Observing Lent is one thing. But in a culture that gives us more and more opportunities to deny ourselves things for the sake of denial, we should think carefully before introducing more rulesby Samuel Pollen / February 14, 2018 / Leave a comment
The question is all but unavoidable: what are you giving up?
Is it chocolate? Crisps? Pizza? Ice cream? If you’re short of ideas, newspapers will happily supply them. This Lent, you can give up coffee! Or beef! Or beer! You can give up anything you want—but you have to give up something.
Before addressing the what, though, there’s another question you should ask yourself: why?
If you’re religious, the answer is easy. Christians have been giving things up for Lent for two thousand years. It’s tradition. It’s an act of observance. And while it’s not for me, I have no problem with that concept.
Fasting, though, has grown beyond its religious roots. Every year, thousands of people who are not religious choose to give up something or other for Lent. And that’s not all. Now, we have Dry January. We have the 5:2 diet. We have, improbably, the ‘Warrior Diet’, whose adherents fast for up to 20 hours every day, just like our hunter-gatherer ancestors apparently did. (The loincloth is optional.)
In an age of abundance, fasting has gone mainstream. We love to go without. We insist, on thin evidence, that all this fasting is good for our immune systems, our thinking, our youthful good looks. And we don’t really…