Friday, March 13, 2009

Morality, food, and Lent

KarateMonkey and I are atheists. Not a surprise to those of you who know us, I'm sure. But I was raised half Lutheran, half Southern Baptist (long story), so I'm familiar with Lent.

I was taught (or at least absorbed the idea) that giving things up for Lent was a reminder - every time you denied yourself, it reminded you of your faith and its importance. I remember giving up listening to tapes on my boombox. (Yes, I'm THAT old....) I've heard people suggest cell phones, blackberries, PC, gaming consoles - but I never hear people say that they've actually given those things up. It always seems to be about food.

This year, my family and coworkers (apparently they aren't heathens like us....) have been talking about their Lenten duty and I was astonished at how many of them were giving up some type of food. Refined sugar, sweets, candy, Diet Coke - all verboten for 40 days. And it got me thinking about why THESE foods. Is it because they're "bad" foods? Nobody ever says "I'm giving up broccoli for Lent." It's almost as if you get a double dose of virtuousness by giving up this "bad" food, as well as sacrificing for your faith.

Which leads me to the morality of food. I happen to believe that food is not a moral decision. I don't eat things because they're bad or good, or even because I'm bad or good. I eat them to fuel my body, to enjoy the taste and texture. And I find myself wondering if people giving up sugar or candy or whatever for Lent are consciously trying to get extra credit, either with God or their fellow practicioners. (Have you ever been part of the "What are YOU giving up for Lent?" conversation? It's almost as bad as the "My kid's going to school at _______")

Just an observation.