Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


A culture that hates asceticism

posted by Rod Dreher

I had a great conversation with a new friend on a train ride today. I don’t think he’s religious at all, but we got to talking about Lent, and asceticism. He said that it’s no surprise to him that American Christians don’t fast, by and large.
“It goes against everything our consumer culture stands for,” he said. “Everything about the way we live is set up to tell you constantly that you should have more, more, more all the time. What is the purpose of advertising? To tell you a) that there’s something wrong with you, and b) by acquiring this product or experience, you can be whole again. But here’s religion telling you, ‘Wait, that’s a lie, you don’t need all that, and here’s a practice — fasting and asceticism — that can show you how things really are. No wonder nobody does it anymore. It’s too countercultural.”
“It’s like fasting reboots your mind and your body,” I responded. “It reminds you what you’ve forgotten.”
“Funny you used the term ‘reboot,'” he said. “Even machines need to rest, to step back from what they do. Computers have to be off for a while to sort themselves out. And look at agriculture. You ever see that movie ‘Food, Inc.’? Great documentary. They show how the old practice of leaving a field fallow for a season helped rebuild the nutrients in the soil. But we don’t do that. We basically strip mine a field for all its worth, never letting it rest. And we’re destroying all the life in it. There’s something inherent in nature that demands rest, and stepping back from the normal patterns of consumption. But we can’t seem to learn that, can we?”
I went on to tell him that this reminded me of how much pleasure I used to derive from traveling to faraway places, and eating things I couldn’t get back home, and bringing home special treats. After a while, I began to notice that experiencing faraway places wasn’t nearly as different from life at home as it had been. We all have the same chain stores, and everything looks alike. And as for international travel, if you live in a big city, you can get pretty much anything here than you could get in many foreign capitals.
“A few weeks back, I was at a Belgian bar in Center City,” I told my traveling companion, “and I saw on the menu beer from a tiny monastery on the Dutch-Belgian border. I visited there when I was 17, and tasted their beer. And now, about 25 years later, I’m sitting in a bar in Philadelphia looking at their beer on the menu. I think this is really exciting — but it also makes me kind of sad.”
“In the future,” he said, “there will be a premium price on things you can only get at one place. People who refuse to export goods, and who only sell them to people who come to the source, will be able to charge really high prices for them. People are going to be desperate for originality, but the only way to get it will be through travel.”



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kenneth

posted March 27, 2010 at 1:48 am


You’ve got a couple of different lines of thought here. One about eating locally, which does have its virtues and challenges (and rewards). Fasting, I don’t know. I’d rather strive for moderation on a daily basis than go through cycles of gorging and fasting.



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Shelley

posted March 27, 2010 at 2:21 am


Your up late. I think there is some sort of undiscovered scientific wisdom to fasting that the NAS or NIH will some day discover. As we go into to Holy Week, with so much on our horizon, I will be doing some serious fasting. I feel like the field of my soul has been strip mined lately. I need the fallow time of fasting to reboot the essentiality of the spiritual life and get a grip. It’s so easy to say, “Don’t worry. Trust in God”. But boy howdie when you actuallly are faced with doing it…well…it’s just not so easy. Fasting. Not fun. Kind of like medicine that makes you feel worse but heals.



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Cecelia

posted March 27, 2010 at 2:41 am


I grew up pre Vatican II so fasting before receiving communion was from midnight til you went to Mass, there were compulsory fasting and abstinence days including the no meat every Friday. Since it was habitual – it fit into your routine so it didn’t seem like a big deal.
Plus the whole family was doing it.
Since everything is voluntary now – we only do the fast and abstinence during lent and advent.
I think it is funny in a society that has all these trendy diets and cleansing of the body routines and healthy eating etc that something like fasting and abstinence seems so archaic – but is is a healthy practice and doesn’t require buying a diet book or going to the spa for the cleansing. It also helps to develop self discipline – which can help prevent the need for all those diets etc. It is a sensible practice.



