I was discussing the concept of self sacrifice with a class on Thursday, and I inquired, “Who has given something up for Lent?” I was immediately asked, “What’s Lent?” I have commented on the increasing lack of religious and biblical literacy of our society before, but some of the gaps in knowledge are now even encroaching on “British” cultural knowledge itself.
Yes, a year ago I wrote about the skewing of understanding of Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) and how the original intention of removing luxury ingredients from the home by making pancakes on the eve of Lent had morphed into “let’s run out and but some eggs and butter” to make pancakes. But now, to find several students who didn’t have a concept of Lent itself.
This led to a re-examination of the central question “Why self-denial?” One student reflected that giving up chocolate or assorted other niceties was “Stupid to do for no reason.”
This in turn led to an examination of Jesus’ self-denial in the passion week. Scourging, and crucifixion seem far more extreme than giving up some Dairy Milk. Was this for “no reason.” Eventually a few flickering ten-Watt bulbs stared to appear, and as time went on a few good 100 Watt understandings came to life.
But, 20 minutes of a lesson is now needed to introduce foundational concepts, that only a few years ago we could take for granted in the knowledge base of our learners. This is what Cambridge (and my undergraduate training as well) failed to prepare me for. I read Biblical Studies, Theology, and Ecclesiastical History – not “how to harness of fire.” Well with these little flames of understanding beginning to be kindled, maybe next lesson I can start inventing the wheel.