourselves to prove anything?


The Drew said...

Hi,Dharma,you seem to have a very healthy view of Lent.Giving up something just to give up something is silly,sort of like New Year's resolutions...though they can be valid attempts at improving yourself,they are not very spiritual in nature.

On the other hand,there are some Christians that take Lent as a serious endevour and a chance for both personal and spiritual improvement.Like the Muslim month of Ramadan and the 40 days before the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur,Lent is supposed to be a special period set aside for reflection,prayer and fasting.

But,again,you are correct,these things probably should be done privately,and with God in mind while you are doing them.

Do they make you any holier,make you any better of a person?I guess that depends on what you put into in,and how you handle it.But Lent is a set time frame within the Christian year set aside as a reason to find out.

Thank you,Dharma for a very thought provoking post..actually 'enlightening':-)

Esteban said...

I have a whole lot of catholic friends, who engage in all sorts of questionable behavior, but not a one will eat meat on fridays during Lent. Except of course for fish which for some reason, doesn't count. I've always found that to be very strange.

Dharma said...


The Drew said...

I maybe just an old fuddy duddy but I think you two protest too loudly.If you are not Catholic,why are you making fun of and critizing these Catholics behaviors?In my opinion,it is making yourselves sound prejustice and intolerate....which I know neither of you consider yourselves to be.
I do not understand some Buddish,Hindu,jewish,Muslim and other religious custumes,but I would not think of myself kindly if I belittled their rituals.Maybe your friends do act foolish,and maybe only fasting from 'some' meats seems foolish as well,but I think giving anything of yourself-no matter how little-or how petty-can possibly lead to deeper faith,and I think they should be commended for their actions instead of being made fun of.

Of course,being a fool myself,and a sinner,maybe I just relate to your friends(I am assuming they are your friends),and there half ass attempts at sticking to their Catholic faith and traditions.They maybe doing it because they are stupid or hypocritical beyond repair,but they are also doing it because they at least at some level are following the Lord and their church.

Because they are neither perfect,nor holy is not and excuse to make fun of them.By laughing at them and questioning their values,I have to ask...just why are you holding them to a higher standard when in reality, you think so little of them?In a is you giving glory to the holiness of the Lord

I have to disagree with you two on this one,sorry.

Dharma said...

I don't see it as amking fun, it is questioning the hypocrisy. How can people claim a thing when they do not follow it to the letter? When I was a practicing Mormon I followed it to the letter. You are eother all or nothing. When it comes to quoting or espousing religious dogma I think that if you say that you do one thing or another then you should be 100%. Don't claim to be a very religious person and commit adultery on the side. Don't claim to follow Lent and claim that giving up beer makes you a better Christian. It seems and appears shallow. What does it do for you in Gods eyes? Does he disapprove of beer? I just do not understand or see the correlation, that is all. The people we were talking about just happened to claim to be good Catholics, they could have been any other religion, but they weren't. I would question the behavior no matter what they were. It just seems like a ritual that people follow just because they always have. Not for some deep commitment to God.

None of us is perfect, but does giving up chocolate for Lent make one more perfect? Then are they allowed to eat it again once it is over? So, what is the point then?

I also don't see them as following their faith as much as just sticking with the dogma because they always have and it is what is expected of them. Do people do it because it means something deep or because it is just what is expected and what has to be done because it is almost Easter?

I mainly strted the dialog because it seems that epople toss around and wera it on their sleeves exactly what they are giving up because they want others to notice and remark about how good and diligent they are because they are giving something up for Lent. Like a badge of homor. I am not sure if stuff like beer and chocolate, or whatever else trivial, can be seen as a badge of honor. I mean, do people give up more serious sins such as adultery, muredr or stealing for Lent and if so, why were they doing it in the first place?

See, it makes one really question structurized religion. There really is much conflict when it questions itsself.

The Drew said...

So what you are saying that unless I am perfect I have no right to practice Lent?Am I condemned in your eyes for commiting adultery,or would I only have to think about it to be condemned?What about Jesus teaching of 'He who is without sin-casting the first stone'?

Is going out and drinking beer such a big sin that it condemns me to hell?You are not the first person to tell me that.I have also been told that I am going to hell for wasting my talents.For not giving up on friends..for picking grains of wheat on the Sabbath.Jesus was told it was sinful to heal on the

In my opinion,the law was made for man,not man for the law.I see nothing wrong with eat,drink and be merry-ing,if you follow and love and accept Jesus.

Jesus'first miracle was turning gallons of water into gallons of really fine wine at a wedding celebration.Does that mean Jesus did not have a right to pray afterwords?

I can only speak for myself,but I would rather love you forever,then nit-pick your faults to death.Probably because I have way more faults then you do.

I do lust.I do envy.Without the grace of God,I know I am one doomed fellow.I could not pick myself back up without the the belief that God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit would pick up me up and dust me off.Sometimes I sin intentionally,sometimes I dive into murky waters not knowing it's depth.How can I go into heaven knowing /believing some people that I love may not?How can that be heaven?To can't be.

Sure,Lent may not be a party,and many(including myself)are hypocrites for celebrating it,or giving something up during it,but I confess I have loss things before and God has soothed me during such lost.I do not give up things just to find higher enlightenment(which I sometimes do)but as a symbolic way of giving thanks to God during a time of previous crisis.This 'fasting' is a way of saying,'I remember your grace.I remember your mercy,I remember your comfort,and I give thank You.'

Dharma said...

