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My Take: Snap out of spiritual slump with Lent
Catholics traditionally mark the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday, but Lent is for Protestants too, Mark Batterson writes.
April 3rd, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Take: Snap out of spiritual slump with Lent

Editor's Note: Mark Batterson is lead pastor at the National Community Church in Washington, D.C. He is the author of “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” “Wild Goose Chase” and “Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity.”

By Mark Batterson, Special to CNN

When I was a seminary student, my wife and I went to downtown Chicago for a taping of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” When the producer came out to prep us for the show, I was embarrassed for him because he had dirt on his forehead. Didn’t he look in the mirror that morning? Why didn’t someone tell him? My embarrassment for him turned into embarrassment for myself when I discovered it was Ash Wednesday and the dirt on his forehead was actually ashes that symbolized the day of repentance that begins Lent.

I grew up going to a wide variety of Protestant churches, but none of them practiced or even mentioned Lent. It wasn’t until a few years ago, well into my tenure as lead pastor of National Community Church, that I discovered the value of Lent. It has since become a meaningful season in the cycle of my spiritual life. During the last few Lenten seasons, I’ve incorporated a fast into my routine. One year I gave up television. Another year I gave up soda. I’ve also done a variety of food fasts for Lent.

In my experience, giving something up for Lent has made the Easter celebration far more meaningful and even helped me develop the spiritual discipline of fasting. Fasting during Lent has helped me identify with the sacrifices Christ has made for me, and it’s also helped me focus on the reason for the season. The celebration of the resurrection of Christ has become far more meaningful since I started observing Lent.

The church I pastor is a rather non-traditional Protestant church. We are absolutely orthodox in theology but a little unorthodox in practice. We meet in five different theaters around the metro D.C. area. We own and operate a coffeehouse on Capitol Hill that gives all of its net profits to local community projects and humanitarian causes in other countries.

Along with new innovations, however, we’ve also rediscovered the value the ancient traditions. While we may not practice Lent the same way the Catholic church does, we are reinventing it in a way that is meaningful to us. We put our unique fingerprint on those traditions, and that keeps them from being empty rituals.

I’m afraid that many Protestant churches have a very short-term memory. For them, church history only goes back to the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther. While we may have our theological differences, we share a long history, and I believe there are things that Protestant and Catholic churches can learn from each other in ways that don’t compromise their core beliefs.

I for one am thankful for the Lenten tradition that has been cultivated, celebrated and cherished within the Catholic church. I think more Protestant churches will re-adopt some of those traditions that are part of our common church history from before the Protestant Reformation.

I think of Lent as a spiritual pre-season of sorts. The six Sundays leading up to Easter are considered mini-Easters. Like pre-season games, they prepare us for the ultimate celebration in Christendom: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And one of the benefits, not unlike the Advent celebration surrounding Christmas, is that the celebration is extended to a longer period of time.

A few years ago I came up with a formula for spiritual growth: change of pace + change of place = change of perspective.

Let me explain what it means.

The key to spiritual growth is developing healthy and holy routines. They are called spiritual disciplines. But once the routine becomes routine, you need to disrupt the routine via a change of pace or change of place. Why? Because sacred routines can become empty rituals if you forget why you started doing them in the first place.

I’m certainly not suggesting that routines are bad. Most of us practice a morning ritual that includes showering, brushing our teeth and putting on deodorant. On behalf of your family and friends, continue practicing those routines.

But here’s the spiritual catch-22: good routines can become bad routines if we don’t change the routine. When you start going through the motions spiritually, it’s time to mix up the routine. And Lent is a great opportunity for a natural change of pace.

Lent disrupts the status quo. It can get us out of an old routine and into a new routine.

In physical exercise, routines eventually become counterproductive. If you exercise your muscles the same way every time you work out, your muscles start adapting and stop growing. You need to disorient your muscles by changing your routine. And the same is true spiritually.

When I’m in a spiritual slump, I often snap out of it by a change of pace or a change of place. And it was Jesus who modeled this practice. He would often walk the beach or climb a mountain. I think those changes in geography are not disconnected from the practice of spirituality. It is a simple change of place that precipitates many of the epiphanies that happen in Scripture.

