One thing you can say about Christian fundamentalists; they possess a much greater degree of theological certainty than most of the rest of us.
In spite of my own spiritual ambiguity I practice the religion of my childhood, Roman Catholicism. I’ve been part of a faith community (we used to call them parishes) for a couple of decades now where the preaching is Jesuit and the music is Gospel. Not a bad way to spend most Sunday mornings. And for what it’s worth it’s significant to note that even Mother Theresa had profound doubts about the existence of God.
In his closing remarks last Sunday the Pastor observed that we had heard the last Hallelujah. I’ve not been paying attention to the liturgical calendar. Only then did I realize that today is Ash Wednesday the beginning of the 40 day observance of Lent. “Hallelujah” and “Alleluia” become Voldemort – words not to be spoken aloud during Lent.
The Lenten tradition involves fasting, praying and alms giving. As kids we were instructed to “give up” something. This usually involved abstaining from candy, movies or some other personal privation. When I was an undergraduate I teasingly asked a Jewish friend what he was giving up for lent. He didn’t miss a beat. “The Goyim”.
During Lent we also revert to the old Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Fridays. This was something observed year round when I was a kid. The old Friday standby was mac and cheese, a dish I didn’t particularly care for. Thank God for peanut butter. The idea of not eating meat was thought of as a form of penance. I questioned the value of this penance when in High School I heard that one of the bishops had a standing Friday reservation at venerable Joe Muir’s seafood restaurant on Gratiot just south of Eastern Market.
Seafood, of course, is not meat whether it’s canned tuna or poached sea bass. Eating meat on Friday was a mortal sin. Meaning if you did it and died before making a confession you went right to Hell. As a teenager my reaction to the news that we could now eat meat on Friday foreshadowed my career as a lawyer. “If it’s not a sin anymore what about all those poor bastards in Hell?”
Our friends who live downriver have this curious practice of eating muskrat during Lent. Is muskrat meat or seafood? A priest friend once remarked, “as far as I’m concerned anyone who wants to eat muskrat during Lent is doing plenty of penance”.
I’m thinking I’m not going to be giving up anything in particular for Lent. I’m making an effort to eat healthier which involves abstinence from some favorite foods. But that has more to do with concerns of the flesh rather than the spirit. I am going to make an effort to reach out to friends and acquaintances I’ve not had contact with in a long time.
Like a good play, life’s Third Act should include characters we met in Acts One and Two.