Usually, I use Lent as an opportunity to catch up on my “spiritual reading” — which usually leads me to the bookshelf populated with authors or books I’ve heard about from CTA. This year, without even thinking of it as “spiritual reading,” I ended up listening to Gayle Haggard’s Why I Stayed, which is her memoir about the aftermath of the “Ted Haggard scandal.” Admittedly, I was more interested in the relationship aspect of the book than the spiritual dimension — but Gayle and Ted are Evangelicals, and for them, nothing seemed to happen without explicit spiritual implications.
Catholics tend to be quieter “witnesses” to the Gospel, often feeling uncomfortable with the more “in-your-face” approach of Evangelicals (at least, I know I’ve always been uncomfortable with it.) But, occasional anti-gay preaching aside, I’ve come to see value in the results of the Evangelical brand of Christianity. For example, when I went to the CTA conference last November, I saw Donna Freitas speak, and was fascinated by her research showing that sexual behaviors were exactly the same on secular and Catholic college campuses–but that she had to throw Evangelicals out of her study because they did not fit the “norms” of college sexual behavior. When I became involved in my first intimate relationship and needed to make decisions with my partner about sexual boundaries and choices, I didn’t find much guidance in the way of Catholic thought — the ones who were really talking about God and sex were Evangelicals. And while I don’t always agree with the conclusions they come to — and while I know those conclusions come with their own set of issues — I do admire that they keep God in the conversation about sex. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that this book about the “Ted Haggard scandal” was really a book about, well, God.
In some ways, I think Lent serves as a reminder for Catholics to “make everything about God” — or at least make more about Him (using the pronoun loosely). People who don’t practice Lent often ask questions like, “Why does God care if you don’t drink pop?” or “What does not eating candy have to do with God?” There are a lot of ways Catholics could answer these questions; one that I always use is that, by cutting out something that’s “normally” part of our life, we’re reminded of Jesus/God/Lent each time we’re confronted with that decision, which weaves an awareness of God into our everyday life in a new way. But perhaps a better answer is, “Is there anything in the world, any action we take or decision we make, that DOESN’T have to do with God?” I think I know what our Evangelical friends would say.