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MH

posted March 27, 2010 at 7:38 am


I agree with your premise that our culture doesn’t value asceticism and there is an ideology of more, more, more. But I am not sure it is fair to compare asceticism to rest. Not eating seems like a fair bit of work and form of activity. Indeed there was an article on Beliefnet a year or so ago about how Orthodox Christianity was more manly because it made these kinds of demands on followers.
I am not religious so I personally would see moderation as a more valuable way to discipline the self than self deprivation.
Also a computer nerd nit. People think computers need to reboot, because that is a property of the ones they use every day. It is possible to build computer systems that are continuously available and can even have parts hot swapped out of them.



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Peterk

posted March 27, 2010 at 7:39 am


“…experiencing faraway places wasn’t nearly as different from life at home as it had been. ”
doesn’t even have to be faraway, I travel frequently on business and I am finding it harder and harder to find unique places or items in the cities that I visit, and I do quite a bit of looking. I love visiting bookstores, but more and more all i can find is Barnes and Noble or Borders. Even Half-Price Books is losing its uniqueness.



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e

posted March 27, 2010 at 8:37 am


There is nothing so delicious as the one small meal taken daily, every 23 hours. I have done this for years, and have known nothing but blessings from it. I just ate a cup of plain boiled wild rice. The depth and breadth of flavors, scrumptious. I wish everyone could know the true joys that come from “stark” simplicity when we strongly moderate our impulses and appetites. Our needs and desires fall back, the joyful equal the most special or creative recipes, and we find gratitude everywhere and not just arising on the special occasions.



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Indy

posted March 27, 2010 at 8:52 am


Rod, interesting essay but I found the title jarring and out of sync with the content. Which leads me to wonder, for situations where everything does not align neatly and fall into place, are we too conditioned to framing things in terms of “hating” something that some people do not partake in? In throwing up a title, did you just react to the oppositional framing we all see too much in public discourse? I almost didn’t read the essay, I looked at the title and thought ok what is somebody angry about now, it’s always something. Your essay doesn’t actually frame the topic in terms of hating, in the sense of describing something that people are told to do something and resist with anger. It comes across more as Americans live in a culture with these influences, most of them react this way. It was a thoughtful essay that I almost skipped reading.



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Richard

posted March 27, 2010 at 9:12 am


Rod, I do get your point about teh Belgian beer and whatnot.
But you guys really need to get out and talk to some farmers. LOTS of fields are rested and kept fallow – they just use cover crops now (such as clover) to rejuvenate the soil and prevent run-off. Now that you’re in PA you’re going to hear more and more about run-off and the danger to our waterways, especially the Chesapeake.
While I liked Food Inc. there’s also a lot of misinformation about how many farms are managed these days v. ‘the good old days’. And you don’t need to be a modernist about it either – just ask some Amish farmers who still do things the old way in method while taking advantage of up-to-date agricultural knowledge.



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Judith

posted March 27, 2010 at 9:17 am


Indy,
Your comment about “oppositional framing” really spoke to me. I hadn’t even read the article itself until I read your comment, and then went back to read it. The article also has many positive points. But your comment says it all, and will give me what I need for the rest of the day. Thank you. And PS, are you a fellow Hoosier?



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tammy swofford

posted March 27, 2010 at 9:25 am


Regarding the need for nature to rest, is also the rejuvenation that comes with seasons. I think it is the same in our lives. We need rest, but we also pass through seasons, whether from university degree to career, single to married, DINK (double income no kids) to children and less meals out, more trips to the park. smile
Nice post, Rod.
Tammy Swofford



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baconboy

posted March 27, 2010 at 9:27 am


Here’s an interesting article from Men’s Health about the medicinal benefits of fasting: http://www.menshealth.com/bestfoods/food_features/The_Worlds_Most_Effective_Diet.php
But for me I’ve found the primary benefits of fasting to be spiritual – it reminds me to be hungry for God, that all that I have is a gift from God, and to pray constantly (notice how in the Bible fasting is almost always paired with prayer). And, in fact, I’ve found that fasting actually leads to moderation the rest of the year…there is something about being able to control your appetite rather than being controlled by it that improves my ability to moderate my food intake.