To snap out of a slump, sometimes all it takes is a small change in routine. Volunteer at a local homeless shelter or nursing home. Start keeping a gratitude journal. Get plugged into a small group or Bible study. Take a day off and do a personal retreat. Or just get up a little earlier in the morning and spend a little extra time with God.

One of the small changes in routine that has helped me rejuvenate me is picking up a new translation of Scripture. New words help me think new thoughts. And while you can institute those changes at any time, Lent is a perfect excuse to mix up your spiritual routine.

Why not leverage Lent by mixing up your routine? If you do, you’ll celebrate Easter like you never have before.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Batterson

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Lent • Opinion • Protestant

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soundoff (834 Responses)
  1. Jason

    Religion is fake. You look silly with the ash smudge on your forehead.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • josh

      evolution is fake you look silly saying we all came from ashes...

      April 3, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Vince

      Josh... to say "evolution is fake" is to call your self stupid.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Luc

      Josh got it right.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • marty

      Evolution is true in the sense gravity is true – you can sense it and explain it and study it and it is pretty constant. Religion is true in the sense the easter bunny is true – it makes believers happy, but soon one outgrows it and realizes it is hogwash but still passes the silly belief on to the next generation

      April 3, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Antwon

      Yes, Josh is correct in that he is stupid.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • TJ Newman

      Josh, how about "...until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

      Who's looking silly now.

      Besides evolution is NOT incompatible with a created order. The fist is the how. The second is the what. Reason is not incompatible with faith. One without the other are both blind.

      Jason, you might try wrapping your head around tat too.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Jason

      TJ, Thank you for the quote from your fairytale book. Reason IS incompatible with faith. If faith is what helps you get by in this world, youre unreasonable and in serious need of a reality check.

      April 3, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Rob

      @Jason
      the beauty of faith is that we can both be right
      for you, there is nothing in religion
      for me there is
      it is not a zero sum game and my belief and yours do not compete

      I absolutely believe in evolution
      And I absolutely believe in God
      there is a reason I am having this converstaion with you and not a bird, a cow or any other animal
      Something lifted us
      I also believe in absolute evil
      because of all the animals, only man kills for no reason

      April 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Jason

      Rob, If you believe in religion and evolution, you must be seriously confused. If your supposed "God" created things in his "Image", it seems like it would be hard to explain why things perfectly created, changes over millions of years. Keep relying on your faith. You probably couldn't afford the medication to fix your brain anyways.

      April 3, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Rob

      @Jason
      Who said anything about perfect?
      Only God is perfect
      is a reflection not an image?
      Is a picture not an image?
      is either perfect?
      of course not
      Why would God create something that never changed?
      That would be exceedingly boreing
      Oh, and my medical plan is great – $9 max for 60 days of any prescription

      April 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Jason

      I said it myself. Of course you think your god is perfect, why wouldnt you? Your rationale is intriguing. I love to know what your thoughts are on how religion has evolved so as to remain relevant in the current day and age where people are able to see past the smoke and mirrors and think for themselves.

      April 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Rob

      @Jason
      So since God did not create perfect beings or even a perfect planet, then evolution is not an accident but a feature (the first Microsoft programer=God?)

      I dont see anything about the "current day and age" that exculdes belief in God
      Belief in God is about putting trust in a higher power when your own human nature begins to fail you
      God tells us to love our neighbor, care for our fellow man and treat him as we would be treated
      I dont see how that is less relevant today than yesterday
      Man has always acribed to God that which he does not understand
      It caused God to get blamed for a bunch of stuff
      but that was failings of man, not God
      Now we take more responsibility and blame God less
      but caring for your fellow man
      working to end suffering and injustice
      being good and right in your behavior
      those have not changed

      April 3, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Jason

      youre a nutcase.

      April 3, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • TJ Newman

      Jason, faith and reason are compatible. More than that they're complimentary, just as the 5 senses don't contradict, but compliment each other.

      Your arguments are nothing more than a child who cannot understand something, so he sticks his finders in his ears and chants, "nananananananan I can't hear you."

      It's seems that it's your puerile, derogatory, self-superiority that gets YOU through the day & your life.

      Religion (religare in Latin) means to bind. You've certainly bound yourself to your group-think talking points.

      April 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Magic

      TJ
      "Jason, faith and reason are compatible. More than that they're complimentary, just as the 5 senses don't contradict, but compliment each other."

