And it's this voluntarism--opting in or opting out--that makes me ambivalent. The observance of Ash Wednesday at my church is an optional deal. And this, as I experience it, exacerbates one of the problems of contemporary Christianity: Its individualized nature. Ash Wednesday at my church isn't communal. It's an add-on feature. Which strikes the wrong note for me. What ends up happening in my church is that some individuals or small groups celebrate Lent and others don't. For example, some people or groups give up something for Lent like the Catholics do. Others don't. And it's this lack of being on the same page, a very different vibe than the one I experienced in the Catholic church, which leave me cold. Of course, I could celebrate Lent. But I hate the fact that this is something that I, as an individual, choose to do (i.e., opting in). It's just the completely wrong vibe. I hate that autonomous choices sit at the center of the practice. I'm not celebrating Lent with my church.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Richard Beck on the Ambivalent Practice of Lent in Non-Liturgical Churches
Two years ago Richard Beck wrote a thoughtful and highly relevant reflection on the practice of Lent in traditionally non-liturgical churches, highlighting some of its more theologically problematic aspects such as spiritual individualism and what we might call the "cafeteria calendar" approach to the liturgical year. I called attention to it then, and I thought I would again now, in light of Ash Wednesday this week. Here's a quote to whet your appetite: