Question: Why is it that in Protestantism fasting is not promoted much?

The following Six reasons to keep Meatless Fridays is from a Catholic blogger:

  1. The tradition of eating fish and not beast flesh (now beef, pork, poultry) goes back to Noah’s Ark where for the 40 day flood, they ate only fish and not beasts.
  2. The mystical institution of Friday penance is Luke 5:35 “The days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them: then shall they fast in those days.” Christ was “taken away” from us on Friday and so we fast on “those days,” i.e. on Fridays. Every Sunday is a “little Easter,” which means that every Friday is a “little Good Friday.” If you’re going to party on Sunday, you need to do penance on Friday.
  3. The Friday abstinence from meat goes back to the Apostles. The first-century document Didache records that the earliest Christians observed fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays: “But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week. Rather, fast on the fourth day {Wednesday} and the Parasceve {Friday}.”
  4. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that abstaining from beast flesh and animal products inhibits your libido and reduces lust. See Summa theologiae II-II q. 147, a. 8 for more details!
  5. A pejorative slur for Catholics is “fisheater” or alternatively “mackerel snapper.” Wear these slurs as badges of honor. Eat fish on Fridays.
  6. Christ expects us to fast. In Matthew 6:17-8, Jesus says “But when you fast.” He does not say, “But if you fast.” So then, why not try to work in a penance related to food every week? If you don’t make it a habit, you’ll never do it. Friday penance is the time-honored practice. It’s hard and it will be inconvenient when you have to go with the cheese nachos instead of the hot-dog at the baseball game…but it’s worth it.

If you get discouraged, just think of Saint John the Baptist. He ate locusts!

Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.

Would it be a good thing for American Christians to make fasting a common part of their life?


  1. Joseph, thanks for your comments. I do believe that the anti-works position of Protestants plays a big part in not embracing fasting. I also think modern American Protestantism mirrors the broader culture which dislikes the idea of any kind of restrictions (religious or otherwise) placed on the individual. If we become what we worship, then our worship of free-market consumerism has made us what we are, and what being a Christian is all about. To fast is to admit that getting whatever one wants whenever one wants it is to deny the idea of a consumeristic faith.

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