There were two responses to my accepting this challenge. The first was that it was a great idea and they were interested to see how it went. The other was that it was ridiculous and if I am an Atheist why am I even giving something up. Why participate in Lent?
Why participate in Lent? Why not? No one gives it any thought when we put up a Christmas tree, lights on our house or say Merry Christmas to people. No one has ever questioned us when we participate in Easter Egg hunts and the giving of Easter baskets to the kids. Why can’t I participate in Lent? Why do I have to justify this to people? I assume it is because there is a huge consumer side to both Christmas and Easter but not Lent. For Lent you are giving up something. Who would do that willingly? My answer to that is EVERYONE. Every year people make new year’s resolutions and most people’s include giving up something. Maybe they don’t say they are giving up something, but doing something different and that something different is a sacrifice even if it is just the sacrifice of your old ways. If it wasn’t a sacrifice one wouldn’t wait until the beginning of the year – one would start when the thought occurred.
I like participating in Lent only because much like the beginning of the year it gives me a start date but unlike new years resolutions it gives me an end date. Much easier to change a habit, give up something or do something new if you know it is only temporary. I find it a personal challenge to myself, even if only temporary.
Of course the short answer is “because I want to”. Really it doesn’t need to be much more than that.
I do think it is a bit hypocritical of the Christians who have questioned what I am doing.† Hypocritical because shouldn’t you just assume that this might be one of those mysterious ways in which God works? I know that with the few things in my life I feel very strongly about if someone said that they would truly try to see it the other way (aka my way) for 6 weeks I would be ecstatic. I would assume that there was NO WAY they could come out of that 6 weeks without changing their mind.
Hypocritical because atheists are chastised for not believing in the awesome power of your god while it seems that you might not have faith in that power either.
In that funny way things work todays message at church was all about hypocrisy*. It was about the hypocrisy of Christians. I was almost knocked over because if Atheists went to church they very well would have had the same sermon and used the same chapter to come to the same conclusion.
The rules of many churches, like the dress code whether unwritten or not, the belief that if you do certain things you surely cannot be a Christian. The minister spoke of people turning away from Christ because people are not practicing what they preach. I almost felt like shouting out a big ol AMEN.
What was not hypocritical today was the people I met. Granted the introductions were not “This is Dy-Anne an Atheist” but everyone was incredibly nice and tried to make sure we were comfortable and well taken care of. When the Minister came to introduce himself I did make it known what I was doing in his church and he was accepting. Actually he was beyond accepting. He was concerned that I was nervous (because I had said I was) and came back to check on me about 15 minutes after we met, then after services he made sure to let me know I could call or email him and that he would also love to hear my impressions of not only the church but the members of the church.
I can see why people like the culture of this type of church. I have talked about my feelings about “blue jean Christians” and church in a school here. My opinion on church in a school has definitely been changed. I really liked church in a school. Coming from the more traditional religious experiences and background, this was such an inviting and relaxed atmosphere.
Overall I had a surprisingly good time.
* The specific scriptures that were focused on were Matthew 23
† I was questioned by Atheists also; I just already had anticipated their responses.