Tag Archives: lent

Looking back on Lent

Readers of the blog may not have noticed much different during the last couple of months, but those who follow me on Twitter or like the page on Facebook may have noticed that I decided to give up self promotion for Lent. Instead of using social media to push my own writings to those who ‘like’ or ‘follow’ me, I wanted to highlight the work of other bloggers, all of whom I regard as better quality writers than I, even if I don’t agree with everything they write.

My aim was to do 40 blogs in 40 days, only I managed to learn for the first time ever (at the age of 29) that contrary to what I had been told for years, that Lent doesn’t last for 40 days. While I didn’t manage to do one per day (my week in Scotland hindered that) I did want to make sure that I did all 40 by the end of Lent. Only when I thought Easter should have been a week away, I looked at the calendar and realised it was 2 weeks away. When I asked on Twitter why this was I was deluged with responses from those from a high church background telling me that for counting the days of Lent, Sunday isn’t regarded as a real day. The only time I’ve had more responses on Twitter in a short space of time was when I was retweeted by the BBC’s Conservative party spokesman, Nick Robinson. Anyway, you live and learn!

When I began, it was just after Valentine’s day and I had written a piece specially for it (you can read it here). I had tremendous joy in writing that and conceitedly thought it was rather good. So I began Lent by being hugely frustrated that potentially good work may be ignored. However, as I went on, I no longer started to twitch at the idea that I was throwing words down a hole. Rather, I was hoping that someone might pick up on a blog they had never come across before and might start reading. I know of two people who said that I had helped them find new works they had been unaware of, so I think it was worth it even if it were only for those two.

I think it would be a fair criticism to say that behind some of my self promotion is a desire to win approval from others. Though I mostly muse, with writing as a form of thinking, I do like to make you think at least as much as I have thought about what I write. Even if you don’t agree, I hope that some of you feel ‘nudged’ a little. Sometimes I may prod a little too hard in some directions. I try not to be needlessly offensive. If I think offense may be warranted, I try to bite my tongue, though I wouldn’t claim my judgement is anything but flawed in deciding when to speak out and when to stay silent. As I write this (it’s about 9:30pm on Tuesday the 2nd of April) I have been much angered and upset by the news. There has been the conviction of the Philpotts for the manslaughter of their children. There have been arguments over the government’s changes to social security which have begun to kick in and I saw an article on the news about Welsh farmers who have lost large parts of their flocks due to the harsh weather in March. I plan to write about tax and benefits soon, but I may well remain silent over the others, even though they move me greatly. Is that a bad choice? Are so many writing about the economy that the voices on the left are now just an incoherent cacophony rather than a united chorus?

With Lent now over, I have returned to self promotion. Please let me know if you think I do it too much. My aim is generally to post once on my Facebook page and three times on Twitter (once in the morning rush hour, once at lunchtime and once in the evening rush hour). I know I find those who promote more heavily than this to be irritating, especially those on twitter who retweet any recommendations they get. If that’s you, maybe you might consider your own motivations as I have tried.

Anyway, here’s the list of blogs I promoted. Only towards the end did I realise there was a gender imbalance, so I apologise that it does lean more towards male authorship than being egalitarian. I apologise if you think I overlooked you. Most of these blogs have their own blogrolls, so you could springboard your way to many more from these. I hope you have fun exploring them, though I do hope you come back and have a read here sometime. Let me know if you think I’ve erred, omitted anything or if there’s anything you’d like me to write about. I’m also happy to host any guest posts if you want to write.

Confessions of a Doubting Thomas
Pam’s Perambulation
Renaissance Mathematicus
Teenage Christian
Rogue Stardust
Rev’d Claire
Stranger in an Even Stranger Land (though this site is blocked on some servers for malicious links – nothing about the content. The author is a lovely bloke)
Running Life
God and Politics
Dyfed Wyn Roberts
Longing to be Holy
Half Way to Normal
eChurch Blog (though, having taken a break for Lent, Stuart has now joined the ranks of The Church Mouse & Rev’d Lesley as one to have ceased an immensely readable blog)
Broken Cameras
We Mixed Our Drinks
Simon Clare
Lucy Mills
Admiral Creedy
Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley
An Exercise in the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy
Dreaming Beneath the Spires
Diary of a Benefit Scrounger
Vicky Walker
James Prescott
Thorns and Gold (my personal favourite from this lot)
Thirsty Gargoyle
Recovering Agnostic
Lay Anglicana
Kurt Willems
Opinionated Vicar
Vicky Beeching
Finally Human
Part Time Priest
Sat n’ All That
Black Coffee Reflections
The Church Sofa
The Big Bible Project (a collaborative project, to which I contribute on the 10th of each month)

