Faith is just as much about what we don’t eat as it is about what we do eat. Several religions impose some form of dietary restrictions, some as part of daily life, some as part of the holidays, and some as a complete sacrifice of all food for a period of reverence.
Lent, which begins on February 22 this year and ends on April 3, is a recognition of the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert and endured temptation by Satan. It is also the beginning of the journey to celebrate the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ. As part of the season, Christians commonly forego a vice in their lives, which might include a particular food or group of foods, such as chocolate.
In addition to this, different denominations of Christianity will also impose different rules for the consumption of foods. Even those rules can continually change and become less strict. It’s also important to remember that Lent isn’t about fasting or abstinence from food, rather it is about connecting to Jesus Christ and all He teaches us. This is just looking at one small aspect of Lent, and one that nobody should place as a priority.
When reviewing these guidelines, it’s important to keep in mind that exceptions are made for those for whom fasting would be detrimental to their physical or mental health, as well as for children, women who are pregnant or nursing, or those with chronic illnesses. God wants everyone to use common sense when making decisions for Lent.
Baptist – Lent is observed but there are no dietary restrictions for Baptists. The celebration of Lent remains a topic of debate and members are free to abstain from foods if they choose.
Evangelical – Lent has not been a common practice among Evangelicals but is gaining in popularity, including fasting and the selection of food as part of the sacrifice.
Latter-Day Saints – The LDS church chooses not to observe Lent.
Lutheran – Lent is not considered to be as sacred in the Lutheran church but is still observed. The Lutheran church does not impose any dietary restrictions on its members and leaves each individual to voluntarily choose how they observe Lent.
Presbyterian – When it comes to food, the church has embraced forgoing meat for fish on Fridays. However, the Presbyterian church encourages members to participate in community events, such as a fish fry, for this observance. The goal is to put a greater focus on community rather than the food itself. The church also encourages adopting a good practice to replace any choices for abstinence. So, if someone is giving up donuts, they should add vegetables as an accompaniment to their decision.
Protestant – Many Protestants observe Lent, and some even practice fasting or abstinence from some foods. Lent has also been gaining in popularity for the last several decades.
Catholic – This is the one denomination that many connect with Lent. Even other denominations take Catholics under during their discussions on the observance. Rules for Catholics may be based on their individual churches, but generally, the rules are to abstain from meat (excluding fish) on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent. Catholics are encouraged to fast completely on Ash Wednesday and from the start of Good Friday through the night of Holy Saturday.
Please share below how you observe Lent and why you have the views you hear. Even with rules, Lent for many is a personal journey that helps guide the needs in their relationship with God and Jesus.