      Have you ever been fooled by a magic trick... an optical illusion?... even using all 5 complementary (check your dictionary for spelling of this term) senses?

      Why is it that people of one 'faith' object to and disbelieve the 'faith' of others? Christians think that Muslims', and Hindus' and Scientologists', New Agers' and ancient Egyptians' faith is in error and vice versa.

      April 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Wow. All you folks believe you came from Apes? LOL. I'll say hi to some of your relatives that didn't evolve next time I visit the zoo.

      Sad, sad, state of affairs. All these lazy people who haven't a clue to follow Jesus Christ's truth.

      P.S. I'm tired of hearing that you are intelligent and overcame Him. One, just because they call you sonny, doesn't make you bright. Two, Jesus is the only truth there is. If you don't follow Him your other choice is to follow satan. Follow satan and this world is the only life you'll have because your spirit won't continue through eternity to reside with Jesus.

      Argue all you want with this truth. You have free will, but only 2 choices.

      Choose wisely. Your soul depends on it.

      Amen.

      April 3, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @HeavenSent: Again, I ask you to provide verifiable evidence to support your claims.

      One: You must provide verifiable evidence that your God exists.
      Two: You must admit that you cannot provide verifiable evidence to support your claims.

      These two options can be summed up as follows.

      One: You are making an argument from ignorance.
      Two: You are making an argument from dishonesty.

      Those are your choices. Please pick one.

      April 3, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Here's some research for you Eric G. Figure out how many years ago this scripture was written that pertains to your rebellious mindset. I keep telling you, keep disbelieving and Jesus will continue to put a veil over your eyes to not see and ears that can't hear His truth. Only when you repent (meaning shelf that big ego of yours) and ask Him for forgiveness and that you can get closer to Him will He guide you to His truth.

      For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

      1 Corinthians 1:22

      Amen.

      April 4, 2011 at 3:35 am |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Heavensent.. you are a product of evolution.. so when you look at a monkey, or great ape, or bonobo.. you are looking at your relatives albeit far removed. Your reluctance to accept it is because faith is a weak and tenuous thread back to our superst-itious past and truth will cut it like a knife.. so it has to be avoided at all costs.

      April 6, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  2. MM

    And all of these rituals will not get you saved unless you have a changed heart! God is not interested in our rituals. They don't move him!

    April 3, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Da King

      What moves Him is our love for him through his son. He knows what is and is not in our hearts. For those who have not accepted Christ, now is a good time to start. God sent his son to save the world not to condemn to us.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  3. Terry Gordon Smith

    I'm giving up religion for Lent

    April 3, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Babs

      Great! Why are you on this blog? 🙂

      April 3, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      That's too bad Terry since you do live in the generation of end of days. Your soul depends on knowing what Jesus wants for us and what He wants from us by reading, comprehending and applying His truth (the Bible) to your life. I guess this life is all you think there is. I hope you outgrow this rebellious streak. It would be nice if everyone made it to eternity to dwell with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

      Amen.

      April 4, 2011 at 3:20 am |
  4. Rich K

    What a refreshing article. It was an encouraging read regarding Easter that included very practical applications for readers curious about this religious holiday.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  5. Kristina

    I agree with peick's post. I grew up Lutheran, as well, and we have always observed Ash Wednesday. The Catholic Church is not my reference point for religion. My relationship with God, which Martin Luther said is more important than "good works" and abiding by man-made laws, is my spiritual foundation. Is anyone else surprised that this "pastor" could not recognize the ashes on the producer's forehead at the Oprah show?

    April 3, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  6. Tom

    No, I'll tell you why the church observes it: because they can use the Friday fish fry as a fundraiser. Lent is nothing but yet another convenient way for people to say they're religious and going to Heaven. Yeah, because giving up candy bars is exactly like Jesus dying on the cross for your sins. Real comparable. Just another holiday to raise funds for the church.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Jen

      Bitter much? I am not Christian but I attended an Ash Wednesday mass at an Episcopal church last month because the choir was going to sing Gregorio Allegri's "Miserere" and I wanted to check it out. There weren't a lot of parishioners there; I bet the church could use more money. But I can tell you there was no mention of any fund-raiser, there was no special "ask" of any sort when the collection plate was passed, and there wasn't a "fish fry" on the little Lenten activities calendar that the usher handed me.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Rob

