I have mentioned previously that I have no intention of using this blog to convert people to my way of thinking. It’s true: I really don’t care too much whether or not someone agrees with me. I do care a great deal about whether a person considers questions normally found in the philosophical or ethical or even theological arenas, but we don’t have to agree. In fact, I often find conversations with people with whom I disagree to be extremely interesting, provided that no one feels compelled to *make* the other people think *just like they do.*
This disclaimer clearly stated, I do find questions of theology (not just Christianity, but theology in general) fascinating. I also love philosophy, sociology, and theory. I spent a lot of time – some have said too much, but I don’t see how that’s possible – considering the “why?” behind the things we do and say – and fail to do or say – to each other and ourselves. Personally, I’m Episcopalian. I think that the Judeo-Christian God is the closest we’ve come to an understanding of some of God’s attributes, and I love the fact that any honest Episcopalian will come right out and tell you that we question everything. Everything. And, so far, lightning has never come down from the sky and smote us.
We were given free will and intellect; I suspect we are expected to put them to good use.
So, yesterday the season of Lent began. Most of the world notes it by events like Mardis Gras and Ash Wednesday, where you can indulge in any debauchery you can think of, and then be wiped clean the next day at church.
Bullshit. (Yes, I’m a Christian, and I swear like a sailor. Ask my 8 year old. I have faith, not perfection.)
I think the whole notion of doing stupid, destructive, “sinful” things and then running to confession to be “sanctified” defiles the very notion of “repentance” (an oft-misused word, by the way; that alone is probably worth discussing. It means to change course, not to wail and self-flagellate and start handing out tracts with John 3:16 printed on them and judging others with sanctimonious pride. Hmph.)
Last year, I observed Lent for the first time. Being raised Baptist (I’ll save that particular soapbox for later – but, let me just say, anyone who blasts legalism and self-righteousness doesn’t represent God. That’s human fear and brainwashing, disguised in false faith. It ought to give you the willies, if it doesn’t already.), I never understood the function or season of Lent. Having wandered around a bit theologically and philosophically, I arrived at the Episcopal Church, and noticed Lent, not as a Catholic mass cleansing, but as a time of meditation and contemplation.
Why do we do the things we do?
Why do we say we believe in Christian principles?
Do we even understand what they mean in real, gritty, daily life?
After thinking about that, do we actually believe it, or are we just too scared to say we don’t?
And, if we do believe it, shouldn’t we be living it? Shouldn’t the values of kindness to *everyone* – not just the people we like, love for everyone, charity and protection for everyone – shouldn’t we be putting these to action?
Christianity taken seriously isn’t comforting or easy. I think that is why so many hide behind legalism and condemnation. If you take the teachings to heart, you will find yourself in the muck, up to your hips in the alligators of human suffering, in the trenches of theological conflict.
As CS Lewis said, “I didn’t become a Christian to find comfort. I always knew I could find that in a bottle of brandy.” (I am paraphrasing here.)
Last Lent, I gave up Facebook. And, it was mind-blowing. I had not realized how much time I wasted online with people I don’t really know, blathering about nonsense to anyone who would listen. I had not realized how much I was missing. Away from Facebook, I began to learn to play the guitar. I started dancing again. I began to write more. I became less numb.
My life now is pretty minimalist, to be euphemistic I don’t actually have much from which I can abstain. So, this year, I’ve decided to focus on the contemplative calling which is the season of Lent. And I’ll be sharing some of that here, in the form of posts devoted to values or attributes that Christians say they follow and uphold – but do we really understand what they mean? What does charity look like in everyday life? It’s a lot more than an annual tax-deduction, that’s for sure. What does real love of everyone do? What does it mean to not take an eye for an eye – but not allow one’s self to be wantonly victimized, either?
I hope that you join me in these contemplations. I hope you share your ideas – especially if you disagree with me. I’d like to know why, if you do.
Whatever your personal philosophy or faith, I’m glad you are here.