Lent: I Don’t Like It

I don’t observe Lent because

1- It suggests that real repentance need only take place for a short period of time before Easter.

2- It smells like a bit of ‘works righteousness’ and more importantly isn’t even scriptural.

3- Those who observe it seem to enjoy the days leading up to it far more than they appreciate Lent itself.  As though the only reason to observe Lent is so that they can become thoroughly fleshly during Fat Tuesday.

4- Those who observe Lent remind me of the Prius driving, Tree Hugging, PETA joining, Mac owning  smug set that has an awfully good time telling others how superior they are because they drive a Prius and hug trees and love all creatures and use a Mac and observe Lent.

5- But most of all, I don’t like Lent because it’s just downright silly to think that giving up chocolate or your iPod or your favorite dish or an hour of comfort make any sort of substantive, lasting, theological difference.  I’ve never known anyone who, after Lent, was any different than they were before Lent.  It’s simply, when you boil it down to its true essence, an opportunity for people to feel better about themselves.  As though Easter, the climax and denouement of Lent,  were about you feeling better about yourself.

UPDATE: Gee people, calm down. Some of you Lent-ians are acting like I’ve killed a baby or put a crucifix in a bottle of urine and called it art.  I’ve not.  I’ve merely stated that I don’t care for a particular practice observed by some segments of Christianity.  I doubt you’d be as upset if I said I didn’t like bunnies at Easter (which I don’t, by the way).  So your rancor leads me to wonder- why get all bent in defensiveness for a practice that has NO biblical foundation?  But perhaps since it has no biblical authorization so you feel a special need to specially plead for it.

UPDATE II: You know, you Lent-ian’s sure are a nasty lot. No post has generated as much hate mail as this one. You guys obviously don’t take the Lenten notion of ‘penance’ as seriously as you would like to believe. You can stop sending your hate mail. It certainly hasn’t made me change my mind about your little observance. In fact, it’s reinforced my belief that Lent is simply an opportunity, for many, to mask their hypocrisy with a splattering of ash and a sense of ‘I observe Lent, I’m special’ ness. So, Doug and ‘halden’ and the other hatemongers of lentianity, enjoy your 40 days of spiritual growth. You clearly need it.

UPDATE III:  I’ve posted Calvin’s observations on the subject of Lent.   So, Doug, ‘Halden’, go ahead, call Calvin a moron too.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
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23 Responses to Lent: I Don’t Like It

  1. Lent, or Great Lent (E. Orthodox) is a time of both the interior and the liturgical. Self-discipline, self-examination, personal confession. And in the East there are prostrations. Not a bad thing really in our self-absorbed, comfort seeking culture in the West.

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  2. Mark Stevens says:

    Other than points 1 through 5 I totally agree! 🙂

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  3. Mark Stevens says:

    On a serious note…what about those of us who use it as a season to prepare our hearts and lives for the reality of Easter that besets us in 6 weeks? I don’t give up anything for lent but I do think it is a very helpful season in the church’s worship cycle.

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  4. Thanks for letting us know how awesome you are for resisting the hipness that is lent. Did you feel good about yourself while writing this rebellious blogpost? Couldn’t we construe your post as an attempt at self-justification?

    More seriously, none of what you write here applies to a serious practice of Lent.

    1. Anyone who understands Lent doesn’t think repentance is just for a short period before Easter. Lent is a penitential period liturgically and spiritually, which means it draws our attention to our failures at practicing repentance throughout the year and exhorts us to rededicate ourselves before celebrating that great truth of the Gospel, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    2. The canon isn’t scriptural either but you still use it. It is no more works righteousness than reading your Bible everyday or praying everyday is works righteousness.

    3. Yeah, and some people read Revelation like it was a secret code that predicts Barak Obama as the Antichrist, but that doesn’t mean we should cut it out of the canon.

    4. see 3 above.

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  5. Mark says:

    I think you are missing one thing. In a church that follows Lent, it might actually serve as a curb to the preacher to actually preach the cross. This I have seen. The preacher beset by Happy Clappy Love Feast Fireworshippers (more candles!) who in lent actually gets to preach on Christ crucified. You never saw the guy happier.

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  6. Michael Westmoreland-White says:

    It is NOT works righteousness, Jim. No one thinks Lenten observance saves anyone. As I said on my blog, Lent, like monasticism, arose after Constantine–when it was no longer easy to tell Christians from “the world” because suddenly it was almost required that one be Christian. In any culture that thinks it is Christian, you need Lent. You need to be reminded that discipleship is costly, that the same Jesus who “set his face toward Jerusalem,” (Luke 9), toward the cross, also promised his followers that they’d likely be put to death, too.

    Repentance isn’t limited to 40 days, but it helps to have 40 days of concentrated reflection and repentance–a wilderness experience. It takes focus and clarity–which is helped by disciplines of privation.

    You are greatly mistaken–and it is bound up to your hype-Zwinglian tone deafness to all elements of mystery in our faith.

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  7. Michael Westmoreland-White says:

    BTW, Christmas and Easter (as celebrations) aren’t Scriptural, either. Do you plan on refusing to celebrate them as some radical Puritans and other iconoclasts did?

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  8. Kampen says:

    I suppose I can infer you feel similarly about Advent?

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    • Jim says:

      for the most part, yes. though i find its adherents a little less snooty than i find the practitioners of lent. snootiness, it’s fair to say, made evident in the numerous comments by said lent-ians.

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  9. Mark Stevens says:

    I forgot to add that I love this point – “Those who observe Lent remind me of the Prius driving, Tree Hugging, PETA joining, Mac owning smug set that has an awfully good time telling others how superior they are because they drive a Prius and hug trees and love all creatures and use a Mac and observe Lent.”

    Pure Westian GOLD!

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  10. Russ says:

    You might like this (your other site was the only place on the web I could find a full version of Zwingli’s 67 Theses, btw):

    http://rpreeves.blogspot.com/2010/02/smoked-sausage-wednesday.html

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  11. Peter R. Abbot says:

    Don’t like bunnies at Easter? What a horrible thing to say.

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  12. Marvin says:

    “Adiaphora.” It’s a great word.

    And I’m not giving up my Prius for Lent.

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  13. Lent isn’t a season of repentance. It’s a season of penitence and preparation. Repentance takes place on a daily basis (the Lord’s Prayer).

    “I’ve never known anyone who, after Lent, was any different than they were before Lent. It’s simply, when you boil it down to its true essence, an opportunity for people to feel better about themselves.”

    You need to find some better friends.

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  14. Eric Speece says:

    I’m glad I got to read this using my MacBook.

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  15. Pingback: Lent: I Like It (and Jim West too) « Erēmos

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