On Ash Wednesday, a small number of Christians across the country were having their foreheads marked with ashes that also contained glitter.
I’ve written before about a friend and former co-worker of mine who’d face the same problem every Ash Wednesday: someone would invariably walk up to him and say, “Hey, you have something on your forehead.”
They weren’t being facetious. They honestly weren’t aware of the practice of having ashes rubbed on one’s forehead in the shape of the cross on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.
My friend was always very gracious, thanking them for their concern about the “smudge” on his forehead.
For some people this year, however, that “smudge” looked a bit different: in addition to the typical black ash from palm leaves, there was purple glitter.
The Glitter + Ashes movement was designed to allow progressive Christians to show more solidarity with each other; specifically, “to resist forces of violent control and invest in the powers of love and faith, fueling their capacity to shape our world,” the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.
An Episcopal priest and a political strategist who identifies as queer told the Gazette that of the typical reactions she gets to the practice, one common one goes along the lines of, “Ash Wednesday is a somber day of repentance, and glitter is inappropriate.”
That’s my initial reaction, too, to be honest. That’s not out of some desire to be a killjoy, but more about concern about trying to “politicize” a religious observance.
Do I believe God hates homosexuals? No, not at all. Do I wish more Christians would try to show compassion over judgment? Certainly.
The priest says its high time Christians who feel the way I do should come out of the “non-judgmental closet” and show public support for better unity. I don’t disagree with that; that’s part of the reason the Progressive movement within Christianity exists.
A photo of a Glitter Ash Wednesday event in Des Moines, Iowa, showed a youth pastor holding up a sign that read, “Ashes: We R more alike than different. #ashesforall”
But I grew up with an understanding that Lent was the time in which people were to deny themselves and focus on Christ. To me, once we start adding glitter (or anything else, for that matter) to the ashes to make it about more that Jesus Christ, we’re expecting those ashes, proverbially, to serve two masters.
I get the purpose of the initiative, and I really do appreciate the sentiment.
What I’d much rather see in the world is church people working the other 364 days of the year to bridge the gaps they’re trying to bridge with purple glitter on this one day. If we could get that kind of thing to happen more often, I think it’d be a safe bet that the glitter wouldn’t be considered necessary by anyone.