Lent—Forty Days for What?

Last week, you may have noticed people walking around with ash on their foreheads. Ash Wednesday kicked off the forty days of Lent for millions of Christians around the world. Beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday, Lent is observed to symbolize the life and sacrifices of Jesus Christ. It is a common misconception that Lent is celebrated in recognition of the forty days Jesus spent walking through the desert.

So what does one do to celebrate Lent? It’s understood that Christians are to give up ungodly behaviors or engage in more godly activities in order to become closer to God during the six-week purge. However, it isn’t uncommon for Christians to choose only to give up simple pleasures like browsing Facebook or eating chocolate during this time.

Surely Lent can’t be as simple as that. Does giving up a food item, social media addiction, or any other minor sacrifice really make Christians closer to God? Do these acts really exemplify the teachings that their “Lord and Savior” laid out before them, the same teachings Christians will do just about anything to protect from criticism and scrutiny? This event seems no more noble or genuine than a New Year’s resolution— not to mention it’s a little like a slap in the face to the man they dedicate their lives to. It is as if many Christians are choosing to fast from something that will have no significant impact on their lives just to be able to say they’re good practicing Christians while remaining selfish at the same time.

Before you accuse me of being presumptuous, consider the inhumanity and complete disconnect of this act.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that Jesus was real and he was the son of God. His supposed mission was to spread the word of God to humans on Earth and to promote love, equality, and brotherhood (before you say it, this article is simply too short to explore all of the inconsistencies within the Bible). Here is my point, and perhaps this is a concept I am incapable of grasping, but how is giving up a single food item or a modern-day convenience representative of Jesus and his supposed goodwill? If being a greater Christian for forty days is as easy as cutting out the candy bars, then every man, woman, and child living in extreme poverty experiencing starvation are the closest to godly as anyone could possibly get.

As a freethinker, I don’t believe in sin and I understand that human nature isn’t perfect. There are negative aspects to human beings and not everything can be positive and beautiful all the time. I can understand that Christians, who are also just people, will never achieve “perfection” by following their lord without doubt or question. Alas, I cannot blame people who genuinely want to become better people and do good for others, regardless of the reason. It is true that Christians donate thousands of dollars and volunteer hours to charity every year during Lent.

However, I can criticize those who preach the sacredness of their faith the loudest, yet do little work to exemplify the behavior they expect from others. I can criticize those who reward themselves by fasting from a luxury rather than help those around the world who lack the basic provisions to survive.  I am also an advocate for practicing what you preach.  Lent is just an extended holiday for Christians to brag about how great they are. Humans should be expected to be good to themselves and others every day rather than for the six weeks during which it happens to be on top of your mind – for completely selfish reasons I might remind you.

With that being said, here is my personal goal as a human being: I will do my best to bring a feeling of happiness, worth, and comfort to those around me. I will do my best to promote the importance of individuality and self-acceptance. I will enjoy the simple and insignificant things in life while reminding myself to be grateful and humble. I will do my best to help those less fortunate than I,  and I will do all of this without bragging about it, without pretending I am sacrificing and suffering, and without the promise of a pat on the back, supernaturally or otherwise. I will do this on my own, holding myself accountable, and not because someone told me to.

Most of all, I will do this for more than forty days.

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