Lent, Luther, and a Whole Lot of Confusion

ashwednesdayI was a freshman in college.  And, in order to attempt making small talk, I’d just asked a Protestant student from one of my English classes—whose favorite topic was talking about his church—if he was doing anything for Ash Wednesday.  He stared at me as if I’d just asked him what he was doing for Chocolate Moon Day.

“It’s the first day of the season of Lent,” I said, trying to jog his memory.

“What’s Lent?” He blinked at me looking confused.  Guess there was nothing to jog.

“Well, it’s when some church-going folks set aside special time for God.  Sort of like Advent during the holidays—when people read a section of the Bible and light a candle.  Lent is a reflective, thoughtful time, so some people will sometimes fast or give something up in order to focus.”

Looking skeptical, he asked what kind of church I went to.  At the time I was identifying as a displaced Presbyterian and I was somewhat irregularly crashing at a local Lutheran church while I figured things out.

“Lutheran?”  He questioned.  The word sounded foreign to him as the syllables left his mouth.  “Is it a Protestant church?”

“Of course, Lutherans are Protestants!  Martin Luther is who the Lutherans are named after.”  A surprised but not snarky reply.

He just blinked at me.

“Martin Luther … as in the Reformation?”

“Martin Luther, huh?  Are you sure you’re not a Catholic?”  He looked at me suspiciously.

“Well, I’m not really a Lutheran …. but, yes, I’m sure Lutherans aren’t Catholics.  Lutherans broke off from the Catholic Church during the Reformation.”

More confused blinking.

“Really, they’re not Catholics, Lutherans were the very first Protestants.”

“Well, I’ve never heard of them before.”  He said still looked highly skeptical, but commented how it was “interesting” and that he’d never heard any of the stuff about Lent or Luther before.  He self-identified as being Protestant and he’d never heard of the Reformation or Martin Luther?  I invited him to attend the Ash Wednesday service with me, but he was playing Frisbee with his church youth group and that took precedence.

I thought my classmate and I had finally made some headway, but the next time I ran into him at school he asked: “So, Kelsey, how’s Lent going?  Hey, what religion did you say you were again?”

Sigh.

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4 thoughts on “Lent, Luther, and a Whole Lot of Confusion

  1. this is what is wrong in a lot of churches nowadays.
    the basics of church history is not taught. if we don’t know where we came from, we certainly will not know where to go in the future [or whom to look to]
    Good post, K!

    • Thanks for commenting, Kristina. It does seem like church history is no longer taugh in many churches. It’s sad.

  2. It’s interesting the people who don’t understand their own religion. Whether you are Protestant or not, I feel you should know history. I have my own views on Christian history but nevertheless, I’ve learned a lot. It’s funny how people get so caught up when you know more about them when it comes to religious history or even religious doctrine. As far as Fat Tuesday, I see that as more of a sin until you can’t sin anymore or until 12am Wednesday comes around. At least, that’s how it is treated. I don’t celebrate Lent. Mainly because I was not raised in a denomination that does Lent. Now that I’m older, I don’t celebrate Lent because I think in many cases it’s more of a forced thing and the person only gives up that one thing to look good or they lead a regular sinful life outside of that one thing they gave up. Also, this isn’t the only time to give things up that take up much of your life. Yes, you may be “sacrificing” something important to you, but you can, and should, do this all times during the year. Not just when it’s prescribed by your Church and such. Actually though, Mardi Gras actually starts much before Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday is apparently the official end of Mardi Gras.

    God bless!

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. And welcome to my blog. 🙂

      You’re right, Mardi Gras season does begin before Fat Tuesday. “Mardi Gras” is actually French for “Fat Tuesday,” and is the very last day of Carnival season (also called Mardi Gras season). It starts on or the day following Epiphany and ends on the day before Ash Wednesday. I usually say “Fat Tuesday” if I’m refering to the litergical caldendar, specifically to the day before Lent, as a way of distinquishing it from the Mardi Gras in more the sense of the festival in New Orleans.

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