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Hector

posted March 27, 2010 at 9:41 am


Rod,
I think fasting is becoming more popular among young people (at least, the Catholics and Anglicans of my acquaintance) in recent years. I haven’t been good about it for the last few months but starting with this Holy Week I am going to start trying to observe the fast days (we have a nice calendar in the Book of Common Prayer which outlines the recommended fast days).
I do agree that this is a culture that is not interested in any form of asceticism, in the main (which is perhaps why young Catholic and Anglican people are turning to it as something countercultural). And I agree about the health benefits of fasting too. People are always talking about the Mediterranean diet/lifestyle and how it’s so healthy for you, and they never stop to think, gee, do you think maybe it has to do with the fact that the Greeks are just eating bread and vegetables for a good portion of the year. Americans want every day to be Christmas, and we never stop to think that without Advent, Christmas itself is stripped of its meaning.
It’s worth noting that fasting has benefits that aren’t directly related to food or to spirituality. It frees up money, since you’re spending less on food, and so you are able to donate more money to charity. In my opinion an important concomitant to fasting should be to donate more to charity.



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Indy

posted March 27, 2010 at 9:48 am


Not a Hoosier, Judith, but I’ll take it as a compliment that you thought I might be one. Just somebody who is moderate by temperament and politics and thinks oppositional framing is way overused. That said, I recognize that Rod comes from the newspaper culture where the saying goes, “if it bleeds, it leads.” But he himself and his essays seem much more geared towards nuance and careful thought than that implies.
Thanks again for the kind words.



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Jon

posted March 27, 2010 at 9:57 am


Some of the anti-ascetic sentiment you can lay at the door of Protestantism, especially Calvinism. There’s a deep suspicion of anything that smacks of “works righteousness” as well as a (very unscriptural) notion that material abundance is God’s reward for virtue so one might as well enjoy it.



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Franklin Evans

posted March 27, 2010 at 10:23 am


To Rod and the others reading this who are from a tradition that fasts:
I respectfully ask, for information rather than provocation, if your tradition may have failed to teach (or just convey) the purpose of fasting: to remove the distractions of mind and body between the soul and the divine.
I wonder if, perhaps, some have lost sight of that behind a more superficial self-denial as atonement or punishment. Not to disrespect that practice, but from the discussion so far I submit that as the actual opposition to fasting, as in people are not motivated to atone or accept punishment if they don’t think they deserve it.
I further submit a comparison to the meditative practices. The removal of distraction is key, and for some of them fasting is just part of the menu, as it were. :-)



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Richard

posted March 27, 2010 at 11:01 am


I won’t speak for others, Franklin, but I agree with you 100%. In my church, that’s the whole purpose to fasting, especially when seeking wisdom or guidance from God.



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polistra

posted March 27, 2010 at 11:19 am


Asceticism for religious purposes and simple living are really opposites. After you get it set up properly, simple living is the real hedonism. More security, less work, less kowtowing to The Boss.



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ciao

posted March 27, 2010 at 1:21 pm


A good thought provoking article Rod. I also like the many intelligent responses. Franklin your insight is right on. We are both human and spiritual. Even if we deny it, we are responsible or our actions or lack of action. Lent, with it’s fasting and penance reminds us of our spiritual being. Materialism and hi tech noise squeezes out the needs of the hungry spirit. Lent helps us to balance our lives so that we grow and don’t forget what really lasts and what does not. Lent reminds us that in quiet self-denial and prayer, we can feed our spirit and hear God and be at peace and to remember that there is an eternity.



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Your Name

posted March 27, 2010 at 1:25 pm


How true this article is. I’m an Eastern Orthodox Christian and during Lent, which we call Great Lent, and during the 40 days before Christmas (the Nativity Fast), 15 days in August (the Dormition Fast), and another period in July or July (the Apostles Fast), which can last anywhere from two to six weeks, depending on when Easter (Pascha), members of my church are required to abstain from all animal and dairy products — meat, eggs, cheese, milk, etc. — and also, depending on the requirements for reason, olive oil and fish. I can’t tell you how many people whom I’ve befriended and informed about my faith-based dietary restrictions, have criticized them as bizarre, even seeing them as a sticking point in our relationship. You would think that given the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension in so many regions of the country that people would see the value of modifying their diet, whether or not their religion requires it. I chalk up the negative reactions to my diet to gross consumerism: most Americans feel, as the article indicates, that ascetism is not only out of date but its activities such as fasting reserved for sanctimonious or countercultural individuals. How unfortunate on some levels. Jesus was right: you can’t serve two masters.