Unity, conformity & Lent

Public Domain

I was having a think the other day about where to draw the line between unity and conformity. To be honest, I don’t really know where to draw it. My ethos (and I think a lot of people’s) has as part of its make-up the general notion of unity=good, conformity=bad. But where does one drift into the other?

For example, let’s take political parties. It can be good that people come together believing in a common cause, and have the same aims for society. They will want to put aside their differences and work towards a common goal. If every disagreement resulted in a different political party, you’d end up in the Popular People’s Front of Judea.

On the other hand, party membership leads to the existence of the party whip, which I have written about before. You can end up sacrificing something which you passionately believe in simply for the sake of fitting in, or being able to have influence in a given arena. I know people who have joined political parties and have been aghast at seeing them turn their backs on their principles because they thought it was more important to toe the party line for now, hoping they will be in a position to change it in 10-20 years’ time.

I am often critical of those who, as I see it, suspend their better judgement in order to simply do what they are told. In social media platforms such as Twitter & Facebook I do exaggerate a little, mainly to get the point across, though antagonism is not my aim. One item in particular that I find to be anachronistic is a thing called the lectionary, which is timetable used by high churches (particularly Anglican) which dictates on a week-by-week basis what passages of the bible should be read and what the subject of a sunday sermon should be.

Having grown up predominantly in non-conformist churches, I have been used to having the church pastor decide (usually with the help of some elders) these things, so that they can actually cater for their particular church. So it will not be uncommon to have a series of sermons either working through a particular book of the bible, or looking at a particular theme. To me, this just seems more logical.

Some elements of the lectionary creep out into the wider world, and one of these is the idea of Lent. Normally, the only notice we get is an article BBC Breakfast on how to make pancakes on the morning of Shrove Tuesday. Usually, I don’t have the necessary ingredients to hand, so tend to miss out. This year, however, I was a given a heads-up by the Artsy Honker, who told me it was starting on the 22nd of February.

Lent is often seen as a time when you give something up for a while. My understanding is that it’s supposed to be ‘give something up’ and ‘take something else up’ in its place. Typically, it’s supposed to be giving up something that is bad for you and taking up something good. For example, you might give up smoking and take up jogging in its place.

Where I get a little jittery is the idea that this is a particularly ‘christian’ idea. It seems more of an add-on to christianity and anyone can take part in it without the least let or hindrance. I know the end of it is due to coincide with Easter and that the habits given up and taken up should stick, but it is simply not a command that one will ever find in any of the books of the bible. It is a tradition that has built up (I’m not sure of the origins; if you can enlighten me, please comment) and become entrenched in various christian and quasi-christian denominations. The Wikipedia article could be seen to demonstrate a wide variety of opinion on the matter, though I think it just looks a bit of a mess.

So why do lent? I can understand that there are some good reasons for doing so, but none of those reasons are particularly linked with my christian faith. I see it as an active and living relationship, not a ritualistic religion. So by doing Lent, what message are we sending out? I can’t escape the conclusion the overwhelming message is this: I follow this ritual because that it was what my church tells me to do.

Here is where I come full circle and come back to conformity. Of all the things that people do during Lent, I cannot see any good reason why it has to be done at the particular time of the year dictated by the lectionary. If you want to give up a bad habit, just do it. Don’t wait until late winter/early spring.

The idea of preparing oneself for Easter is one I find a bit odd. I do think that of the 2 main christian festivals, Easter is more reliably timed than Christmas, but I don’t see why it should be a once a year celebration. My entire faith is grounded on the death and resurrection of Jesus, and I try to live in the light of those events every day.

So will I be partaking in Lent? I don’t know yet. I haven’t made up my mind. Jesus didn’t exactly conform to religious stereotypes and questioned the wisdom of his day. Shouldn’t I follow his example and do the same?