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Negativity Fast, again

Because tomorrow (Wednesday, 13) is Ash Wednesday, Lenten resolutions are on my mind, and so I'd like to repeat some things I said a year ago this time: 
It’s a longstanding custom among many Christians to make resolutions during Lent: to resolve to “give something up” in the 40+ days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, as well as to resolve to “take something on” during that time. 

The most traditional areas to “give up in order to take on” are “Prayer, fasting, and alms-giving,” long considered three essential elements of Christian spirituality.

Now, of course, it’s great that, for example, many people will be resolving to give up a half hour of Facebook or television, and give that time to prayer.

And of course it’s great that many people will be giving up alcohol, or sweets, or snacks, or workaholism, and by so doing, get in touch with the many ways we try to fill our God-shaped hole with something or someone other than God (or -- as in the case of food and alcohol -- to attempt to numb the pain of our emptiness).

And of course it’s great that many people will be giving up casual shopping or buying “nice-to-haves” and shopping only for “need-to-haves” during Lent, and donating the money saved to the poor.

But in addition to those traditional disciplines, I wonder if there’s another kind of fast we should be thinking about, something along the lines of what author/pastor Steve Backlund calls a “negativity fast.”

A negativity fast is fasting from negative thoughts and speech, and replacing those thoughts and speech with thoughts and speech that build up.

When thinking about “fasting from negativity,” it’d be tempting to focus on how you view others, or the outside world: world events, politicians, the economy, or other people close to you.

But a negativity fast would begin with the realization that people are more negative toward themselves than anything else.

So – as is often the case with making any kind of change in the world – the best place to begin is with ourselves. On getting the negativity off of our self – those lies we tell ourselves about ourselves, the little negative tapes we’ve memorized that are not from the Holy Spirit but some other spirit. Get that off of you, and then you’ll view the world differently.

Whatever is true…whatever is noble…whatever is right…whatever is pure…whatever is lovely…whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about those things,” Paul says in Philippians.
Especially if done in conjunction with the traditional disciplines of praying, fasting, and giving, following Paul’s advice to dwell – live in – the positive realm would be a great Lenten discipline.
 
Plus, I think a negativity fast is more consistent with the readings we consider each Ash Wednesday. 

Those readings begin by reminding us us what a "true fast" is (hint: it's not going around with a dour look on our faces, but it is being good news to the homeless) and culminate with Jesus warning us about the dangers of practicing our religion. 
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is therefore right on target in what he writes about religion:


"It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats.


"Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid.


"When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion -- its message becomes meaningless." 

And that ties directly to a negativity fast.  
"We would like to see Jesus," a group of people said to Jesus' first followers.


"We would like to see Jesus," people say to us today.
 
And so I wonder, again: 
What would a church -- and those of us who are individual members of it -- look like if, we


  • fasted from creed, and feasted on faith?
  • fasted from discipline, and feasted on worship?
  • fasted from habit, and feasted on love?
  • fasted from the splendor of the past and feasted on addressing the crises of today?
  • fasted from "heirloom faith" and drank deeply from "living fountain" faith? and
  • fasted from authority and feasted on compassion?
Wouldn't it -- wouldn't we -- look a little more like Jesus?
And isn't that what -- who -- people want to see?

So -- a negativty fast -- I’m in.

How about you?

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