Elitism and Lent

By John D. Pierce

At hotel check-in time I am profusely thanked for being “elite” as well as loyal. A new rewards program has designated my status as “titanium” now, not merely “platinum.”

Even the plastic key and paper holder that let me find and enter my often-upgraded room tell me I am elite. While glad to be called loyal and appreciative of good service, I laugh at the other designation: elite.

Lent — which begins today with Ash Wednesday — offers a needed reminder much like the ones my mother often shared: “Don’t let it go to your head” or “Don’t be too big for your britches.”

Clear and simple: Elitism is sin. In fact, it might be root of all sin.

Nothing contrasts the life and teachings of Jesus more than acting like you’re better than someone else. But it happens.

There’s something heady about having an all-access pass while others watch the game through a knothole in the fence. Or flashing your membership card to a private club while mere mortals jump in a muddy swimming hole.

It is easy to take too much credit for one’s own presumed status in life. The trip from confidence to condescension can be short and slippery.

Clearly, Jesus targeted religious and social elites with his most wrathful expressions.

His “Woe to you” warnings were tied to sharp denouncements of those who “do their deeds to seen by others,” “love to have the place of honor at banquets,” and “are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Matt. 23)

When rightly approached, Lent can expose the dark places in our lives and dash any false sense of superiority. It is a holy reminder that: Thy putteth thine feet into thine pants as doest all others.

Elitism (of which white privilege is one form) is often expressed in demeaning attitudes and hurtful actions toward ethnic minorities. Or as a sense of superiority toward those who work in service industries — where we carry “elite” status.

Much, much too often such expressions of elitism come from those who profess a Christian identity. It should not be so.

Sin is believing or at least acting like we are better than others.

Ashes should remind us to not be asses.

Although Mama would never have said it quite like that.

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