I don’t think it’s a coincidence that midterms and the beginning of Lent fall in the same week. Exams are necessary, but they beg the question, “What kind of knowledge counts?” Memorization doesn’t necessarily promote wisdom or universal understanding, but how else can professors hold students accountable? Along these lines, this week at Outlook, Marsh Chapel’s LGBTQ ministry, we discussed the concept of Lenten sacrifice. Ideally, we give up, say, chocolate to remind us of our commitment to God and Christ’s sacrifice for us, but does it still “count” if, in the back of our minds, we have visions of the perfect bikini-body? What is the intention of our Lenten commitment?
In the world of academia, Christians are subject to condescension and almost intolerance from many of their peers, ranging from evolutionary biologists to atheist theologians. Today’s “BU Today”, a daily news email sent to all affiliates of BU, highlights an interview with a right wing, conservative BU alum that wrote a book about the “sins” of feminism and the liberal progressive movement. (For anyone interested: http://www.bu.edu/today/node/12452) I regularly see valuable aspects of the faith in even my most conservative Christian friends; however I cringe at the religious term “sin” in such a politically heated discussion, especially in association with a woman I consider obviously ignorant of the true nature of the women’s rights movement and the greater issues of America. Lesser-involved consumers tend to generalize Christian views. The more-vocal practices of right-wing Christians aim to convert non-Christians, portraying an intolerant, yet easily publicized, version of Christianity.
Matthew 6:1 says, "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” In an age where knowledge needs to be tested, I wonder if this silent, personal Lenten commitment isn’t a bit selfish. Evangelism is a word that scares Americans today, thanks mostly to radical Christianity. Because of this, I find myself inclined to downplay my faith and role as a Christian. But I don’t think Matthew is suggesting that we hide or silence our faith to be closer to God. Rather, I think this passage in Matthew speaks to intention. The question to ask in this Lenten season is: Why do I sacrifice? There is a good, productive way to be a vocal Christian, and now more than ever it is important for liberal, progressive Christianity to have a voice. So, I’ve decided to give up Facebook for Lent. Not because I want to show all my 691 “friends” what a good Christian I am, but because I think it will bring peace to my life, keep me mindful of God, and be a more public acknowledgement of my faith than I’ve been hitherto willing to expose.