      @Tom
      I am sorry you feel that way because I do not doubt your feelings are founded in experience
      The closest my church comes to somethign like you describe is our Pancake Dinner on Shrove Tuesday
      I would never call it a "fundraiser" since the "price" is a suggestion and no one is turned away

      No, candy is not the same as dying
      but during lent, when I crave the think I have given up, it reminds me to think about the suffering of others
      it reminds me that compared to not having a meal, not having a beer is nothing
      and when Lent is over and I allow myself that thing again, I am reminded what brings hope feels like
      So the rest of the year when I might feel to tired or busy to do volunteer work
      or when I look to hard at what the right hand is giving
      I think back to Lent and Good Friday
      I think back to skipping breakfast on Fridays and giving up meat
      And I remember that compared to dying on the cross, a few hours is nothing
      and preparing and feeding someone who might otherwise not eat is what I must do
      and that the left hand is not supposed to know what the right hand gives for a reason

      April 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  7. Andy

    More and more, it's becoming common among Catholics to do something extra instead of giving something up. In this sense, you can sacrifice something (like time) and at the same time get a key benefit.

    As mentioned with the change of routine, you can get up a little early and spend some time with God, go to daily Mass, volunteer every week, etc. In general, I have found these sacrifices much more meaningful than things like giving up soda, because I get a little closer to God in the process.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  8. john v

    Thank you... appreciate the thoughts.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  9. mpls55408

    Do muslims celebrate Lent?

    April 3, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Kana

      @mpls55408 – Do jews? Do Buddhists, Do Pagans? Do you really care who celebrates Lent or are you just posting to incite irrelevant comments?

      April 3, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Macolm "Red" Little

      No but sometimes they have fireball fridays.

      April 3, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      I doubt it because they do not believe Jesus Christ is God.

      Amen.

      April 4, 2011 at 3:11 am |
  10. tony

    Well this front page link applies to about 0.009% of the dumbest sector of the US public. And keeps them that way.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      You underestimate the percentage of the delusional in this country...

      April 3, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Lard, you do mean those that believe the big bang, batman and robin theory or that they came from apes (LOL). Yes, we know about those delusional ones. Too funny ... no eternity for any of them unless they repent and change their ways and follow Jesus' truth. Why do you think so many are trying to debunk His truth? Oh, you haven't researched that far? Just being hand fed nonsense so your soul will be blotted out? That satan. The sin of pride works every time to blind folks.

      Amen.

      April 4, 2011 at 3:09 am |
  11. Ellen

    So because Catholics don't presume to put "their own unique fingerprint" on the way we have celebrated Lent for hundreds of years our observance is an empty ritual? I find the presumption of changing and bedazzling the observance of the Catholic Church's most sacred season offensive.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • powerhouse

      I think his ignorance misdirects him in many ways. Perhaps if he investigated more of our beliefs, he would find Catholicism rich in beauty and deeply correct.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  12. Dee

    I am a life-long Presbyterian (over 50 years) and Lent has always been observed in our denomination as a period of reflection. I'm surprised you didn't learn in seminary that most Protestant denominations observe Lent...it's not just a Catholic practice, and didn't learn that Catholics receive the cross on their foreheads from the ashes of palms from the previous Palm Sunday on Ash Wednesday.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  13. alex

    Please don't use "short-term memory" incorrectly like that. "We have short memories" is what you mean. Everyone has a short-term memory–it is a section of your memory capacity involved in the retention of things that aren't deeply learned.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  14. peick

    I grew up Lutheran, and we always had Ash Wednesday and Lent. Lutherans are protestant. This pastor doesn't seem to have a very broad reference point.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Judy

      Most likely he is a Baptist. Unlike the earliest Protestant breaks from Catholicism who retained some of the old traditions, the Baptists have erased all of the Catholic rituals.I was raised in a Baptist Church and did not understand any of the traditions until much later by reading about religions on my own.

      April 3, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Ken

      Judy,,,,, Like you, I was also raised as a Southern Baptist. However, as I studied more, I realized that I had been taught many errors. I am now a very proud Catholic.

