Friday, March 16, 2012

Fishy Fridays

I came across this blogpost at Catholic Moral Theology today and thought it was worth sharing.

Full post by Jason King here: Fishy Fridays

When I was in graduate school, I made the off hand comment to my roommate about how McDonald’s runs Filet-o-Fish specials every year during Lent. My roommate, a life long Methodist, was totally surprised by this revelation. He had never noticed it. (He recently used this tidbit to amaze his high school students by predicting an upcoming Filet-O-Fish special.)

This year I have noticed that even more places have taken to fish during Lent. My grocery store was the first place I noticed this phenomenon.

On [the] two mile drive home from the grocery story, I ran into five different fish specials. Maybe it is just me or maybe it is just this part of the country, but something seems fishy about fish on Friday. It strikes me as a perfect example of Vincent Miller’s characterization of the affects of consumer culture in his Consuming Religion. He argues that our culture teaches people to approach things, people, religious beliefs, whatever, as commodities, stripping them of their communal location and turning them into items of individual expression. Crosses become jewelry. Army jackets become fashion statements. Even critics of this process of commodification get turned into objects of consumption. Miller notes that while John Paul II issued warnings about the dangers of a free market economy, surrounding his visits to the U. S. were Popeners, Pope on a rope, Styrofoam pope hats, and John Paul II t-shirts. Based on Miller’s perspective, these examples demonstrate that the market economy co-opts everything in culture—even its supposed enemies—strips it of its communal, historical, and cultural roots and repackages it as a commodity that can be bought and sold and, through the purchasing, provide people with a way of making themselves distinct, standing out from others.

The Catholic Lenten practice of abstaining from meat on Friday becomes an occasion to buy fish, go out and eat, eat a lot, and eat only “premium” food. Moreover, the subtlety of the situation is the assumption that because one is buying fish and fish sandwiches one is practicing their Catholic faith.

I think we should reflect on whether buying a fish sandwich at a restaurant on Fridays captures what this discipline is about.

The result of the abstinence is not a piety that focuses on what ‘I’ am doing, like eating fish sandwiches on Fridays, but rather how these sacrifices, even small ones like the abstaining from meat for one day a week, are meant to connect each of us to each other. I think they should in someway reflect Christ’s sacrifice that reconciled us to God and one another.

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