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SiliconValleySteve

posted March 27, 2010 at 1:40 pm


I didn’t get the travel thing at all. So people will stop exporting the goods they produce that lots of people from far-away places would like to buy? And this won’t be made up for by people in far-away places learning to make the same things? Consequently people will become even greater participants in the travel consumer culture to go to other places to consume things they can’t get at home?
Huh?



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CAP

posted March 27, 2010 at 1:56 pm


as a spiritual practice, wouldn’t it probably be more rewarding to go on an internet fast? nourish your body as the lord intended, but eliminate for x amount of days the interference and mental clutter of those countless online voices and temptations that distract from a simpler and more pure communication with god.



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Erin Manning

posted March 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm


Franklin, your comment was deeply insightful–you, a pagan, have a greater insight into the reality of fasting than many Christians do! (Don’t take offense if I see that as a blessing from God.) :)
Rod, the problem as I see it is that there is a difference between “fasting” and “asceticism.” Many of us have been fasting during this Lent. Some are following a Church’s strict, detailed instructions about specific food items to avoid. Others are “giving up” things they enjoy voluntarily. Some think of fasting as primarily about creating physical hunger–not merely giving up some food items, but eating so little of what is allowed that hunger results. Some think of fasting as primarily about creating spiritual hunger–not going physically hungry all day, but disciplining the mind and will to avoid what one cannot have (either via “strict list” fasting or “voluntary” fasting).
I think all of these things are good. But are they “asceticism?”
I don’t think very many Americans, even during Lent, even with the strictest sort of Church-inspired fasting, are even approaching true asceticism. In a land of plenty, to give up or restrict or change one’s food intake is good, to be sure, but it is something people do all year long, for health reasons or diet reasons or “simple eating” reasons. We have the luxury of eating small meals when we wish, without much pain or loss to ourselves; the vast majority of us are not performing hard physical labor for eight or ten or twelve hours of the day, as many of our ancestors did. If I eat a tiny meatless meal–what of it? The housework requires little physical expenditure of labor, the laundry is mostly done by machine, the preparation of meals for my family doesn’t require a walk to the grocer and butcher followed by hours of laborious preparation and clean-up, or hours of garden maintenance, or any such thing. My great-grandmother didn’t have things that easy, not when rugs were beaten outside and “skipping” the day’s laundry on the grounds of fasting-induced weakness would cause disaster to her rigid weekly chore schedule.
The point is that if we begin to congratulate ourselves, even in a small way, on our fasting “stamina” or the “asceticism” of being content with a slice of bread and peanut butter for lunch–us, with our desk jobs and relatively sedentary lives–then we’re farther than we think from that encounter with the Divine that Franklin speaks of. Because asceticism is, at its heart, the embrace of virtue and the concurrent and often-painful rooting-out of those tendencies to vice which stand in the way of an encounter with God.
So if we fast with great strength, and adhere most sternly to whatever practices we have adopted, but neglect to strive for faith, hope, love, prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance generally, our fasting is like the “noisy gong” St. Paul speaks of. And if we fast not only from food, but from entertainment and lawful pleasures as well, and even from physical comforts, sleeping on hard floors and turning off our heat, for instance, but fail to search our hearts for pride, envy, anger, sloth, gluttony, avarice, or lust, and all their little branches (arrogance, jealousy, unjust judgment of our neighbor, laziness, carelessness in the custody of the eyes and mind, greedy habits and ungenerous use of our goods and our spirits, hatred or wrath against our neighbor, and so on) then our asceticism is an outward work alone, that by our very pride we forbid to penetrate to the depths of our souls.
I reach this point of Lent with more awareness of the failures I have made to reach a true reform of my soul than of my fasting practices and their strengths or deficiencies. I start thinking of ways to do better next year–but even that is pride and folly, since we have a week left until Easter, and if I were in the proper spirit I could make of that week enough Lent for a lifetime.



