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."
Since starting seminary I've had the opportunity to read
through the Old Testament with a thoroughness I haven't used since my
evangelical youth group days. While building biblical literacy is something
evangelicals do very well, reading the Old Testament now reminds me how my context
shaped how I read the Bible. And it all had to do with sex.
I grew up around evangelical church leaders who were hardcore
about spiritual fasting, sometimes going a week on just water or 40 days on
just fruit juice. (I never made it more than a day.) When I started running in mainline
circles, I was thrown by the way people used the word "fast" to mean giving up
chocolate or beer or television.
Over 50 Muslim employees walked off the job at an Ariens manufacturing plant in Wisconsin after being told they no longer could take prayer breaks during the work day. Ariens, which manufactures lawn mowers and snowblowers, said they want Muslims to pray only during the usual ten-minute breaks that all employees get. “Nobody complained to us about our prayers,” one of the Muslims said. “People take breaks to go to the bathroom and nobody says anything about that.” A company spokesperson said the Muslims’ prayer breaks were disruptive on the assembly line (Daily Mail, January 20).