Random thoughts on a variety of subjects
Isn’t using the term “religious fast” to describe any public display of one’s own efforts of deprivation of food and water a study in contradiction? Probably it is not for the devotees of many of the world’s religions (such as someone like Gandhi), but for anyone who believes that Jesus was speaking words of divine instruction, it seems to be totally counterproductive to do anything but to keep all religious intentioned fasting secret. That is, if that deprivation of sustenance is being done in hopes of attracting the attention of God and thereby has as its purpose being granted a certain petition. But, yet some people (who do claim to believe that Jesus was God incarnate) seem to be unaware of what Jesus taught about how to fast and so they broadcast their self-righteous deeds for all the world to marvel at their sacrifice.
But, public fasting is contrary to the teachings of Jesus… he said to do it privately, that fasting was to be seen only by God. In the new testament, in the verses found in Matthew 6:16-18, where Jesus was quoted, he was quite specific:
Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
It seems apparent from those teachings that fasting is a matter between each person and God. Of course, if you don’t follow Jesus, or don’t believe that He was divine, then perhaps the point is irrelevant, but for those who do, then there is little question that fasting is to be done without announcing (even your intentions). According to that admonishment, when someone who is fasting (for religious purposes), decides to broadcast it, or merely lets others know about it, they have done it for no purpose (other than for what we called in the hippie days an “ego trip“). The simple teaching is that fasting in order to petition God is not for others to know about. From what Jesus said, fasting is a way of communicating privately with God (perhaps showing God how you hunger for his ways). And the promise is, do it in secret and as Jesus says, “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you, openly.
That word “openly” is quite revealing. It is significant that in contrast to the instructions to fast in secret, the promised reward (for what you were requesting) is done in public. Again, yet another irony. Someone who fasts publicly (according to these teachings) has already had their reward in all the attention they got, but what they were fasting for, obviously is not given. They were able to have all the eyes on them in their big show of a self-aggrandizing sanctimonious ritual (they got what they really wanted).
A “public religious fast” is a classic example of what would be referred to in the study of reason as a logical incompatibility.