Lent wasn’t just for Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox (whoever they were) anymore. Lent was for edgy free-church Protestants, bookish evangelicals and all of the mainline Protestants, not just the Episcopalians. You had church leaders handing out Lenten meditation booklets and holding Lenten retreats and maybe even adding a mid-week Lenten service for the truly die-hard worshippers.
Lent was both cool and innovative. In other words, all of this new create-your-own Lent stuff was news. And at the center of it all was one central theme: What are you going to give up for Lent?
This was the big question, of course, the question that linked the new Lent, supposedly, to the old Catholic Lent.
Let’s look at a typical mini-feature earlier this week built on this concept (there were many to choose from), care of The Cleveland Plain Dealer:
The 40-day period of Lent starts today with Ash Wednesday as many Christian denominations give up something to recognize the sacrifices of Jesus Christ.
An analysis of Twitter revealed the most-mentioned Lenten sacrifices this year. Chocolate was number one, followed by alcohol, Twitter, social networking and swearing. Other popular items like forgoing sweets, soda, coffee and fast food also made the top 20.
But not all the Lenten tweets were serious. A high number of people posted they were passing up on Lent or giving up “giving up things.” (Read the top 100 here)
In you’re having trouble thinking of something to give up for Lent, the website WhatToGiveUpForLent.com can help. They suggest not watching television, smoking, using credit cards, gossiping and lying for 40 days.
Of course, the story noted that people can add some kind of (spiritual) discipline during Lent. What about “exercising, volunteering, being on time and staying positive.” Apparently going to confession, traditional forms of fasting, increased prayers, almsgiving, Bible study, etc., etc., didn’t make the list.
The mini-feature ended with a reader participation note: “So do you participate in Lent? What are you giving up or adding?”
So what is missing from this picture?