I try not to get too worked up about the commercialization of church holidays. It seems inevitable in our culture, in which most people are at least nominally Christian yet the real national faith is capitalism. The Christmas shopping season is annoying and the Easter candy aisles are dangerous, but it seems futile to rail against things that are more symptom than illness.
It is pretty perplexing, however, when marketers try to capitalize on Lent.
I found this incident at Vermont College very sad. The sustainable-farming-oriented school planned to slaughter two oxen it's had for years and serve them at the dining hall. Faced with protests from animal rights activists—who successfully prevented the college from finding a willing slaughterhouse—the college ended up having to euthanize one of the animals, who had a bad injury and declining quality of life.
As planned, the ox was killed. But nobody got to eat him.
I cringed when I read Jeffrey MacDonald's accusation, quoted
here by Steve Thorngate, that Americans have turned Lent into a spiritual
self-help event "whose effectiveness is measured by how well it entertains us
and affirms what we already believe."
Recently some huge billboards along British Columbia’s major roadways showed black-and-white photos of car wrecks—gashed and mangled metal, clouds of steam and smoke—all illumined under the luridness of fire, flares, searchlights and siren lights. The caption beneath the ads was as stark and grim as the photos: “Speed is killing us. Slow down and live.”
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is inviting its members to participate in a monthly churchwide fast for “repentance, reflection, and coordinated actions” to empathize with those suffering from hunger and famine around the world.
My first encounter with Christian fasting was in a Russian kitchen in the provincial city of Krasnodar in 1991. It was November and my host, a university professor, was preparing the evening meal at the beginning of the Orthodox fast called Little Lent, which is a bit like what Catholics and Protestants call Advent.
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