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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Another way of looking at Lent

Today I saw a post about women and Lent by Amy Laura Hall, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke University Divinity School (h/t A Thinking Reed). Here's part of it ......


On Eating Chocolate for Lent
by Amy Laura Hall

Are forms of “giving-up-XYZ-for-Lent” the most pastorally astute habits for women schooled in self-emptying? What are the most apt Lenten practices for women who have already been habituated to submit? And for that matter how might men think about and practice Lent differently given the realities of women’s lives? In short, given the realities of women’s lives today what ought Lenten practices look like? ...............

I was lecturing years ago on Thomas Aquinas’s understanding of virtue as the mean between two extremes, and on the various penitential practices for graced habituation. Some of the precious students looking back at me had told me during office hours that they were struggling with self-cutting and/or anorexia, and a few of them were also in abusive relationships with young men who were not only not worth these women’s beautiful time, but who also had no interest in truly loving these women in their gorgeous vulnerability.

I might have stuck my nose back into my notes, and plowed forward, but I just couldn’t. I stopped the planned lecture and improvised. I suggested, totally off the cuff, that women who struggle with anorexia should eat chocolate covered strawberries every day of Lent. People laughed a bit, but I warmed to the idea. As a Lenten practice, in order to habituate toward the mean of temperance, some women, and perhaps some men too, might need to eat exactly what they fear, but should love, in order to open themselves to God’s blessing in their student kitchenettes ..........

It was years later that one of these young women contacted me to tell me a story. Her senior pastor had opened his Lenten sermon series with a call to fast. He had recently read a book on discipline and holiness, or something along those lines, and had determined, evidently, that the entire congregation needed to take to heart the call to fast toward holiness ........

Not everyone is in the same place. People are sinful in original ways. This certainly is an aspect of what the doctrine of “original sin” means. And so, to meet Jesus in grace during Lent will mean different practices for different people. And, in a deeply patriarchal world, wherein women are taught from their first year to bite their tongue and offer their food, it will take some truly wise and discerning pastors to determine how best to guide their parishioners through Lent .........

I am going to try an annoying practice for Lent. Be prepared. I am going to say or post something feminist every day for Lent. I am going to risk appearing a bit more like stunning-007, even if it means I am mistaken for a worldly liberal or a white lady with a license to kill. I am going to note the grave discrepancies that the video names. I am going to remind colleagues that our refusal to name difference in social location has real consequences as our students leave here and pastor real people with real bodies.

And, may I suggest, dear brothers, that you consider, once a day during Lent, what it might look like to live into a savior who saves us inside of a female body? Might I suggest, dear brothers, that you risk walking, in drag, toward the Cross?



Blogger Jeff said...

As far as chocolate goes, I try to stick to eating 72% cacao for the anti-oxidants. :)

I hope you have an inspirational Lenten season, Crystal

8:44 AM  
Blogger Deacon Denny said...

Thanks, Crystal. I think fasting is a good thing -- but I also totally agree with what you said about those who obsess about food or struggle with anorexia. Chocolate-covered strawberries sounds a lovingly good perscription for someone struggling with that.

I really look forward to reading your posts this Lent!

11:41 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for commenting! Yes, my sister too is a purist about the cacao content but I like milk chocolate best ... mmmmm :)

12:28 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Thanks :) I hope I can think of something interestingly Lent-like to post - maybe a quote a day.

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Hi Crystal. I really like this post for many reasons especially since it shows that penitential practices are as personal (not individualistic) as the journey of conversion. Hope your Lent is going well my friend.

11:05 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks, Henry. I hope your feeling well and that your Lent is going well too.

2:09 PM  

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