      April 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Da King

      Ken neither will teach you the word of God. That proud thing is not so good.

      April 4, 2011 at 4:10 am |
  15. Nancy

    I had a dream about ash wednesday. I was standing in line waiting for my ashes. I got up to the priest and it seemed to take him longer than usual to put that little "smudge" on my forheard. No big deal. I got out to my car and when I went to adjust my rearview mirrow, I saw that the priest had used the ashes to write LOL on my forhead.

    Perfect. That's pretty much how I feel about the catholic church. They take your money. They try to take your free will. They hold out their grimey little hands for "donations". Then, the deny women their right to serve. (Not that I would want to.)

    FYI, I'm a non-believer and will forever be LOL at those persons unable or unwilling to OPEN their minds and apply some common sense to the god(s) they so blindly follow.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • troy

      I like stories

      April 3, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Kat

      You are incredibly disrespectful.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Kana

      That's one of the beauties of being an American citizen, Freedom of Religion. American citizens have the right to worship\participate in their particular choice of religion or not
      Obviously however, as a non-believer you are not effected by your own comment:
      "They take your money" – Only if you give it to them.
      "They try to take your free will" – It is YOUR choice whether or not to participate..
      "They hold out their grimey little hands for "donations" – You don't have to give. "
      Then, the deny women their right to serve. (Not that I would want to.)" – As a private organization the church has the right to set their own rules. You have the Free Will not to particiate.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Joe

      Nancy...Isn't it great that you have the opportunity to choose whether or not you will believe in God? My simple question is, why mock those who choose to believe? Rather than "LOL" at them, you should simply let them be. Some call that the "Christian" thing to do; I just call it nice.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • PeterVN

      Thanks, Nancy. LOL with you.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Nancy

      Kat: The church has done nothing to deserve my respect. Religion is mythology. You may as well pray to Zeus or Apollo (as they didn't thousands of years ago.) One day your god will be myth also. Certainly, your religion will be extinct.

      Kana: Your god/your church tells me I MUST FOLLOW THEIR RULES or risk eternity in hell. And, I only get to go to heaven (again, a myth) IF I follow some rules that were brought down from a mountain by Moses (myth). Exactly, how is THAT free will?

      April 3, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Judy

      Your church failed you. That's exactly how I felt until I came to understand I did not need a building, with a group of people telling me what to do in order to feel God's love. Sadly, organized religion does a lot to send people running from God. Thankfully I found my Faith again without a church.

      April 3, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Rob

      @Nancy
      "The church has done nothing to deserve my respect" – Which one? Last I checked there were lots.

      "You may as well pray to Zeus or Apollo (as they didn't thousands of years ago.) One day your god will be myth also. Certainly, your religion will be extinct." Who has said you cant pray to either? Belief in a One has been around for a long time. Other beliefs have come and gone, even become extinct, while the belief in a One survives.

      "Your god/your church tells me I MUST FOLLOW THEIR RULES or risk eternity in hell. And, I only get to go to heaven (again, a myth) IF I follow some rules that were brought down from a mountain by Moses (myth). Exactly, how is THAT free will?"

      Not mine. The "rules" Moses brought were not new. It was not like the day before people thought killing, stealing and lying were ok. There were words for all of them and they were not nice ones. Which of the "rules" do you take issue with? Killing? Im not ok with people who think killing is ok. Stealing? I have issues with that too. The first three Im guessing were made up by some frustrated priests but the last 7? Well I am pretty sure those were crimes in Soviet Russia too.

      April 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Nancy

      Rob: Here's what I'm saying, plain and simple. EVERYTHING related to CHRISTIANITY is UNTRUE. There is NO historical data to support the existence of Jesus, Moses Mary, or any of the disciples. It was all contrived and then collected into the silly book called the bible. Nothing more than stories.....stories and some really violent and mean ones, to boot........

      April 3, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Sparkm

      The Catholic Church doesn't tell you you are going to hell if you don't do something. I've been to spiritual direction countless times and never once have I been told that. You know what else Nancy, God loves you every bit as much as he loves me. Still. No matter how many times you post that you don't believe. The One that created you knows the depths of your soul and loves you incredibly.

