Don’t you just revel in Lent? For starters, most people don’t know what it is anymore. For many it is some vaguely religious thing that starts after a day when people get really drunk and eat cake with a baby king in it.
Those who do know that it is supposed to be a time to repent and pray in preparation for Easter mostly think of it as a period to give up something that they really like and don’t want to — like alcohol, or sex, chocolate, or a favorite television show. So they don’t do it, and either feel guilty or dismiss the notion that it is possible to refrain from certain things, even for something they believe.
Our Father loves guilt as it generally prevents people from confronting whatever haunts them. And it’s one of those special gifts to us that makes humans slink (almost like we do!) around the Enemy instead of talking with Him directly because whatever the reason for the guilt, they feel it disqualifies them from a relationship. And so they don’t pray and don’t go to church and try to avoid people who remind them of why they feel guilty. Talk about a win-win-win for us to use corporate speak (which, by the way, was invented by Our Father to prevent people from understanding each other).
The latter group – the ones who dismiss Lent entirely — are the kind of people who think that wearing a rubber Lent bracelet would be the perfect compromise between their belief system and human nature since it would at least brand themselves the right way. After all, repression – the kind they think Lent demands — only leads to mental illness, right? Who cares if Freud was wrong about a lot of stuff, everyone still believes him unequivocally! Maybe I should suggest to Our Father’s public relations department ordering a million or so bracelets as a marketing tool? What do you think?
A small few, like your Patient, attempt to give up something, but usually fail once and then give up entirely realizing they do not have the power to control their desires. This produces guilt, which is excellent for the reasons outlined above, but it also turns Lent into a season about self instead of about the Enemy because the person often thinks he or she is responsible for all the heavy lifting. We know this to be true, of course, but the sweet irony of the situation is that a person realizes this self-evident truth preparing to celebrate Easter when Jesus is supposed to have taken the burden of sin on himself for all mankind.
Regardless, Lent becomes six weeks celebrating Our Father, even though in name it still belongs to the Enemy. We don’t really care who gets the credit so long as we win, so that’s fine by us.
Easter is still a problem for us, however. We don’t care so much that people show up at church who normally don’t go as they likely won’t go back during the year. And we love that it has become just another holiday theme like Halloween, only with bunnies and eggs.
But the central premise of the celebration – the Enemy wins, Our Father loses, paints a perpetual picture of the weakness of our team belied by the numbers in our ranks and daily tally of living souls on our side. It also begs the question – even if most people don’t want to go there for whatever cultural, political or intellectual reason – of what it means if Christ actually did die and was raised from the dead. It would be much better if the question didn’t ever come up, as the answer is not good for us. That is why I personally just like to focus on work and not think too much about why I do it.
Wishing you a happy Lent!
Your affectionate aunt,