But most abstain from Lent itself.
Three-quarters of Americans (76%) say they don’t typically observe Lent, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research.
Unlike other Christian traditions like celebrating Easter or Christmas, Lent seems to lack crossover appeal, says LifeWay Research executive director Scott McConnell. It has remained a religious event, rather than one that appeals to a broader public.
That’s in part because there’s no social benefit like giving gifts or getting together with family, says McConnell.
“Lent is not about having your best life now,” McConnell says. “Those who observe it believe they are giving up things they want in order to focus on what God wants. There’s little popular appeal in that.”
Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday—March 1 this year—and ends during Holy Week, is traditionally seen as a time of preparation for Easter. Part of that preparation often includes fasting as a form of spiritual discipline—a practice that dates back to the early church. Lent traditionally lasts for 40 days (excluding Sundays), a time frame established after the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.
Catholics (61%) remain most likely to observe Lent, according to LifeWay’s survey. Protestants (20%) and those with evangelical beliefs (28%) are less likely.
Since Lent is primarily a practice among Catholics or mainline denominations with more liturgical traditions, its popularity among those with evangelical beliefs is surprising, McConnell said.
Those who attend church at least once a month are more likely to observe Lent (43%), although with the same wide divide between Catholics and Protestants. More than 8 out of 10 regularly attending Catholics (82%) observe Lent; just 3 out of 10 regularly attending Protestants do the same (30%).
Older Americans are more likely to observe Lent (30%) than those under 55 (20%). Hispanic Americans (36%) and Christians in general (35%) are also more likely to observe Lent. Those who attend services less than once a month (15%), those from non-Christian faiths (12%), and nones (4%) are less likely.
LifeWay asked Americans who observe Lent how they do it.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Bob Smietana – Facts & Trends