Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Carol Reeves explains the Pagan origens of Christianity

.: Corvallis Gazette-Times :. Archives

You wrote:
"Lent can be traced back to a 40-day festival of abstinence dedicated to the worship of Astarte, a Chaldean fertility goddess. The pagan festival took place in the spring, and early church leaders became alarmed that their celebration of Christ's resurrection would be overshadowed."
Where did you get this information? Besides being irrelevant to the story it is misleading and inaccurate. The story you were writing was less about history of Orthodox and Catholic tradition and more about the effects of Reformation. If you used only one source for your statement you have added to the confusion many people feel these days about the "history" of the Church. I hate to sound like a Journalism professor but - you have a duty as a writer to bring clarity, to complete, to flesh out a story. What you did was muddle the readers mind, in my case you just frustrated me because I know better.
Ted Sbardella

________________________________________ Carol Reeves Mon, Feb 7, 2005 at 2:59PM To: Ted Sbardella Ted,

The primary source for the paragraph you quote below was author Martha Zimmerman who discusses the history of the entire Easter season at length in her book "Celebrating the Christian Year." I had no reason to doubt her research and to believe she was presenting a credible interpretation of the history of Lent.

There are also a number of Internet resources that allude to the pagan influences on this particular season (as well as most other Christian holidays) which back her up. From all the reading I've done over the years as a religion reporter, there is much evidence that the Early Church "Christianized" many elements of the common worship practices and rituals of the day as they competed with the idolatrous culture of the day. To my eyes it's not unlike what a lot of churches do today in hosting "Harvest Celebrations" instead of Halloween parties, updating their music programs to reflect contemporary artists or using the latest technology and media for "good" instead of "evil."

You did not explain your views on the origins of Lent before the Early Church's formal adoption of it in the fourth century. You think the explanation I provided is inaccurate and misleading -- what would you have written about how Lent came about? I have written several articles over the years about the meaning of Lent and how various faiths have made it a valued part of their Easter celebration. This time I simply wanted to explain to our readers why there are some Christian denominations that do not emphasize Lent. I rarely have enough newshole to really "flesh out" stories the way I would really like to and I must choose to narrow my focus. I'm sorry that in this case, you believe I fell way short in giving our readers as much information as they needed to understand the debate over Lent. Thank you for writing -- I always appreciate getting feedback from the articles I write.

Carol Reeves, religion reporter Corvallis Gazette-Times [Quoted text hidden] ________________________________________ Ted Sbardella Wed, Feb 9, 2005 at 4:14PM To: Carol Reeves Ms. Reeves:
Thanks I am sorry it has taken so long, I have no clue about the origins of Lent other than having faith that it evolved out of a desire to be closer to God. Frankly, it has nothing to do with your story, If you want to do a history of Lent then make that a story, your story was about the reasons for different Christian groups give for not observing this tradition.
What was anybody doing before Lent became part of the Christian church year? You call in to question the present by your focus on the past.
I made the statement:
"Besides being irrelevant to the story it is misleading and inaccurate."
You pretty much tell me the same thing, it is like a staring contest
I say your use of Zimmerman's idea is misleading because it gives the impression that religion is the product of itself, and end to itself. You as a writer mislead your reader to a place where the religious observance is just a morph of another religious observance the meaning is stretched to breaking. You provide for your non lent practicing reader an excuse to think of it as wrong because its roots are in pagan celebration, not just to avoid it because it is not part of his religious tradition.
Inaccurate, I say that because there is no real proof without being there, of what happened, what was going through the "Lent Formation Committees" mind. It is beside the point.
You have to look at the angle of the author of any history – what bone do they have to pick where would the information on some organic process that was never documented because it was evolutionary to be found? We have only writings; homilies that explain it or that use the practice as a teaching tool. Lent is never explained as a replacement for another castaway forgotten religious practice. Why would we want to know that before there was lent there was another religious practice unless we were trying to keep an assumption. If we had traditions we want to keep and need desperately to make another's seem weird or wrong.
Any religious practice can be seen as taken from some other predecessor practice. If you stare at the wrong place you will see a seam. But we are not all bowing before Oz here.
The Jews have lots of great fasting holidays, they make wonderful religious sense. The Jewish story of how all the souls were created is beautiful but does not fit with the Orthodox Christian belief that each soul or person is created at the moment of conception. The roots of these assumptions are based in the history of the groups the stories the dogmas of their beliefs. But one is Orthodox Jewish and the other Orthodox Christian.


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