399. Lent, 2015 (part 1)
I’ve never been a liturgical sort of person and as such, Lent really hasn’t held much meaning for me. Maybe because of that, I tend to think WAY outside the box when it comes to what I do with this church season.1 This year, I’m going to take up another rather odd lenten practice.
But first, some context.
There’s a kind of bait-and-switch that happens in some forms of evangelical Christianity.2 Prior to salvation, the church promises unconditional love and forgiveness. This is the bait. The switch happens after someone accepts Christ and has been at the church for a while. In the switch, the “forgiveness” bit mysteriously disappears and the “unconditional” bit gets replaced by a severe sort of legalism. Worst of all, “love” takes on a disturbingly dark hue.3
I used to attend such a church.4
I’ve written before that this church
…taught a really strict, particularly moralistic version of Christianity. They taught a view of God where God was an all-seeing deity who was always looking for the tiniest ways that we fell short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23)…
It’s as if God was on a hair-trigger pivot… We could only have a relationship with God when we lived righteously because that was the only time when God was pleased with us. But this hair-trigger God would immediately snap 180 degrees away from us any time we sinned in any way. And the back side of God radiated shame – shame that reminded us that we were weak and disgusting and not worthy of relationship with a holy God.
Our worth only came from God, but only when we lived in a way that didn’t repulse God.
(As an aside, given this view of God, it’s no wonder that I wrote a pair of posts last year talking about how I believed that God was kind of an asshole.)
But you know what?
I’m done believing in that God. Really done.
But now what?
I figure there are a few ways I could go. I could try Peter Rollins’ atheism for Lent project. Or I could disbelieve in God for an entire year, the way this Seventh Day Adventist pastor did.5 Or I could give up belief in God altogether.
And I’ll admit, I was really tempted to take one of these non-belief stances, to join the growing ranks of the nones and dones.
But I’ve chosen an entirely different route:
This year, for Lent, I’m going to believe that God really does love me unconditionally, that God never stopped loving me, and that God never will.
And that may seem like a lovely, simple thing, but given my history with the church, it’s anything but. This is a lenten choice laden with baggage and seeded with landmines.
For me, a part of this lenten discipline will be blogging about the thoughts surrounding this decision, thus the “part one” bit in the title. I don’t know how regularly I’ll be posting for this series, but I’m hoping to get at least one post up per week.
1. For example, two years ago, I tweeted “This year for Lent, I’m going to give up singleness.”
2. Usually on the really conservative end.
3. In a previous post, this is how I described this dark form of “love”
[Sexual] desire outside the context of marriage is dangerous, it’s unpredictable, uncontrollable, and wrong. It’s so dangerous that if you choose to entertain it in any way, shape, or form, it will seriously and permanently screw you up for life. It’s so unpredictable and uncontrollable that you should have nothing to do with it whatsoever because you can’t predict what you can’t control and you can’t control what you can’t predict. And it’s so wrong that we’re going to immediately brandish you with white hot shame if we even suspect you’re dabbling in it in any way whatsoever… because that’s how much we love you.
4. Well, technically, I attended a really conservative para-church organization that taught me these things, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m just going to call it a church.
Also, I’ve since found much healthier Christian community, but (as I’ll outline in future posts in this series) the scars from those early experiences are still with me.
5. At the end of his year, this pastor came to this conclusion: “I have discovered no evidence that a God exists.”