On Wednesday, Christians in Iowa, Kansas, New York, Tennessee, and elsewhere mixed glitter in with the ashes for Ash Wednesday services. While these believers likely had good intentions, their public act subverted the meaning of Ash Wednesday and Lent.
“The public face of Christianity is often a face of intolerance — especially toward LGBTQ people. There are millions of Christians who believe that the Gospel commands us to love, not hate. Glitter ashes are a witness to an inclusive Christian message,” reads the “Glitter Ash Wednesday” website for Parity NYC, a pro-LGBT Presbyterian church network affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Ministers in Nashville hosted a public event at Legislative Plaza beneath the Tennessee State Capitol. Salem Lutheran Church in Lenexa, Kan., mixed glitter with ashes in its regular service. Parity NYC lists 25 churches as its partners in the New York metro area. Many, if not most, of these likely mixed glitter with ashes in their services. Downtown Disciples, a pro-LGBT and pro-Black Lives Matter group of Christians in Des Moines, Iowa, shared a photo with glitter in the shape of a cross, the way ashes are typically applied on the forehead.
In doing so, these ministers and churches effectively sold out the message of Lent. I have LGBT friends and family members and I’d love for them to come to church, but this is exactly the wrong way to welcome them.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and a time for Christians to repent, reflect, and fast. The idea is to echo Jesus’s fasting in the wilderness and look forward to His Crucifixion on Good Friday and His Resurrection at Easter. To symbolize this, Christians put ashes on their heads, usually in the form of a cross, to symbolize our mortality and penitence.
Ashes symbolize mortality and repentance. Glitter represents colorful displays and celebration. There is a basic incompatibility between glitter and ashes. Parity NYC claims that glitter adds hope to the despair of the ashes, but the hope comes at Easter, not during Lent. The glitter waters down the ashes, there’s no getting around it.
This incompatibility also highlights the bigger problem with Christians embracing LGBT “pride.” Humility, which marked the life of Jesus Christ and is the center of the Christian life (Phillippians 2), is the exact opposite of pride. C.S. Lewis rightly called pride the “Great Sin,” because it involves elevating oneself rather than worshiping God.
Not only does the Bible clearly designate homosexual activity a sin, but pride is the exact opposite of how Jesus lived His life and how He would have us live ours.
Lent is about repentance, not celebration. Mixing glitter in with the ashes ruins the meaning of the day.
The “Glitter Ash Wednesday” movement does have one thing right, however. Parity NYC and the churches involved have emphasized the importance of Christians repenting for treating LGBT people badly in the past. Indeed, Christians should carefully consider how to treat marginalized people. Christians should oppose LGBT pride, but we must treat LGBT people respectfully and with love. Doing so is difficult, and we must constantly repent of any feelings of superiority or anger at political opponents.
Christians should realize that we have mistreated LGBT people in the past, and we should repent of that and follow Jesus in loving them and treating them well, even though many LGBT activists are truly our enemies. The Bible is clear that we should spread the gospel of Jesus “with kindness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when [we] are slandered, those who revile [our] good name in Christ will be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15-17).
Sadly, the message of repentance for mistreating LGBT people is actually undermined by the mixing of glitter with ashes. Even the good part of the “Glitter Ash Wednesday” message loses its meaning in the glitzy packaging.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.