Temptation: it’s not right, but it’s ok

Since the Starbucks I spent last Thursday afternoon in was held up by a drunk man with blind conviction and a whole lot of time on his hands (it was 20 minutes before the police rocked up to set us free) it’s become just a touch easier to let Whitney go.

Hiding downstairs watching my tea congeal, with a bunch of other studenty-looking lunchers that seemed more worried about the fates of their MacBook batteries than anything else, we were subjected to what I can objectively describe as a butchering of the late, great pop diva via karaoke cover album. On repeat. It was the one time I yearned for that cyclical, mind-numbing musak they usually churn out with such perfect consistency and shamelessness. That said, I’m not about to make any rash decisions based on frankly one of the more exciting events in my life.

Cue girl with caramel macchiato on a gratingly awkward date (I’d say second or third). Setting aside her sizeable low-fat (why?) muffin, she announced to this admirably attentive boy that she was giving up Whitney Houston for Lent. Now that, my friends, aside from being pretty insensitive to the recently deceased, is what you call ‘clutching at straws’.

Sure, Whitney’s a temptation. I’ll be the first to put my hands up and say I spent the best part of Sunday morning listening to ‘The Greatest Love of All’ and with a tear in my eye and despair in my heart. But surely I’m not alone in thinking it’s not what Jesus would have had in mind for Lent (and Lent probably wasn’t Whitney’s idea of fun either).

Despite technically being christened into the Salvation Army, I am not a religious girl, so Christian tradition is not my strong suit, to say the least. Mum left home at 18 and left God with it, and no matter what dad’s spiritual inclinations have ever been I think he knew better than to take on a woman traumatised by her fair share of tambourine-bashing and a lifetime supply of Hallelujahs. With home something akin to Baroness Warsi’s hell, school did little to feed my religious education: I muffled through R.E. with a progressive
Christian teacher that had eyes only for Buddha, Ganesh and Guru Nanak Dev. For me, then, Lent was nothing more than that time of year when the girls who skipped lunch would also skip their daily Diet Coke. And substitute it with discussion about how much they wanted a Diet Coke.

In reality it was probably easier learning about it that way, since tradition – as my co-hostage (if we’re going that far) demonstrated – has flown the nest. Although according to tradition, Lent is supposed to be the giving up of things like meat, it has become more of a trend to either get your less-than-successful, overly-ambitious new years resolutions back on track, or to show off what original and innovative temptations you have. As well, of course, as obligingly observing the pre-fast pancake scoff.

You’d think the powers that be would have a problem with this, but apparently not – the bishops seem more than content with this approach. Clinging onto Christianity being popular like there’s no tomorrow, they give their yearly suggestions on ‘what’s in’ to drop. In the past, they have pled their flock to drop phones, drop Facebook, they even once rolled with: “don’t drop chocolate, drop carbon,” complete with a 40-day plan that included removing one light bulb a day from your house. Last year, the big dogs in the Vatican directed a personal message to their hefty Irish fan-base suggesting they set aside Guinness (which, according to the trusty Mail, left Catholics fond of the malty beverage “astounded” and “confused”).

For those that can and will go the distance from tomorrow onwards, that is great – if you’re a Jesus-lover, even better. I don’t, despite what this column might suggest, have any grave issues to hold up with the casual faster if for them it has some kind of purpose, and some people do pull some corkers (I was recently told of a friend of mine who successfully gave up wanking for two consecutive Lents. Dedication to the Lord in its truest lad form).

And maybe some people will do some good with it. Maybe Sean Penn will give up crusading in Latin America. Maybe the Sun will give up documenting every single one of Kate Middleton’s purchases (including price, brand, shop assistant serving, and what she may have bought had she not gone with the winning item). But pulling the plug on Whitney, well, that is neither right nor ok.

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