Lent as the Christian Ramadan

February 28, 2008 by

We’re playing telephone today: we got a link from the Cheapertising blog who highlighted the Get Religion blog who covered a story from the Telegraph. It takes a timely look at the season of Lent in the Netherlands, and a current re-branding that’s under way. I’ll quote:

“Dutch Catholics have re-branded the Lent fast as the ‘Christian Ramadan’ in an attempt to appeal to young people who are more likely to know about Islam than Christianity.”

As the season of Lent has become less important for the Dutch over the past years, they feel something must be done. Martin Van der Kull, director of Vastenaktie, a Catholic charity, had this to say:

“The image of the Catholic Lent must be polished. The fact that we use a Muslim term is related to the fact that Ramadan is a better-known concept among young people than Lent.”

Defining a Christian event in Muslim terms is a foreign concept, especially here in Protestant America. But thinking deeper, is it really so bad to explain Lent as a “Christian Ramadan?” It seems like at least a good way to communicate what happens during Lent to a non-Christian listener. Either way, it’s sure an interesting way to market your church in a Muslim location, and it keeps with our international theme of late.

Post By:

Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

13 Responses to “Lent as the Christian Ramadan”

  • Ed Eubanks
    February 28, 2008

    It depends on the answer to this question: IS Lent, in fact, a “Christian Ramadan”?
    My understanding of Ramadan is that it is a season commemorating the “revelation” of the Koran (or a part of it). This has nothing to do with the meaning of Lent, which is a season of anticipation of the coming of the Lord.
    If you say, “oh, it’s the same because during Ramadan then Muslims fast, and during Lent then a lot of Christians fast” then you’re missing the point of Lent (and probably Ramadan) entirely. In fact, I would say you’re missing the point of Christianity entirely, and have sold out the gospel for externalized religiosity.

  • Mike
    February 28, 2008

    Thank you Ed, for that comment. My sentiments exactly. Let us not pander to the false ideals of Islam just for a catchy name. This is church marketing gone wrong.

  • Mike
    February 28, 2008

    Thank you Ed, for that comment. My sentiments exactly. Let us not pander to the false ideals of Islam just for a catchy name. This is church marketing gone wrong.

  • A.B. Dada
    February 28, 2008

    Anyone read the actual article? I’ve been to the Netherlands many times in the past decade, and the Dutch tend to be some of the most atheistic of Europe. I recall one pastor there telling me that about 1 in 5 people in his town actually believe in God, let alone follow the Christian faith.
    If you travel to the Netherlands, especially the poorest neighborhoods where faith can make differences, you see the huge growth in Islam. Some parts of Amsterdam (the poorest parts) are up to 50% Muslim, bringing their huge Ramadan festival to prominence each year. Easter/Lent is all but forgotten in many of the poorest areas.
    As someone who has Muslim families, and has witnessed the Ramadan month, I have always connected Ramadan to Lent time and again. The only problem I’ve had is that Muslims tend to be pious and faithful in their celebration of Ramadan, whereas most Christians I have befriended look at Lent as a Hallmark holiday rather than a true holy time.
    Personally, I don’t celebrate Lent as most Christians do (having a Preterist tilt on this regard), but I would rather Christians NOT celebrate Lent than celebrate it the way that is common in my area. The town I live in (Zion, Illinois) has around 70 churches, and 1 mosque, and guess who does the most community outreach and help for the poor? It ain’t us battling Christians, that’s for sure.
    If I see 50% of the poor in my poor community move to Islam, or be born into it, you can be sure I will promote Christian holy days and festivities in a way that those unfamiliar with the faith can understand. To promote Lent to Muslims as a sort of Christian Ramadan makes TOTAL sense, especially to the Dutch. Both religions celebrate through prayer, charity to the poor, fasting, and pious living. Both religions look forward to Jesus returning in their “end times” period. Both religions stoke the flames of faith by inviting others to partake of the festivities to learn about God.
    Yes, one religion is not one I equate with truth, but when 1 out of 2 people in a community do, and 50% of the rest don’t believe in God at all, I think that Christian Lent is the least of your problems.

  • David Niles
    February 28, 2008

    In reply to the first comment by Joshua, Advent is the season of anticipation of the coming of the Lord. Lent is the season of repentance and personal reflection leading up to the Tridium and Easter.
    Regarding the article, the church and its people have forever used terms that people understand to teach the truths of the Gospel. Jesus himself used parables that people understood. If someone in Holland gets reintroduced to Christianity because he or she better understands the faith through language he or she can grasp, that’s a good thing.

  • rob
    February 28, 2008

    what’s next? they (Dutch Catholics) worship the “Christian Allah”? maybe from a church marketing standpoint, the real problem is that “Lent” isn’t a “truth of the Gospel,” just a tradition that doesn’t work as an evangelistic tool.

  • Jeremy Anderson
    February 28, 2008

    This scares me a bit. I’m all for speaking the language of our culture, but wow… yikes!
    What’s next “Christmas is the white Kwansa?”

  • Jermayn Parker
    February 28, 2008

    Its not that bad!
    To reach Muslims you need to get of your religous high horse and show them the truth. They dont listen to you as a high ‘up yourself’ white man, they will only listen if you respect and love them (what Jesus preaches).
    While its a loose similar fast situation, I do not see anything wrong with it. If you mix the two religions then yes its wrong but if you use it as a way of bridging the gap and keeping ‘Jesus is Lord’, rock on and good on ya!

  • Ed Eubanks
    February 28, 2008

    What it sounds like to me is that, in some of your minds, anyone who thinks that either Lent OR Ramadan has enough sacred value or importance to be taken seriously and thoughtfully defined is being too uptight or wasting time!
    So, on the one hand: did anyone ever consider that perhaps Muslims themselves might find this a condescending and offensive association?
    On the other hand: others above have already alluded to this, but there are MANY “associations” that could be made in the name of “common language” and using familiar concepts. Frankly, most such analogies are ineffective in one way or another, because they at least suggest that Christianity isn’t really all that distinctive, except perhaps in its success to develop a sub-culture of esoteric terms that really aren’t that different from the rest of the world’s religious practices.
    In the end, you end up doing what you were trying to avoid in the first place: offer a useful, complete definition of what it is you’re trying to analogize. Why not just start there?
    If you must find a common analogy, how about this: start with “like many faiths, Christianity has certain seasons and events that are significant. Let me explain some.” And then teach them well about Lent.
    By the way, I DID read the article– and it was Van der Kuil that my accusation of “selling out the Gospel for externalized religiosity” was directly aimed at… though I now see that others are quick to join him in selling out.

  • js
    February 29, 2008

    The discussion seems a little silly if one realizes that Muslims got Ramadan from the Christian Lent in the first place. Lent was widespread in the Middle East before Islam began.

  • Jon Allen
    February 29, 2008

    So what’s the issue? Is it sharing the tradition of Lent or sharing the gospel?

  • Brian
    March 3, 2008

    (It’s actually _get_ religion, not _got_ religion…)

  • Joshua Cody
    March 3, 2008

    Whoops! Fixed! Thanks for that!

Leave a Reply

Evangelism & Outreach