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ciao

posted March 27, 2010 at 2:36 pm


Erin: “The word asceticism comes from the Greek askesis which means practice, bodily exercise, and more especially, athletic training. The early Christians adopted it to signify the practice of the spiritual things, or spiritual exercises performed for the purpose of acquiring the habits of virtue. At present it is not infrequently employed in an opprobrious sense, to designate the religious practices of oriental religious as well as those of the Christian saint, both of whom are by some placed in the same category. It is not uncommonly confounded with austerity, even by Catholics, but incorrectly. For although the flesh is continuously lusting against the spirit, and repression and self-denial are necessary to control the animal passions, it would be an error to measure a man’s virtue by the extent and character of his bodily penances. External penances even in the saints, are regarded with suspicion. St. Jerome, whose proneness to austerity makes him an especially valuable authority on this point, thus writes to Celantia:
Be on your guard when you begin to mortify your body by abstinence and fasting, lest you imagine yourself to be perfect and a saint; for perfection does not consist in this virtue. It is only a help; a disposition; a means though a fitting one, for the attainment of true perfection.
Thus asceticism according to the definition of St. Jerome, is an effort to attain true perfection, penance being only an auxiliary virtue thereto. It should be noted also that the expression “fasting and abstinence” is commonly used in Scripture and by ascetic writers as a generic term for all sorts of penance. Neither should asceticism be identified with mysticism. For although genuine mysticism can not exist without asceticism, the reverse is not true. One can be an ascetic without being a mystic. Asceticism is ethical; mysticism, largely intellectual. Asceticism has to do with the moral virtues; mysticism is a state of unusual prayer or contemplation. They are distinct from each other, though mutually co-operative. Moreover although asceticism is generally associated with the objectionable features of religion, and is regarded by some as one of them, it may be and is practiced by those who affect to be swayed by no religious motives whatever.” (from the Catholic encyclopedia)



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Jenny Green

posted March 27, 2010 at 3:50 pm


A few years ago, I gave up shopping for Lent. I aimed not to set foot in a store for the whole time. I went into it thinking this would be impossible even though I had the support of my family who would do groceries. It was one of the most liberating experiences I have ever had. I had spare time! I could go for a walk instead of the mall! I actually got around to ironing the clothes I already had. Most of all it opened my eyes to how I really could step away from life as usual.



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Franklin Evans

posted March 27, 2010 at 4:08 pm


Erin, I’m never offended by a sincere offer of grace. A blessing is a blessing, whether you say “God bless you” or my Wiccan friends say “blessed be”. Let us leave the details to those who prefer to argue them, shall we? :-)
I find it doubly ironic (please, wait for the explanation) that I feel closest to my Christian friends during their observance Lent than at other observance periods of their ritual calendar. The second part of that is my Jewish heritage and Passover, to which I came rather later in life (long story, not necessary here), which sort of coincides with it in terms of thinking about it and preparing for it.
So, this Pagan humbly suggests that if you (general, Christian) find it difficult or even painful to fast, then your difficulty is in your mental and spiritual approach to it, and not necessarily the physical part. I spend too many waking hours wishing for quiet, too much effort on seeking moments in which I can just be. I doesn’t matter what your tradition may be or asks/requires of you. If you are missing the point, if you can’t seem to find that quiet moment or place, then you have my sympathy.
I can’t help a bit of cynicism, too: Our secular culture pressures us into and farther down the “more is always better” path with absolutely no regard or consideration for what we might consider “enough”. Balance in our lives is increasingly difficult to achieve. I offer guarded agreement with some basic principles under the heading of “culture war”, balanced by the caution: If the extremes against which you fight are so bad, are you not working too hard to replace them with another set of extremes?



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Jon

posted March 27, 2010 at 4:11 pm


Your NAme at 1:25: I believe you misstate something in your post, perhaps quite innocently. The precise deatils of the fast are not required (except of clergy and monastics, and even for them it may be modified by health considerations). It is advisory, not requisite. That is, no one need fear they are in mortal sin if they do not keep this or that aspect of it, as is true, even today I believe, of meatless Fridays in the RC.
One criticism I will make of our fasing rules: in the modern world they seem to promote (at least with me) an obsession with food and cooking– what shall eat for my next meal, what do I need to buy, etc. The foods which were easy and simple in the past no longer are; and some of the allowed foods– like lobster– and now delicacies. I have even found that I spend more on groceries not less when I try to follow the rules. This seems to be rather defeating the purpose.