I think that you fail to see what I am saying/asking here. Why do people make such an outward act of the giving up of something as small & unimportant as beer or sweets? Why not the biggies? Since when are those small items of any consequence? That is the point I am making. Especially for the people who seem to only make the overtures at this time of the year. Why not any other time? Also, how can they then go on to continue to carry on the bigger "sin" and pass off the small sacrifice as some great nod to God. It just seems shallow. That is all. It is only this time of the year that I ask these questions due to the fact that people feel the need to point out what good christians they are because they give some silly little item up for Lent.

The Drew said...

Are you really just comdemning Lent in general?Do you condemn Ramadan or Yom Kippur?Or do you just hate Catholics?You belittle all the Catholics that do sacrifice..give up beer...or meat..on the few cases of those that you consider hypocritically doing so...or do you just think that these no good Catholics should give upthe major bad things in their lives like cheating on their husbands and/or being mafia bosses.Do you think that little children giving up candy is a small thing?

In the Bible there is a story of a general will an illness being told to wash in a creek five times by a prophet to cleans himself.The general gets pissed because it sounds too simple.He shouts ,'Aren't there cleaner rivers in my homeland?This is foolish!' To which his aid claims,'Why not try it?If you gave you some hard task,like climbing a very large mountain,wouldn't you do it?'To that the general washes in the creek and is instantly cured.

My point being..why does the sacrifice have to be big in order to change someone?Sure,id it is a half assed attempt,it could be totally meaningless...but I have seen peoples lives change trastically from just giving or giving up a very small things.

The thing is....I get your point exactly...and I totally disagree with it.You can expect a hard core sinner to start renewal with drastic life change,yes it has happened often,but so has it happened with baby steps.

Perhaps you are correct that Lent is all foolishness....but,just on the off chance,it maybe not.

I honestly don't belief that most people that observe Lent are committing adultry,or wanting to.Bit all need Jesus,and Lent is a good place to start.I participate in this an attack on me?

The Drew said...

...also,just to finish my thought,no one can give 100%-100% of the time.Christ is not about 'THE LAW' or about judgement,but just the opposite:He is about mercy and forgiveness.He is about GRACE.Your excuse for not giving because you can not give 100% is would have to be perfect to be a Christian,then,and everyone knows,like the old self serving bumpersticker says,'Christians aren't perfect-just forgiven'.

But the glory of Christ is that applies to all of us.You don't even have to believe,and there are millions of reasons not to believe.I praise God,Jesus and the holy Spririt because in my delusions I actually believe and am thankful for Christ in my what if I am a half assed one

Dharma said...

Drew- you took the discussion FAR too personally. The point was just to be a discussion since it is Lent & those making the loudest noise about "giving things up" are doing so at this time. You just don't hear them talk about it at any other time nor do you hear anyone talk about giving up anything big; like murder or lying or other of the Big 10.

Naturally, there are no perfect christians, but there are those who "act" like this small giving up gives them an edge. My thought is how can beer or wahtever be the key or pass into salvation?

I consider myself a christian, currently, but do not feel that I am 100%, but also do not feel that I have to give anything up to prove it. That is all.

The Drew said...

I don't believe I am taking this discussion personally,and obvisiously,as a Christian you don't have to give up anything.I am just saying,not being Catholic you sure are not being very understanding or tolerent of most good Catholics.

I can almost understand-if you were Catholic the protestations you are making,but not being one,your views come across as condensending.

Once again,I must point out that I originally thought your ideas of Lent to be level headed and basically true,and to a point I still do,but your constant mutterings about murderers and adultriers not drinking beer leaves me thinking there is something more behind your utterences.

And that to me seems to be that you secretly wish that you could be Catholic.I can see no other reason for the snickering on your part.

The Drew said...

As I went to watch the boys play tonight,I sat thinking how I could convince a friend that she was plainly not seeing a point of religious doctrine.And it slowly became clear to me that I was willingly puting our friendship at risk over a man made law....I had become a Pharisee and she had become Jesus.All my rightious preaching...and I still believe my point of view to be right...was nothing more then pompousness.Where was my love?Where was my mercy?I was tolerance?I had become the very thing that that Christ had warne me about.

Dharma,I am sorry.Your point of view is just as valid as anyone elses...and I should respect that.

I am giving up one more thing for Lent...being a pompous ass

Dharma said...

LOL :-) No, I have no desire to be Catholic andy more than a desire to be considered any particular organized religious participant. I have discovered that there is much hypocrisy is churches & many of the attendees. I would much rather be a reader of many good books and people. Use the basics of the Bible, as a toll & reference, and not worry about getting dressed in my Sunday best to head off for a service on Sunday morning..

I have enjoyed the discussion, but think it has reached its limit. We are surely not even close in thinking similarly, let alone in the same ballpark, about religious issues. Aside that we both do not commit the biggies.

You have a lifetime of belief, family of believers, married in a traditional church type ceremony and attend on a regular basis no questions asked. I am quite different from that and maybe that forms the basis of my life long pursuit and desire for reading more and more. I just cannot believe that one particular dogma espouses all that is correct.

Thanks for all the comments!!

The Drew said...

???No questions asked....???Now how funny is that!?! Dharma...that's a good one-LoL :-)

Anonymous said...

I dont think there is ANYTHING wrong with asking the question WHY does giving up sweets or beer (or, whatever),at this time in particular, make you a better person? I wonder that myself. I have a co-worker,who considers herself a dogmatic Catholic, who gave up sweets for Lent, I have not seen her yet, but wonder has this giving up of sweets changed her? Is it supposed to?
Do what you want, no one is saying dont..but this is America, and everyone has a right to question why we're doing something or what something means, even if it offends an individual.
I dont see what the harm is in asking. If a person cant answer the question in regular English and keeps going around in circles or acting like they are soooo damn offended then maybe they are questioning it also in their minds-or should be.