It’s Shrove Tuesday and, if you are a Christian from one of the liturgical traditions, you might be heading out for a supper of pancakes and sausages, the tiny proceeds from which may or may not be donated to the service of the poor. The festivities of Shrove Tuesday (or Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday) are followed by the forty days of Lent leading up to Easter, during which many people “fast” from something they like. You know: alcohol, meat, coffee, sex (though only for the toughest of believers), nicotine, chocolate, Big Macs (which, while containing no actual meat, are surely something that God wants you to fast from). The origins of Lent are pretty murky, but it probably originated in the pre-Easter fasting of new converts to Christianity, as they studied the catechism in preparation for their Easter baptisms, back in the days before Constantine ruined the whole business by making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. It also calls to mind the 4o days of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and the 40 years of the wandering Arameans who became the Israelites.
If you’re a Christian from a non-liturgical tradition, you probably view this as you do the rest of the liturgical tradition: some vaguely Papist ritual that stands against the whole Salvation by Faith Alone tradition comprising the genetically modified brand of secularist Christianism dominating the American religious marketplace.
No matter. Because most of us suck at Lent. We hate giving up things, even things that are terrible for us (like Big Macs). And I am the Champion of Sucky Lenten practice. So even though I come from the smells and bells country of the Episcopal Church, I am usually unable to stick with a serious Lenten fast for the whole 40 days. (And I love the Roman Catholic Lenten loophole: Sundays in Lent are not required fast days! Here’s a nice juicy ribeye! Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow is Lent again! Dammit.)
[Trigger warning: if you’re one of those Make America Great Again Red Hats, your feelings may be hurt by going any further. Also, this column contains words.]
This year, however, feels different. This year feels like it deserves an actual fast. There’s a serious, rigorous, mindfulness that something has to be let go. This year, I’m giving up the soul devouring drug of paying attention to the President of the United States of America, one Donald J. Trump, the King of Twitter, who, as he never gets tired of telling us, won the election, which is presumably why is he flitting about on Air Force One, playing golf with his rich buddies as a form of governance, threatening undocumented immigrants with deportation, and Mexico with a trade war, making up terrorist incidents and declaring Jake Tapper an “enemy of the people.” He fills every moment of our waking hours, and haunts our late night television, staring down upon us, everywhere we go, his visage a mask of jowled orange malevolence.
That’s right, I’m giving up Donald Trump for Lent. I’ve spent much of the past four months being obsessed with him, tweeting into the ether about something or other outrageous he’s said or done, with a resistance-lite snark, which has done absolutely nothing to slow down his deconstruction of the American state.
It’s time for a new tactic. I’m tuning out, dropping out, and focusing back in on those things that matter: mindfulness, spiritual awareness, balance, hopefulness, peace and joy and especially, justice. This blog began as a personal account of my own struggle to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly (Micah 6:8) in the public square. I have been doing a terrible job at that of late. And I’m counting on Lent to help me get my own spiritual journey back on track.
So here’s the deal: there will be no more mentions of @realdonaldtrump on this blog until Easter. If you want your POTUS-fix, there are plenty of places that you can get that. Sacraments Wholesale will not be one of them.
For forty days and forty nights: not a Trump joke, not a Trump retweet. Not a Trump reference, or quote or comment. I hope you will come with me on this journey, or wait for me on the other side.
A Lenten Prayer (of the Franciscans)
May the Holy One bless you with discomfort. Discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May the Creator bless you with anger. Anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May the Redeemer bless you with tears. Tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
May the Spirit bless you with foolishness. Enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
And the blessing of the Divine that creates, redeems and sanctifies, be upon you and all you love and pray for this day, and forever more. Amen.