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MikeW

posted March 27, 2010 at 4:49 pm


Your friend certainly has a point, Rod. I think the trick is about saying no, at least from time to time, in a culture that promotes saying “yes” to everything and anything all the time, from food whenever you want, to 24/7 TV, to constant texting, to any music you want any time via download…and on and on. And for a culture so obsessed with food, occasional food fasts are certainly a good thing regardless of the spiritual reasons, though I’ve noticed that my wife’s Orthodox friends seems over the top obsessed with food this time of year. I also find their vocal complaints about how tough it is to observe the fast a bit over the top — I mean, doesn’t whining about it to anyone within shouting distance undercut the point of the fast in the first place? I prefer to save my sympathy for people who really deserve it, not a bunch of obese, food obsessed….oops, sorry, my bias is showing.
Best,
Mike



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ciao

posted March 27, 2010 at 5:00 pm


Jon, you and Erin seem to be snowed under by all the details and advise that’s all over the place. We live in the age of INFORMATION, I would be confused too by the overload of so much info available to us. Simple answer, don’t read it, don’t listen to it. Shut it all off, go to a quiet place for awhile, read some scripture, pray, be at peace and ask God to help you.



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Pat

posted March 27, 2010 at 7:26 pm


On the more general topic of asceticism, my workplace has a statue of St. Stylites on his column. Every morning I walk past it and think, What was with that guy, anyway? Does someone more up on ascetic practices wish to enlighten me?



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted March 27, 2010 at 7:46 pm


Everything at the beginning of this thread calls to mind that there may have been serious, practical reasons for designating that every seventh day is a “day of rest.” Yes, a commemorative and worshipful reason was provided, but maybe it is simply good for us, and our beasts, and our fields, and those who serve us, and use who serve others (all at minimum wage and above, with no strings of ownership) to rest.
I’ve noticed a lot of individual initiatives by pastors in my own Protestant denomination to call for various ways of observing Lent, including no meat and no soda(!), which I haven’t really kept up on. Eating is in my routine, and as long as I’m running around and working, I’m not even sure its healthy to stop. Not eating really goes best with resting, or staying near home, at least not having any mandatory duties, although, the other end of a paradox, sitting around a house full of food doing nothing would be conducive to constant snacking. Maybe we should start by bringing back some blue laws, so we ALL rest on a given day, and then shutting down all the stores on holidays.



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Anonymous for Professional Reasons

posted March 28, 2010 at 10:10 am


I’m teaching at a conservative, religiously-affiliated university. Most of the students are very conservative politically and in terms of their religious background.
This semester, I’m teaching a class on media of religion. As one exercise, the students watched Chariots of Fire and I asked them to write about Eric Liddle’s approach to the Sabbath as depicted in the film.
Most students found it “impractical” in today’s world. Everyone is just too busy, they said. Work wouldn’t get done, people wouldn’t have time to shop, stores would go out of business because they wouldn’t be open on Sunday. Modern people have too much important stuff today, they said.
I presented some counter-examples (Chik-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, European countries where stores are often closed for most of Sunday). but I was unsuccessful in changing their opinion.
One student wrote that the 10 Commandments were historic laws that only apply to the Jewish people and, I’m slightly paraphrasing here: are not applicable to Christians.
A small sample of today’s modern conservative Christian college student believe that shopping and eating at restaurants on Sundays is now such a necessity that the American economy would collapse if Christians stayed home and rested on Sunday.



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MH

posted March 28, 2010 at 10:38 am


Anonymous for Professional Reasons
I think you could make a case that closing shops one day a week would actually increase profits. There’s only a finite amount of money a person can spend, and they’ll either spend it in six or seven days. If they send it in six days the costs of the merchants will be lower and their profits higher. This would eventually translate into higher wages for the workers too.
Now someone who’s not religious (as I am) could find this appealing for reasons other than acetic or spiritual reasons. There are plenty of free things to do one day a week and planning purchases isn’t that big a burden.



