top of page


I am often asked what I will be giving up for Lent: alcohol? chocolate? meat? fossil fuels? preaching sermons? I must admit that I am not very good at doing any of these things – not because I am weak-willed but because it misses the point of Lent. In the modern (secular) versions of Lent – Veganuary, Movember and the like – what we see is virtue signalling: a performative act that makes a statement about how virtuous we are on a given ‘issue’ and demonstrates our conformity to the group. Giving up chocolate for Lent falls into the exact same category – virtue signalling. We do it to feel virtuous about ourselves, but as soon as Easter arrives, we tuck into the chocolate Easter Eggs with


The Lenten fast is different. It begins with self-examination. What do I need to do differently, in order to follow Christ more closely? The word ‘sin’ means missing the mark – we have not achieved what we are aiming for, we need to do better. But how do we know we have missed the mark? We can begin by choosing to spend more time reading the word of God. We then reflect on what we have read in our world today, prayer seeking to hear God’s voice as we apply what we read to ourselves and the world we live in. When we read the stories of creation (Genesis, Job, Psalms), for example, there is much that we can reflect on in the light of the changes in our climate. Climate change

activists have a particular agenda, and it can be so easy to jump unthinkingly onto their band-wagon. When we read the creation chapters in the book of Job we might be challenged to think more deeply about the mining of rare mineral (cobalt, lithium) that are so essential for much of the transition to

electric cars and our dependence on computers and mobile phones: rejecting some usages of fossil fuels simply to replace them with high usage of other

rare resources, thereby creating greater problems for the future is

questionable. Recently I was given a lift in a Tesla; I was struck by how much plastic was used in the car’s construction – plastics made from petrochemicals, i.e. oil. We may not put petrol in the tank but it was still used in the

construction. To change to another issue: much is made of a vegan diet,

especially during Veganuary! Yet ‘non-meat meats’ are some of the most

highly processed food-stuffs that you will ever encounter. Ethical choices around diet are far from easy.

In an age of virtue signalling, it is so easy to get swept along by the crowd – perhaps the sense that if everyone else seems to be doing something it must be the right thing to do. So, to feel part of the crowd we signal that we are doing the same as everyone else. But virtue signalling is outward

performance, it does not necessarily equate to internal transformation. As we approach Lent I encourage us all to think about ourselves and what we might need to change in us. This is not an easy process and can only be done with deep, prayerful reflection but this is the first step towards a holy, life-changing Lent.

bottom of page