Today is Ash Wednesday, thus marking the first day of Lent for many Christians throughout the world. Lent is a sacred time for orthodox Christianity and marks the 40 days between Ash Wednesday to Easter, with Sundays (the Lord’s Day) not to be counted amongst the forty. These forty days of Lent are representative of the forty days our Lord Christ spent in the desert after He was baptized by John the Baptist. He wandered the desert in fasting and prayer prior to the beginning of His earthly ministry.
The Catholic Church teaches that Lent is a time of repentance. It is a turning away from earthly desires and temptations and a turning of our focus toward God through fasting, prayer, and alms giving. On this day faithful Catholics and other orthodox Christians will attend Mass or church services to prepare for their Lenten journey towards the cross and then resurrection of our Lord on Easter.
Ash Wednesday is so named because of the practice of the priest reminding each Christian as they come forward in Mass to receive the sign of the cross marked on their foreheads in ash to “Remember you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” These ashes are made by the burning of the palm leaves used in the Palm Sunday services of the previous year. It is a very sacred time where Christians repent for their sins and focus on trying to live by God’s will.
Sadly there are some Christian churches that have taken this sacred day as an opportunity to advance an earthly agenda. In the Chicago area there are several churches including Unity Lutheran Church in Edgewater, Holy Covenant Metropolitan Community Church in Brookfield, and Berry United Methodist Church in Lincoln Square, that have decided to partake in the “Glitter Ash Wednesday” initiative.
This initiative was created by the New York faith based organization “Parity”. Parity focuses on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. Their goal is to combine the message of solidarity and support with the traditional symbol of lent – repentance. These three churches will offer the option of “glitter ash” in which purple glitter is mixed with traditional ashes to be placed on each Christian’s forehead in the sign of the cross.
“I think it’s really important for the church to respond to the intolerance and culture of fear that is being created especially toward LGBTQ people”, stated April Gutierrez who is the pastor of Berry United Methodist Church. “We want to make sure the Christian message is one of love and inclusivity.”
Love and inclusivity are noble and Godly ideals. Indeed God Himself is love. And He loves all of his children regardless of similarities or differences. However, His grace is bestowed only on those that acknowledge Him as Lord and try to faithfully keep His commandments; especially His greatest commandments to love Him and to love your neighbor.
True agape Christ-like love is not some mushy romantic feeling that overcomes one when he thinks of another but rather is the true desiring of what is best for one’s beloved. Supporting a loved one in continuing a harmful and sinful life is not truly love.
Scripture tells us that we are all called to hate the sin but love the sinner. Granted, there are many Christians that are great at acting out on the first part of that phrase and then ignore the second part. Indeed, it is not our place as faithful Christians to condemn those who stray from the Lord or His path. If we were to do so, we must necessarily condemn the whole world… including ourselves.
That said, we are not to give in to temptation and sinfulness nor condone sinful behavior in others either. God hates sin. We are to discern, based on His teachings, what is right and what is wrong and to live our lives accordingly, while still loving our fellow human beings that fall into sin.
It would seem to me that these few churches, while perhaps having good intentions, are sorely misguided in showing their “solidarity” with sinfulness and failing to properly discern wrong and what is truly best for their beloved brothers and sisters.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the "salvific meaning of this mysterious event," in which Jesus is revealed as "the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation."
With that said, one has to ask, are these churches that offer glitter ashes being faithful to Christ’s example or to Adam’s?