I’ve been thinking about Lent recently, the 40 days (give or take) leading up to Resurrection Sunday set aside for fasting, prayer, reflection, and and overall soberness. To me, Lent seems to have taken on a life of its own as a cultural phenomenon, as opposed to a religious observation.
I started to write some thoughts about this shift of Lent from the religious realm to the secular realm, but I’m still working out my thoughts about it, so I’ll keep this tame. What started my thinking was the realization that most people who I hear talking about Lent merely talk about how they are “giving something up,” rarely bringing up anything about preparing oneself for Holy Week or reflecting on Christ’s death and resurrection or spending time in prayer.
It instead seems almost like a statement of status, or an exercise in personal fulfillment to show that one can overcome the absence of important pleasures like Facebook, chocolate, or reality television shows. I think that the act of “giving something up for Lent” has taken on a life of its own, divorced from the intent of observing Lent. It has grown into a cultural act, not a religious one.
That said, I’m not yet ready to make the jump from mere observations to biblical critique. I would hope, however, that if it was a religious observation, that more thought would go into biblical principals of fasting (i.e. Isaiah 58 and Matthew 6).
In lieu of my unformed thoughts, what do you think? Has the observation of Lent been wrung from the realm of the religious? Or is it a legitimate cross-cultural observation? Neither?