Last night the room was dark and smoky. Candace took a journey around the room with a censer and spoke out laments and promises based on the prophet Micah. The wall had grown with another floor-to-ceiling abstract painting. Looking at it all a day later, I have to wonder, “How weird is that?”
It seemed like people were into it. But given the typical attention-span of most of us, it will probably take an uninitiated person about five years to understand what is going on during the season of Lent. I hope they stick around that long. A lot is going on. Right now we are getting to the home stretch, moving toward April 24 and the resurrection.
Lent goes against about everything that’s going down these days, which is the main reason I like it. But it is not going to get popular any time soon.
Although — Lent is, apparently, getting more popular with evangelicals. Many of the people of Circle of Hope are from that fold. I never really drank the evangelical kool-aid, so sometimes I don’t understand how big a leap some people are taking to use the discipline of Lent. They suspect anything that is Catholic and feel obligated to argue about orthodoxy. (Someone came through the door last night, smelled smoke, and asked, “Are we having a BBQ? I thought we were Protestants.”)
But uncomfortable Christians from the subculture don’t make me nearly as concerned as teen-agers from the culture at large, when it comes to Lent. Increasingly, Christians are even more uncool than ever, and the notion of discipline, in general, and ancient things, in particular, are not likely to be the next fad. I don’t want Lent to be a fad. But I don’t want people to miss it.
Tina Wells has me thinking about teens and Lent, which is probably why I’m thinking, “How weird is that?” She knows all about what teens think is cool and uncool. So she hates “Gossip Girl” because it is all about the market perpetuating stereotypes without even asking their audience. People call her the “teen whisperer” because she can speak a fifteen-year-old’s language even though she is older now. She’s been a marketing guru since she was a teen herself. Now she’s working on becoming Camden County’s Oprah. She doesn’t really like MTV’s controversial “Skins” (another rip-off from British TV) but she relates to it. On Joy Behar she said, “I was haunted by the decisions they were making, but it’s realistic…I think it’s the reality that’s making people so scared of the show.”
I am not scared of “Skins” (I have about ten episodes on my DVR right now and nothing is malfunctioning!). But I think it might point out how weird Christians are becoming. If a teen’s church is doing Lent, she might be uncomfortable that it is weird Christianity. But her secret discomfort might really be that she is more like “Skins” than Christian. That reality unnerves Tina Wells, and it unnerves me. But I want to be more like Tina and wade in to keep learning the language of the culture emerging around me. If you are speaking it better than I am, I want to get to know you.
One of the reasons I like the spiritual discipline of Lent so much, is because it is so Christian. It is unabashedly speaking the language of reconciliation with God. A person who is a nonbeliever often gets Lent better than the Christians who suspect it is too weird. The unbeliever doesn’t know any “better,” so they can either do it or not. So many believers are modestly doing Lent while pondering whether they want to do “Skins” or not. Either way, Lent gets the subject out of one’s head, however distantly it might be there, and into a smoky, weird room, in which they’ll be invited to share the body and blood, and be invited into the possibilities of knowing God and their true selves.