Wednesday, December 1, 2010

An Appreciation of Fasting

Another thing I really appreciate about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that they make fasting a regular periodic aspect of their religious praxis. I can't speak for all Evangelicals, but from what I've seen, we tend to have a very loose awareness that there even is such a thing as fasting. Some precious few of us might remember that it's something that some people (generally not us) do during Lent - but we transmute it into simply 'giving up' a random thing for a period, often something intangible that may or may not mean much to us; it may, in fact, be a very specific luxury. But fasting conceived rightly is a wonderful thing, especially so long as the message of the prophet is kept in mind:

Is this not the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? (Isaiah 58:6-7)

Unlike most Evangelicals, Latter-day Saints admirably fast on a regular basis. It's something we Evangelicals could maybe stand to learn from them. There might be some tweaks on how we'd implement it (possibly less of an institutional regular fast and an even greater attention to encouraging members to make personal decisions to fast, where health and other concerns permit). And there's more. Once a month, Latter-day Saints fast by skipping two meals and then taking the money they would otherwise have spent on those meals and contributing it as a fast offering. This fast is not merely a practice of self-denial for the sake of spiritual focus; it also contributes concretely to the work of the kingdom in the process. And that is a suggestion that, I would hope, we can all applaud.

I'm not terribly good at fasting. Still less at using my fasts in that way. I certainly didn't practice it before I converted to Christianity, and it isn't something I picked up at an Evangelical church; what interest I have for the practice comes largely from contact with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions - from which Evangelicals could also learn quite a bit. But as I continue to contemplate spiritual discipline, I think it may be the time I've spent around Latter-day Saints that most inspires me in constructive ways to fast and to fast meaningfully. And I really appreciate that.

No comments:

Post a Comment