Tags

, , , , ,

 

What are Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, and Lent? Are they biblical? Should Christians participate in them?

If you don’t live in Louisiana or a heavily Catholic area, maybe you’re not very familiar with these observances. Let’s take a look at each of them:

What is…

Lent– Lent is a forty day period (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. It is observed by Catholics and some Protestants. Historically, it is supposed to be a period of repentance, penance, fasting, and self-denial. The aspect of Lent that people tend to be most familiar with is the idea of giving something up (self-denial/penance) for Lent such as watching TV, chocolate, smoking, or eating meat.

What is the meaning of Lent? at Got Questions

What is Lent? at 40 Acts*

Ash Wednesday– Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Ashes are applied to the forehead in the shape of a cross to indicate repentance and that the recipient will begin the Lenten fast. Ash Wednesday is primarily observed by Catholics and some Protestants.

What is Ash Wednesday? at Got Questions

Ash Wednesday at Catholic Online*

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday)– Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday. It has its roots in Shrove Tuesday, which was originally a day of feasting on all of the foods that were forbidden during Lent so these foods would not spoil or go to waste since they could not be eaten again until after Easter. Through the years, this day of feasting has morphed into drunken revelry – sort of a “last hoorah” for getting all the sin out of your system before you have to start “being good” for Lent. In Louisiana, it is much more a cultural holiday than a religious observance. People from various religions as well as non-religious people participate in Mardi Gras. It is celebrated with numerous parades, balls, and other festivities.

What is the origin of Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras? at Got Questions

Mardi Gras History at Mardi Gras New Orleans*

Are these days/observances biblical?

Lent– Yes and no. Mostly no. The fundamental components of Lent – repentance, fasting, and the pursuit of holiness – are biblical. Repentance and holy living should be practiced by all Christians every day, and biblical fasting as the Holy Spirit convicts the individual Believer.

However, Lent is not mentioned or even hinted at in the Bible, and any Catholic observance (of Lent or anything else) is fundamentally unbiblical because the Catholic religion itself is unbiblical. It is also unbiblical for a church to require that its members observe a man-made religious ritual or to imply or teach that participating in this ritual earns favor with God or absolves or makes up for sin. Furthermore, to teach that there is a special time of the year set aside for repentance and holiness is unbiblical. Christians are to walk in holiness and repentance every day.

Ash Wednesday– Again, yes and no. Mostly no, and for most of the same reasons Lent is generally unbiblical. The fundamental components of Ash Wednesday – repentance of sin and the pursuit of holiness – are biblical and should be practiced by all Christians every day.

In addition to the unbiblical facets of Lent, Ash Wednesday’s forehead ashes “disfigure[s] their faces that their fasting may be seen by others” which is the exact opposite of the humble way Christ teaches us to fast.

Mardi Gras– No. The drunkenness, sin, and lasciviousness that go along with typical Mardi Gras celebrations are patently unbiblical as is the idea of getting all the sin out of our systems before we have to start being good. The Bible teaches against these things.

Should Christians participate in…

Lent– Catholic observances of Lent – no. Some doctrinally sound churches and individuals freely choose to set aside a time of biblical fasting, prayer, and worship in anticipation of Easter. For Christians who observe Lent in this way, as long as it is observed in keeping with Scriptural principles, it can be a valuable and meaningful time of respite and renewal with the Lord just as it could if observed at any other time of the year.

Ash Wednesday– No. It is unbiblical, as cited above.

Mardi Gras– Christians should not participate in any sinful activities any day of the year, including Mardi Gras, nor believe or portray to others by their actions, the unbiblical “theology” behind Mardi Gras. (And as a non-theological aside, violent crime in New Orleans during Mardi Gras has made attending Mardi Gras parades and other events very dangerous.)

However, as I mentioned, in Louisiana, Mardi Gras has become much more of a cultural holiday than an observance with religious undertones. Many smaller towns (and even some larger ones) eschew the debauchery that takes place in New Orleans and offer family-friendly parades which are basically as innocuous as our local Christmas parades or a Fourth of July fireworks show. For Christians who have worked and prayed through the appropriate biblical principles and whose consciences allow them to participate in non-sinful Mardi Gras activities such as attending these types of parades, I believe this is an issue of adiaphora (Christian liberty) similar to participating in non-sinful aspects of Halloween. (Don’t forget to take along some tracts to hand out!)


*Other than the linked article, I am not familiar with this site/organization and do not endorse it if it deviates from Scripture or any of my beliefs as outlined in the “Welcome” or “Statement of Faith” tabs at the top of this page.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Advertisements