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Lord Karth

posted March 28, 2010 at 1:26 pm


Anonymous For Professional Reasons @ 10:10 AM writes:
“Most students found it “impractical” in today’s world. Everyone is just too busy, they said. Work wouldn’t get done, people wouldn’t have time to shop, stores would go out of business because they wouldn’t be open on Sunday. Modern people have too much important stuff today, they said.”
There may be a link between APR’s statement and our current financial/economic difficulties. If modern people have “too much important stuff” today, then modern societies may have a lot less slack in the system, and be much closer to the financial edge, than is healthy for them. The current Depression 2.0 may be Reality’s way of telling us to slow down.
The solution may be to get rid of some of the “important stuff”. And to make the choice of what to get rid of ourselves, before circumstances do it for us.
Everett C. Marm ! Paging Everett C. Marm ! Everett C. Marm, please call your office….anyone see where I put my bin full of jellybeans ?
Your servant,
Lord Karth the Unrepentent



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Jam

posted March 28, 2010 at 2:32 pm


“One criticism I will make of our fasing rules: in the modern world they seem to promote (at least with me) an obsession with food and cooking– what shall eat for my next meal, what do I need to buy, etc. The foods which were easy and simple in the past no longer are; and some of the allowed foods– like lobster– and now delicacies. I have even found that I spend more on groceries not less when I try to follow the rules. This seems to be rather defeating the purpose.”
I am Eastern Orthodox (recent convert) and I see your point, but don’t think that’s an inherent flaw in the rules but rather a flaw that people bring to the rules. This Lent the most food-obsessed I’ve been is for St. Patrick’s day celebration, a first-friday-in-Lent party we had (fish fry with Catholic friends), and trying to make cookies for my gluten-allergic friends to eat on Pascha. From day to day it’s not that hard to eat simply and cheaply. Substitute milks cost just the same as normal milk, usually, and you can get a lot out of dried beans, rice, and other super-cheap ingredients like that. I made three weeks of lunch for myself with less than five dollars’ worth of split peas, lentils, and barley. I also found that if you go to as many services as possible, you get fed at church a lot. :) It’s much cheaper–and more fun!–when parishes share food with lots of potlucks, etc. So perhaps one week it’s your turn and you’ll be food-obsessed, but for the next few weeks you will get to graciously accept what someone else brings…
it is a good point about delicacies, though–lobster, etc. I try to avoid those, and to avoid convincing facsimiles like good fake meats or this coconut milk ice cream I found that’s BETTER than the real thing. My personal rule is only to eat facsimiles if they border on kinda gross (cool whip, soymilk, etc.) in comparison to the real thing. The rules were made in old school Greece, but isn’t it nice how in Orthodoxy they’re really just guidelines, and not mandates?



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Jon

posted March 28, 2010 at 2:38 pm


As I asked on the other, later thread, was it ever true that *everything* close down on Sundays? I can recall a time in my early childhood when stores did not open until noon on Sunday, and then closed at 5 or 6. But I think there were always restaurants, hotels, gas stations and the like open. In fact going out for Sunday dinner was traditional for many people so as to spare wives the chore of cooking.



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Lindsey Abelard

posted March 28, 2010 at 2:59 pm


There is (or was) an American asceticism. Remember the Gen-X slackers from the early 90’s? These were people who did not believe in loading up on a bunch of useless fancy crap. Rather, they chose to live cheap lives where they could do the lonely planet budget travel to S.E. Asia for three months at a time. Given that we have a rather persistent recession, I think this asceticism will return in a very big way. People will stop spending money they don’t have on things they don’t really need and, instead, will focus like a laser beam on doing the things that they truly do enjoy.
The Japanese young people started embracing this asceticism (as did I, until I got married) in the early 90’s and still embrace it today. I think the U.S. will become more Japan-like with regards to this in the near future.
Fred Reed talks about this from time to time. He says, for most people, the price of true personal freedom is a reduced material standard of living. He is most certainly correct.



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Lindsey Abelard

posted March 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm


The Gen-X bohemian life style that was popular in the early 90’s is the modern version of asceticism. I believe this will return as the recession persists. The Japanese young people embraced this asceticism starting in the early 90’s and have never abandoned it. I think the bohemian life style will become tremendously popular once we cure aging (e.g. SENS) around 2030-2040.



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Sarah in exile

posted March 28, 2010 at 3:48 pm


I attempted to do a vegan fast for lent. I lasted only a couple of weeks. I cook for other people, none of whom were participating. I brought vegan soup to our lenten meals at church, otherwise I’d have nothing at all to eat. I think that fasting alone is too hard, we need our community for enouragement and strength.



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