Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.

Eat fast. You’re gonna need it.

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A crucifix is seen in the deserted city of Pripyat, near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine. 47,000 residents of the city of Pripyat were evacuated after the explosion on 26 April 1986. Photo: EPA

Gear up. Load up. Eat fast. Prepare. Be ready. Lent starts tomorrow. Hurry. Now.

We don’t think about Mardi Gras in this way, but it is a subtext. Eat all the sweets you can before you can’t. You’ll be fasting. You’ll have given up chocolate or… whatever it is you’ve decided to give up. But today, eat it. Eat a lot of it. Because you’re going to need the energy when we first move out.

Drink the beer. Eat the sweet. You’ll need the sugar. Cheap carbohydrates. You’ll need the rush. We are going into the Wilderness. There is nothing sweet there. There is little to drink. It’s probably bitter, anyway, what we find.

Lent is about going slowly, yes. Lente, yes. Taking more time to be considerate in one’s life and actions. Shifting from our time to God’s time, yes. But this Lent is different. We are casting ourselves out into the Wilderness. We are moving far afield. We are moving slowly through our Wilderness. We take our time.

Lent is a time when we traditionally abandon our worldliness to focus on God. But this year, we are abandoning our easy tether to God. We are venturing out into the worst world, the Wilderness. We enter our desert, our wasteland, our Chernobyl, our dead zone. The place of abandonment is what we embrace.

How is God our albatross? How is God the noose around our neck? Is this God or is this Christendom, this American culture we deceive ourselves with, taking the leap of faith that our prosperity is God’s safety for us. We choose to leave this safety. But from safety to where?

Mardi Gras is our last chance to abandon ourselves the day before we abandon everything else except ourselves. Eat. Eat fast. Consume while it’s available. Eat all the king cake. Flash your boobs for beads. More syrup on your pancakes. Eat fast. The end is coming.

Is this despair, what we are about to engage in? The abandonment of the sacred and the holy? The refusal to taste and see because all things taste of ash and dust, the dust from which we were created and to which we shall return? Despairing of what? The failure of hope in what? What are you hoping for? 

Some consider Mardi Gras profane. But in the Wilderness, profanity is a good thing. Profanity is not what we seek, but what we have. The profane is who we are. In the Wilderness, we are outside the temple, for that is what profanus means.

This Lent, we are moving past Mardi Gras, beyond Carnival. We are profane. We are outside the temple, leaving it far behind us. We are uncertain what we will find, but we are sure we will find what we do not want. We do not abandon meat or chocolate or porn or Facebook to find what we do not want. We abandon those things because we do know what we want: God.

What, here, on the verge of Christendom, do we want? The Wilderness. Is God there? Perhaps. Is there no God there? Perhaps. But all of us have encountered a Wilderness. Often, that is more familiar, more real than God. Maybe that makes this Lent all the more believable. Jesus! What the fuck have we gotten ourselves into?

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By Burke
Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.

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