Monday, April 6, 2020

Having your cake and eating it too. . .

Whether you were Roman Catholic or not, you probably grew up with tuna and noodles or fish sticks or some other version of meatless Fridays.  You had to drive a dozen or more miles from my home town to find a Roman Catholic Church but every Lutheran, Methodist, Covenant, and non-believing kid ended up fasting from meat along with our few Roman Catholic students.  That was sixty years ago.  Gone are the noodles with not so much tuna and a few peas thrown in for color or the cardboard variety fish sticks.  In fact, with the advent of manufactured meat substitutes, you can have your cake and eat it too.

The faux meat products from the likes of Burger King and KFC have joined the once odd conglomeration of vegan foods made with soy, pea, rice and mung bean protein in order to imitate their meat counterparts.  Burgers that ooze and chicken nuggets with a crunch are the products of new technology and recipes designed to make old chains appeal to a wider clientele but the unintended outcome is that Lenten fasting (which is about all that is left of meatless Fridays) can satisfy the letter without suffering the spirit.  As one entrepreneur put it, “It’s perfect for people who aren’t eating meat who want to indulge without feeling guilty.”  And, I guess, that pretty much states the problem.

Fasting, at least the part about abstaining from meat during Lent was historically a penitential practice -- a small sacrifice on the part of the faithful to recall the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ on their behalf.  Indulging in pretend meat is not exactly a sacrifice -- it may have been when the substitutes were worse that not eating at all but in this day and age the products have proven not only tasty substitutes but appealing -- the Impossible Burger is actually a hit among consumers long before Lent began.

I find this all very appealing, even though I have never had any of these, because all of us want a sacrificial gesture without any real sacrifice.  Of course, we do.  That is the way the sinful heart works.  Some have suggested that Lent should not even be about the sacrificial focus as it has traditionally been but rather in pursuit of a better life and a better world.  How can I become a better person.  This has great appeal also because the sinful self wants to believe I can learn to be better, I can fix what is wrong, and I can improve myself and my world -- and this is what real redemption is about.  Witness the Anglicans and their Green Lent.  But in the end, it is about sacrifice -- THE sacrifice for sin that alone offers hope to a people captive to sin and suffering its death. 

So it is Holy Week and Lent is done and all the fasts or Impossible Burgers in the world look pretty paltry in view of the cross that we shall see, the suffering we shall witness, and the death that we shall hear.  And, under it all, that is exactly what we ought to be focused upon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do recall school lunches of fish sticks on Fridays at my Midwestern public grade school. My home town was majority Roman Catholic and most of the Catholic kids went to one of the 3 Catholic schools in a town of 8,000 but there were a few attending pubic schools. There was a boy in my class in always well worn clothes from a Catholic family of 11 children who could not even afford the meager tuition at St John's.
My fond memory of those Fridays is the the fabulous macaroni and cheese that one of the cooks would prepare every other Friday. This was the Midwest where mac and cheese meant Kraft out of the box. It wasn't until years later when I moved to the South and found really good mac and cheese, usually prepared by someone's grandmother. Oh, for those Fridays in Lent with the delicious mac and cheese.....