We don't need Lent. Not this time.
At the very least, we don't need to "give something up," this year, 2021, during Lent.
Like a lot of other people, I come from a Christian background that includes the idea of giving something up for Lent.
Smoking. Drinking. Chocolate. Those are all popular choices for things to give up during Lent, a popular way to share the suffering of Christ, who went into the desert for 40 days before dying on the cross. Laying off the peanut butter cups isn't the same as living on locusts and heat for 40 days, but it's good symbolism and an honest effort.
I think the "give something up" tradition was more popular when I was a boy. In grade school, in 1963, the sisters of The Holy Union of the Sacred Heart urged six-year-old me to give something up for Lent, even if it was only candy bars.
What didn't I give up last year?
I gave up going to the movies. I gave up going out to dinner. I gave up going to bars.
A month ago, my wife, Deborah, and I were out running some errand connected to her Realtor business. We stopped to get a cup of coffee at a McDonald's drive-thru window, and then called in an order of Chinese food. As we sat in the parking lot outside the Chinese place, waiting for our order to be ready for pick up, my wife turned to me and laughed a little.
"My God," she said. "It's DARK, and we're still out!"
How many of you had many fewer people around your Thanksgiving table than usual? How many of you didn't go to (or were kept from) a favorite sporting event? Mosh pit? No. Sitting on Santa's lap? No. Christmas Eve with the grandparents? My God, no! You'll kill Meemaw!
If self-denial sharpens the soul, then my soul should have an edge like a straight razor, and America should be a nation of saints, people who have stripped themselves of every frivolous comfort. Remember the toilet paper shortage? Is there a purer form of self-denial than going without toilet paper?
The Pope, who has at least some influence on modern-day Christianity, should issue a statement letting everybody off the hook. Perhaps he could be joined by other Christian leaders, even the ones whose church is in a repurposed gas station next to a place that sells fried chicken and guns.
"Enough!" the statement could say. "Don't give anything up for Lent! Look at all the stuff you gave up in 2021. We're even. Amen."
Of course, that's not going to happen. Christianity is based on the idea that you're never off the hook, not even after you die.
But I urge you, brothers and sisters and non-gender identified cousins, to consider 2020, not as a year during which you were forced to do endlessly annoying and stupid things for your health and the health of others, but rather as a time when you practiced a form of self-denial so pure that people could see the blue white flame of your soul burning steadily in your eyes.
Suffering will be provided when it is needed. Here endeth the lesson.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, a collection of his best, most ascetic columns, is called "Devil's Elbow: Dancing in the Ashes of America." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com and for Nook, Kindle, GooglePlay and iBooks.
Photo credit: Alexas_Fotos at Pixabay