Empathy. Compassion. Kindness.

Guest Post By The Atheist Wife

An atheist talks about what Lent means to her
An atheist talks about what Lent means to her
Hello, everyone! Since I am swamped with work, I figured I would get someone to write a guest post for the blog. And that person is my wife Lisa, also known as The Atheist Wife. Besides being a stellar partner and general fantastic conversationalist, she is also a teacher of counseling here in Sydney. She also has to suffer through me not having coke during Lent. I think it’s worse on her than it is on me. Here’s what she has to say about Lent and other things. 

Lent. Lent is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations…the purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial. (Wikipedia, 2014). Yes, I had to Google this and yes, I know that Wikipedia is not a reliable source. I’ll also admit to not being entirely sure what “almsgiving’ means. However, as the atheist wife of a Christian writer, I have been on a steep learning curve, and my knowledge of Christian beliefs and traditions is increasing. Prior to meeting my wife, I knew that Lent was about giving something  up, was in the lead up to Easter, and lasted around 40 days, but that’s about it. Sure, I went to church with my Catholic grandmother, as a young child, but since then my Christian education had been limited to an occasional midnight mass at Christmas with a friend. Then I fell in love with a Christian, and now I find myself talking (and writing) about Lent.

To be completely honest, I am still learning about the tradition of Lent. I know that my wife is abstaining from eating and drinking certain things for Lent and I am very supportive of her doing so. Although I don’t fully understand the symbolism of this, from a religious perspective, as an atheist I have my own ideas around the value of abstaining for Lent.

I was born in Australia. For a lot of people, Australia brings to mind sun, sandy beaches and the Outback.  Australia has all of these things, but it is also a country with a strong economy, good educational outcomes, universal healthcare and one of the highest minimum wages in the world. In short, there is a lot of privilege involved in being born into this country and I have always been acutely aware of this. However, in spite of Australia’s privileged position, there are still people in this country who are living in relative poverty, experiencing homelessness and generally “going without’’ things that other people may take for granted. Obviously, this is not particular to Australia. These inequalities exist in countries throughout the world. Which, strangely enough, brings me back to Lent.

The process of going without something, that we might have come to take for granted, can help us to recognise our relative privilege. To remind us that there are many people throughout the world who are ‘going without’ on a regular basis. As someone who values empathy and compassion, anything that has the potential to increase people’s capacity to demonstrate these feelings towards those who have “less” than them, can only be positive. From my perspective, the observance of Lent absolutely has the capacity to increase compassion, empathy and kindness. As do other traditions of the Christian faith.  As I understand it, Christianity has a long history of encouraging compassion and of helping people who are ‘less fortunate’ than themselves. As a strong supporter of social justice, this is something I have always appreciated about the Christian tradition. Empathy. Compassion. Kindness. Christian, atheist, believer in any kind of religion or spirituality, surely these are values we can all get behind?

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