Every Friday, I post a link to a blog post written by one of my fellow bloggers at Patheos, a web portal devoted to religion and spirituality. I encourage my blog readers to click through to read these posts, comment, and if you like what you read, follow these bloggers as well.
On his “Naked Theology” blog hosted by the Patheos Progressive Christian Portal, theologian Brian McLaren ponders adding something of value to our routines during Lent, rather than giving something up. This is an increasingly popular approach to our penitential season, as I have noticed in my own church. One of my pastors wrote in her monthly newsletter column about the discipline of “taking on” rather than “giving up.” For our church-wide Lenten book study, we are reading my editor Jana Riess’s excellent book Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor, which chronicles Jana’s year-long experiment in taking on traditional spiritual disciplines.
McLaren’s post puts a fresh spin on the idea of “taking on” rather than “giving up,” noting that adding a new practice to your days will likely have the beneficial side effect of forcing you to give up other things to make time for the new practice. Those other things might include, for example, mindless television watching or web surfing. McLaren plans to read through all four Gospels, and to resume a journaling practice—writing with an actual pen on actual paper to force himself to slow down and contemplate his words more fully.
I especially appreciated the way McLaren uses humor to make important points about what we tend to give up for Lent and why. He asks, “Why is God so anti-chocolate, for example? Is food only for nourishment and corporate profit, and not for enjoyment? (Similarly, is sex only for procreation and creating campaign issues?)” He wonders, “Which is worse, during Lent or otherwise: to indulge in a slice of devil’s food cake slathered in icing, or to buy a tomato that was harvested by workers that some grocery chains still won’t assure a fair wage?” and then goes on:
Of course, we questioners can even manage to get cynical about our own cynicism, because often, we who raise questions like these go ahead and have both the slice of cake and the tomato, and then we write about it on computers manufactured with conflict minerals!
You can read McLaren’s entire post here.