      April 3, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Rob

      @Nancy
      "EVERYTHING related to CHRISTIANITY is UNTRUE. There is NO historical data to support the existence of Jesus, Moses Mary, or any of the disciples." It was all contrived and then collected into the silly book called the bible. Nothing more than stories.....stories and some really violent and mean ones, to boot........"

      The question was not the historical accuracy of the Bible but which of the rules carried by Moses you opposed. Now I would expand that to the rest of Christian teachings.

      Is the goodness loving your fellow man untrue? Is the lesson of the Good Samaritan untrue? Is honoring your mother and father bad?

      Before the internet, "stories" were how we passed historic information. Even today, stories play a large part in our lives despite lacking historical accuracy. The movie "Philadelphia" changed the perception of AIDS. The mini-series "Roots" changed our perception of slavery. Both were "stories" with some basis in history. By your definition they were "untrue" yet they still had value. And just because there is no historical record does not mean something did not happen. There is no record of what I ate for breakfast this morning, yet it happened.

      It is useless to argue the "facts" of the Bible. Man has translated and retranslated the original words far to many times for that. Yet the meaning is almost as impossible to argue against. How can you argue against NOT killing, stealing, or lying? How can you argue against helping the oppressed, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless? Those are the teachings of Christianity and you say they are untrue?

      As for the violence in the Bible, I think it has probably been watered down. Leave the safety of the west and you will find the world of Hobbes " no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." When I was in Iraq the children loved the soldiers for candy and toys. Here in Afghanistan they ask for water. Have you ever begged for water? How desperate does life have to be that, as happened at my camp two days ago, you strap explosives to yourself and press the button?

      If you believe there is no truth in the teachings of Christianity then I am sad that your soul is so empty.

      April 3, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Rob, that's what you get reading material, watching movies and TV that are provided your materials by NON-Christians. There are plenty of true Christians sites out there that will tell you the truth.

      Amen.

      April 4, 2011 at 3:02 am |
    • deter

      All of that money goes to good causes, so LOL to you! 😀

      Open your mind and see how the world works. If the atheists respected religion, religious people respected atheists, and all religions respected each other, then there would be a lot less war and conflict. Instead of making rude comments about someone else's beliefs, accept them and move on.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • With Nancy

      I have an inner mandate to respect my fellow humans.
      I have a legal one to respect their RIGHT to believe in whatever they choose.
      I have absolutely no imperative to respect a belief which I find silly and destructive.

      April 17, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  16. dmo

    How is this news? Why is it on my homepage? This is CNN, not a christian newsletter. i don't care how Christians celebrate Easter.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • troy

      Did you look at the url? I'ts under religion.blogs.cnn.com. Why did you click on the link? Nobody put a gun to your head.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Get a grip

      Gee... The United States was founded on Christian principles...

      April 3, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • PeterVN

      @Get a grip, perhaps you are being sarcastic. Our nation's founding fathers were predominantly deists, not Christians. See separation of church and state, a.k.a. separation of house of silly fictions from practical realities of governing.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • @peter

      They were primarily protestant. That's why they had separation of church and state – because Britain didn't and they were persecuted for it.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Peter, thump on the head. Protestants are Christians.

      Amen.

      April 3, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • PeterVN

      Clearly Heaven's Loose Outer Sphincter is letting out more bullsh-it again, as usual. The founding fathers were not predominantly Christian. They were indeed mainly deists. See here
      http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/farrell_till/myth.html

      April 3, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • Da King

      dmo, it is an opinion bloc. I think the existence of God is what is bothering you. Get to know him and you'll be happy. Start by knowing his son Jesus.

      April 4, 2011 at 4:14 am |
  17. kggk

    There are quite a few non-Catholic religions that observe Lent.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Kana

      Unfortunately including the others is less sensational than propagandizing the Catholic religion.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  18. kells

    @ ELISABERTH i love your comments, they are great n i can tell your a nice n beautiful person. lent is a great period of reconcilation with an AWESOME Almighty GOD, although its soo hard 2 do so with all life's temptation but its worth it.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  19. Rob

