The Baptists I grew up around did not participate in Lent. The Baptists I knew and loved didn’t give up anything: football, fried chicken or friends.
The only references I heard to Lent in those days involved either the dryer or a person’s belly button. And yes, I do know that is spelled L-I-N-T, not LENT.
No one ever really explained why Baptists didn’t participate in Lent, but if I had to venture a guess, I suppose it’s because Lent was something those who belonged to the High Church needed. Lent gave the Methodists, Episcopalians and Catholics reason to sober up. Baptists, on the other hand, could have used a glass of wine or a shot of tequila.
My kids are amused that I talk about Lent at all these days.
“We never practiced that growing up,” one of my daughters pointed out to me.
“That’s because I was raised up Baptist. I didn’t know anything about it when you were growing up,” I replied. (What mother in her right mind wouldn’t take advantage of a season where children are encouraged to sacrifice for a change?)
I didn’t bother to mention to my ill-bred daughter that I thought being the mother of four children demanded I practice Lent year-round. I was always giving up something, most often it was sleep. And money. I can remember one particularly stressful year when I didn’t buy one new piece of clothing all year long. Not a shirt or a pair of shoes. Nothing. That was the year of Food Stamps and WIC. Even so, I wasn’t hungry or homeless, or doing without in any real sense of the word sacrifice.
To be honest, talking about Lent in terms of sacrifice makes me feel tawdry, like a hooker playing dress up with Kate Middleton’s cast-offs. It just feels wrong. I don’t know if it’s because Protestants have come to the Lent ritual late, or if it’s just me and my quirky-eye view of things.
Maybe everyone around me has been making sacrifices all these years and I’m just too self-absorbed to have noticed it.
Shame on me.
But I suspect that the reason I feel the way I do is because Lent has become the uber-Christian thing to do. Hipsters everywhere are giving up Facebook, Twitter, Starbucks and tattoos, all in a effort to become more conscious of God and to prepare themselves for Easter.
It’s sort of like the couple who, after living together for two years, up decide to practice celibacy for the six weeks leading into their wedding.
Whoa buddy. Big Whoop.
The cynic in me is humored by all of this “sacrificing” we do.
It occurs to me that if I was really committed to this whole notion of Lent, what I ought to be sacrificing is my cynical nature. I should try to find ways to quit being so critical. I ought to practice saying kind things about Bernie Madoff and Dick Cheney and prosperity gospel preachers.
But whenever I tell people I’m going to give up a bad attitude for Lent and from here on out only say good things about others, they look at me with an eyebrow cocked, their head pulled back and chin tucked in.
As if they don’t believe a word I’m saying.
Maybe it’s true that I don’t know diddle-squat about Lent and the Protestants who practice it, but one thing I do know — this world could get along quite nicely with a few less cynics and a few more Baptists wine-makers.