With the start of Lent, Christians the world-over are praying, fasting, and giving alms in preparation for Easter. This often means also making some kind of sacrifice in the name of solidarity with the poor and the Church … you know, getting guilted into giving up your most savory sins: gorging yourself on Moose Tracks ice cream or ogling Al Gore. Going without. For forty days. In a row.
It’s often perceived as a chore akin to New Year’s Resolutions — and adhered to about as strictly.
Part of the problem lies in the negative and obligatory framing of Lenten sacrifice. Don’t drink so much! Why aren’t you praying more? Can’t spare another five bucks for the Church?
There are plenty of similarities with the framing of the climate problem. Don’t drive so much! Why aren’t you recycling more? Can’t you spare another five thousand bucks for solar panels?
This Lent I propose a reconciliation for the climate-conscious Christian. Heck, I propose a reconciliation for anyone harboring hordes of green guilt.
I want to base this on the forty days model from Christianity, along with its goals of "disciplining the body to rely less on the things of this world" and creating a clear-headed vision of priorities. The secular focus has an obvious climate application of reducing consumption and recreating an identity with the global ecological community.
The challenge: choose one or two climate-hatin’ habits and nix ‘em for positive new ones. Do this for forty days and then see how you measure up. Maybe you can’t go cold turkey on all hot showers (Lord knows I love ‘em, AMEN), but turning down the water heater a few degrees or shaving a few minutes off each shower can move you in the right direction. A direction consistent with finally putting in that new low-flow shower head … or maybe showering with a friend.
Oh and in true Lenten fashion, you can cheat on Sundays if you want.
Personally, this isn’t the first time I’ve tried to add the climate-connection to my Lenten journey. Last year I completely abstained from red meat (not intuitive to this Midwest meat-and-potatoes-raised girl) and designated one day each week to be car-free (also not so simple in the highway-happy Midwest).
So what happened? Basically, I learned to live without burgers, meatloaf, and steak in favor of more varied and healthier alternatives. I also figured out how to get around without the careless convenience of my car.
However, these next forty days I’m taking it one step further: A Very Vegetarian Lent.
For the resident High ‘n Mighty Vegetarians and Vegans who scoff at this: I live with five other full-time volunteers on an extremely limited budget and must rely on their possibly meaty cooking most of the week. In fact, when I explained to my housemates that I was giving up meat for Lent, I received the following response, "Well, I’m still cooking dinner with meat on (Ash) Wednesday night."
Hmm … sounds like an eating adventure and a climate challenge. Who’s up for it?