The fact that Lent – the most unfun festival in the Christian calendar – has survived this long must be down to a work of God, says Jonty Langley. However you’re marking it this year, why not join in with our game of Lent Bingo
The persistence of Lent is perhaps the strongest evidence that God is still at work within the Church.
It has to be God, because it’s not like Lent is fun. Christmas is fun. Joy, indulgence, generosity with ourselves and with others, presents… what’s not to love? Of course that’s going to survive.
But Lent is, in many ways, the anti-Christmas. It should not be popular. And yet, Lent is enjoyed (or endured) by millions, both inside and outside the Church.
Perhaps this is because there is something inherently healthy, reasonable and sustainable about opting out of self-indulgence, complacency and pleasure to contemplate the ultimate truths and grow closer to what is important. Perhaps. Getting anyone to give up coffee seems more likely to be a miracle.
But “it’s not about giving stuff up!” I hear you cry. And I check one square off on my Lent Bingo card.
Not to brag, but I once gave up all sugar and chocolate for Lent for two days
Lent Bingo is great to play, partly because Lent involves people, and some people are the worst. Some people will lecture you on obvious things around Lent. Others will try to sell you truckloads of stuff to aid in your season of simplicity, and still others will straight-up Lent-shame you for your practices.
As Christians, we aren’t really about slapping these people, or even arguing with them. Most of us will only ever go as far as a passive-aggressive “if you think so”, but that’s not really satisfying. It gives no closure. But you know what does give closure? Ticking off everything on a list. Completing the assignment. Filling your Bingo card.
With that in mind, not so much to aid your Lenten reflections as to add shade to them, we present a little Bingo card (see above), featuring things you may see and hear this Lent. Some may make you want to give up the path of non-violence.
Some, of course, may not irritate you at all. Some may only lose their charm with repetition. Some will be like exotic birds to spot. Whatever. Lent Bingo is a way to tick them off instead of getting ticked off. And whether it serves to protect your sense of “peace which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7, KJV) or just to kill time as you fast from TV, TikTok or TD Jakes videos, we hope Lent Bingo helps your long road to Easter.
Field notes / Bingo card guide
1. “ACTUALLY… it’s not about giving things up.”
For lots of people it is, though. And it has been for literal centuries. So, maybe pipe down, Brian.
2. “Lent isn’t biblical.”
We get it. You’re a Protestant. Who still thinks it’s important to out-Protestant other Protestants. Jesus fasted and meditated on the Lord for 40 days. It is biblical. Sshh.
3. “I’m giving up Lent”
Ahahahahahahahaha hahahahaahhaha. Ha. Ha. Ground-breaking. Cross off this square for “I’m giving up giving things up” or “giving up fasting”, too.
4. Carbon fast / car fast
Not to be confused with ‘fast car’. Also not inherently annoying. Actually quite righteous. But sometimes a little self-righteous. Like, it must be nice to live in London / work from home / have a bike and calves of steel, but not all of us can do this, Josh.
5. Phone fast
There’s a tribe of Christians who believe no good can come of any technology developed after 1950. These not-quite-Amish (Fauxmish) folk can be heard all year round, muttering about how “nobody talks to each other anymore because everyone is on their phone” and longing for the days when nobody talked to each other because they were reading newspapers and books. Lent in the early 21st Century is really their time to shine.
6. Social media fast
Giving up social media for Lent is the new “I’m going off social media for a while because it’s too toxic”. It also feels less judgey of those who stay on social media. And is probably good for us all to consider. I saw a TikTok about it. Expect to cross this square off quickly. If someone posts about it.
7. Fast fast
Not to brag, but I once gave up all sugar and chocolate for Lent for two days. True story. Not everybody can keep up the fasting for the full Lenten marathon. It’s important not to judge, but also to cross it off your card.
8. Last-Pass Fast / Rhyming Lent
Niche. Rhyming. Digitally dangerous. Giving up the world’s most popular password manager for Lent is a terrible idea, but at least it rhymes. Very rare. Any rhyming fast / Lent observance counts.
9. The traditionalist
Sundays don’t count, neither do feast days. Cross this square off only when someone explains this to you. Probably over ice-cream.
It has to be God, because it’s not like Lent is fun
10. Giving up obvious sin
Whether your pal tells you they’re giving up porn, gossip or car theft for Lent, this one is very subjective. Ideally don’t tell people when they’ve helped you cross it off.
11. Wildly unhelpful Lent suggestions
We saw one article on a real Christian website suggesting people give up “not going outside”. We’re not making that up. So. Many. Questions. Cross this off for vague or unrealistic suggestions.
12. Anti-church, Lent-themed meme
“I gave up Catholicism for Lent” or any meme used to proudly proclaim a lack of religious faith gets you this square.
13. New Lent book / video series
Writers, theologians, pastors and teachers love Lent studies. Easy level: cross off this square the first time you see one advertised. Hard level: cross off on the third.
14. Unnecessary online Lent article
What kind of monsters would do this? That’s one square for free. You’re welcome.
Family or friends who try to get us to have a beer, eat just one chocolate or tell us: “Lamb isn’t really meat” abound during Lent. Cross off when someone tries to unfasten your fast.
16. Late Lent notice sent
Ten minutes before they show up for dinner, your buddy tells you they’ve given up dairy, meat, non-organic veg and foods cooked using electricity for Lent. They “hope that won’t be a problem”. Cross it off.
Please feel free to print your Lent Bingo card (or screengrab it or inscribe it on the tablet of your heart) and let us know in the comments when you’ve won. Ideally by commenting “Bingo” (without an exclamation mark, because this isn’t Christmas). Please also let us know if there are any squares we’ve missed and you’d like to see added to next year’s card.