“Always Mardi Gras and Never Easter” by Russell Moore

I meant to post this article yesterday as one of my “Resources for Observing Lent,” but I forgot; however, this article is worthy of its own post of recommendation. Below are a few provocative paragraphs, but I encourage you to read the entire article, since these are just excerpts from his argument.

Dr. Moore writes,

“Some of the older Baptists at my church hated the whole idea of Mardi Gras, and saw this party as a kind of blasphemy that exposed everything they rejected about the culturally acclimated Catholicism all around them. “Those Catholics,” I remember hearing one neo-Puritan critic lament, “They just go out and get as drunk as they want to, they eat until they vomit. They’re just getting it all out of their system before they have to get all somber and holy for Lent.”

I could see his point. I never saw any of my devout Catholic friends or family behaving that way. But it made sense to me that gorging and getting drunk the day before Lent probably wasn’t what the Lord meant when he said to “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

As the years have gone by, though, I’m realizing that perhaps the naysayers pegged something accurately about some of the Catholicism around me. But I’m convinced they missed the truth that we Baptists had a Mardi Gras, too. The Mardi Gras of Protestantism didn’t celebrate the day on just a yearly calendar, though, but, much more importantly, on the calendar of a lifespan.

The typical cycle went something like this. You were born, and reared up in Sunday school until you were old enough to raise your hand when the teacher asked who believed in Jesus and wanted to go to heaven. At that point, you were baptized—usually long before the first pimple of puberty—and shortly thereafter, you had your first spaghetti-dinner fundraiser to raise money to go to summer youth camp. And then, sometime between the ages of 15 and 20, you’d go completely wild.

Our view of the “College and Career” Sunday school class was somewhat like our view of Purgatory. It might be there, technically, but there was no one in it. After a few years of carnality, you’d settle down, start having kids, and then be back in church, just in time to get those kids into Sunday school, and start the cycle all over again. If you didn’t get divorced or indicted, you’d be chairman of deacons or head of the women’s missionary auxiliary by the time your own kids were going completely wild. It was just kind of expected. You were going to get things out of your system before you settled down. But you know, I never could find that in the Book of Acts, either. . . .

Do many Catholics follow their appetites and “sin that grace may abound,” hoping that confession and the last rites will even it all out before God? Sure. And do many Evangelicals do the same, hoping that a repeated prayer or an altar-call response will deliver them in the Day of Judgment? Yes. Both paths lead to the same place: to hell.”

You can read the entire article here, and I highly recommend that you do so.