    As an Episcopalian I have always been a little mystified, and a tiny but offended, by the notion that "only" Roman Catholics observe Lent. I have heard the same about taking Communion also. Lent has been part of my life as long as I can remember and I am absolutely not Roman Catholic....not that there is anything wrong with that. Like me, my children have always gone to Shrove Tuesday Pancake dinners, received ashes on Ash Wednesday, sacrificed something during lent (beer and chocolate years were not good), had fish on Fridays, celebrated Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Palm Sunday. We make crosses out of palms and keep them all year until its time to make ashes again. All of these are normal in my life and none are associated with the Roman Catholic church in my mind. I hope the author continues to expand his knowledge of the faiths including the millions of Protestants for home Lent is not something that needs to be relearned.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • kggk

      Thank you! I was raised Episcopalian as well and am regularly stunned by how little people actually know about religion in general. Aside from the Episcopalians, there are quite a few other groups that also observe Lent. Kind of annoying to read things like this, if you ask me. Not all Christians are Catholics or Protestants.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Laurel

      Word.

      And for additional spiritual reading, the Book of Common Prayer is amazing. It's the original Chicken Soup for the Soul.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Laurel

      Here's a funny but kinda true rule of thumb: if your Church is liturgical, you probably celebrate Lent. If you're not sure if your church is liturgical, look at your pastor's wardrobe. If he or she wears vestments, you probably attend a liturgical church. If he or she dresses like a used car salesman, you probably attend a non-liturgical church.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Jen

      I agree! I'm glad the author has broadened his horizons, but it's amazing to me that someone could grow up as a practicing Christian–and Be In Seminary School, No Less!–and have never heard of Lent or of the Ash Wednesday practice. And then not even to discover it at seminary school, but rather at a taping of the Oprah show... Seriously? I am not even Christian and I've known about Lent since I was in grade school (because some classmates would come to school having attended early-morning service on Ash Wednesday). When the author says he grew up attending Protestant churches, but that he'd never even HEARD of Lent, I admit I must assume those were Evangelical churches he was attending. Honestly, I have never encountered so much ignorance and disinterest about one's own religion and history as I do when talking with Evangelical colleagues and acquaintances. It's a shame! Also, it seems that although the author is a pastor, he has adopted the Lenten practices of a parishioner. I have worked in a couple of churches that observed Lent, and the fasting observed by the clergy went much farther than giving up tv, or whatnot.

      April 3, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Rob

      @Laurel
      Cant agree more. My BCP goes everywhere with me – Korea, Qatar, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and now Afghanistan.

      @Jen
      I felt the same way. Religion is not my profession but I have taken a number of comparative religion courses. How can oue understand their own beliefs without eximinaing others?

      @kggk
      Im with you.

      April 3, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  20. Reality

    As per M. Batterson:

    "Why not leverage Lent by mixing up your routine? If you do, you’ll celebrate Easter like you never have before."

    Hmmm?? But was Easter historic? No it was not!!! See the following:

    The Great Resurrection/Easter Con:

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology grad school professor's white-board notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
    http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

    The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

    Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty, wingie, talking thingies".

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    o An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,

    o p.4
    o "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

    o p.168. by Ted Peters:
    1. "Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

    o So where are the bones? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    April 3, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • brenda

      Your argument from this book doesn't apply. Any religion is based on FAITH not FACT. the New Testament, Old Testament, the Vedas, the Quaran,the Ying/Yang, King James Bible is all up to the believers interpretation. You state the Church tries to take away people's free will..not really. that's the beauty of free will..YOU CAN CHOOSE NOT TO FOLLOW THAT PARTICULAR FAITH/BELIEF..You interpret who Jesus was your way, it's my CHOICE not to FOLLOW you...

      April 3, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • albert

      That's an awful lot of words to say nothing.

      April 3, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Brenda, to follow Jesus' truth is the only way to the father. All other new age religions are false. Therefore, if you don't follow Jesus you follow satan. No eternity for you. Jesus will say to you when you return to him in Paradise, I never knew you. Only by following Jesus do you get to live spiritually for eternity.

      Two choices. Love and follow Jesus Christ and you live spiritually on earth as it is in Heaven and dwell with Him for eternity or love and follow satan (the liar), spiritually die while housed in human form on earth, then when you get to paradise, the Day of the Lord, if you don't repent your ways, there won't be eternity for you.

      Choose wisely. Your soul depends on it.

      Amen.

      April 3, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • deter

      albert- thats an aweful lot of nothing to say words.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.