Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lenten Voices: Happy Jesus Day

by Jayme Helgeson

Let me admit that my concept of "blog" these days is as a digital forum for my angry transference issues...or projection issues. It's a place to rant and not generally a place to do good research. Good research bloggers end up writing for bigger online publications and thus graduate to write for Slate Magazine or some other organic, non-profit, NPR-like organization. So it's only fitting that I started my research for this blog by checking out Lent on Wikipedia where I learned (surprise surprise) absolutely nothing. So on with the rant:

I hate Lent. I imagine also that many jaded folks who grew up in any sort of Bible-belt share my sunny disposition. Right on the heels of another horrible tradition, making and breaking New Year's resolutions, comes Lent - another resolution of sorts. By February, having barely endured the darkest days of the Winter, Christmas creditors after their first dues, and pangs of doom from a fast approaching tax season, I've already lost my taste for resolutions of any kind. My self flagellation only escalates to pure emasculation come the advent of Valentine's Day. Hungry, tired, heart-broken, beat up and bruised, depressed as hell and medicated to the hilt, next comes a happy Jesus on a flannel board shouting, "Give up coffee for 40 days. And you'll save lots of money too!" Keep reading to hear more about the happy Jesus.

I've grown up giving up on just about everything that ever felt good and pleasurable. Sex, sexuality, candy cigarettes, cussing, and the Democratic Left, it was all bad Bad BAD! The indoctrination started in Good News Club where a hunched over old woman taught us pre-pubescent boys the Bloody Passion narrative on a sparkling white flannel board with Happy Jesus, Happy Peter, and Happy Paul all herding around a bunch of silly sheep. At age 7, I already instinctively hated sheep and everything they stood for. And I basically sucked at Bible verses and never got as many Oreo cookies at snack time as my so-called "best-friend" Leif. After class my good buddy Leif would quiz me about words he knew and I didn't from the dictionary he'd obviously studied for hours before. Then he'd whip me at Super Mario Bros. I was just a dumb idiot loser.

And that's basically the Protestant story. We immediately succeed at failing at our freshly ground-out Lenten resolutions. We sit there and drool on our favorite blouses whilst we peer over at those impossible people that succeed at resolutions and goals and the like. And then we continue another favorite Protestant habit, one we engage in year-round: we hate on ourselves for how much we suck. "Oh, so you only ate rice today. Wow, I couldn't do that..." And then to add to the madness this: deep down we suspect that Mr. Perfect Fasting Guy has got to be the most miserable of all. So Sunday Mass comes around and we flock to church and promptly get stuck between the madness of a good God who allows evil, sets up a religion based on flogging and cruel cross hanging, and bunch of boring desert meditation. I've been taught to look at Jesus' fast in the wilderness and his temptation by Satan to be some sort of test. And then I practice and fail that test over and over again. In the back of my mind I'm thinking, What's the great meaning of a fast to a god anyway? If he dies he'll just be resurrected...or in any case he knows with certain and confident foresight that Daddy won't actually allow him to be killed or harmed anyway. How human really can you be when you already have all these super-powers? What's a fast to a man with ultimate endurance?

I am not without hope however. I have hope because I've discovered that the God of the Bible isn't really all that different from me anyway. God's a big cheat. Take away resurrection powers and let's see how good the Jesus would be at taking on Satan face to face. He can't win a wrestling match with a human either, not without cheating, not without turning his mighty opponent into a half-paralyzed gimp. On the intellectual side, Jesus wasn't all that much better as far as godly integrity goes. Taking on the mantle of a God, he naturally appointed himself authority over the meaning of all scriptures. Suddenly somehow all the scriptures were all about him (save the psalms...I love the psalms...they are...thank God still about me). Getting drunk and feasting on fast days? Sure! I'm God! We should celebrate because now I'm here and soon I won't be! (Throw in a reference from Isaiah somewhere or mention Elijah in passing). Pour expensive perfume on me? Sure! I'm God and very special at that! Never mind those poor drunks down at the social services clinic that could really use a hefty cash donation....

God is good, God is great, thank you for this food, Alllllmen. More to come soon....

is a is a 30 year-old St. Paul's parishioner hailing from Montana who loves skiing and hiking in the Pacific Northwest.

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