LGBTQ Glitter Destroys the Spirit of Ash Wednesday


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…the very inclusivity that glitter supposedly represents is incompatible with the Bible’s clarion calls to repentance. The Bible teaches one standard of sexual morality—sex is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman for life. When biblical figures violated this standard, it didn’t work out well for them. Neither Jesus nor the Apostles teach any other standard.

Tyler O’Neil | The Daily Signal

Public universities, take note: Celebrating LGBTQ “Glitter Ash Wednesday” is the opposite of inclusive.

A public university in America’s heartland has effectively endorsed a divisive religious message: that celebrating Ash Wednesday is compatible with LGBTQ “pride” to the extent that Christians should wear on their foreheads ashes mixed with glitter.

Contrary to the university’s suggestion, conservative Christian denominations that celebrate Ash Wednesday also condemn homosexual activity and transgender identity as forms of rebellion against God. They also see the message of this glitter as incompatible with the spirit of humility that animates the holiday that kicks off the season of Lent.

“Get your ash on campus!” Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, announced in an email Tuesday to all students. The email went viral after the social media account Libs of TikTok shared it online. The university later clarified in a statement shared with The Daily Signal that a student group had organized the event, and it promised to that it would update “student organization event announcement procedures to clarify that these are announcements from the student organizations, not the university.”


Fort Hays’ email encouraged students to get ashes on campus, emphasizing that in addition to “traditional ashes,” students could obtain “Glitter+Ash (make-up grade, biodegradable, purple glitter mixed with traditional ashes).”

“Why glitter?” the school added. It offered a long quote from Parity, a faith-based organization in New York City that works to “foster understanding between traditionally rejecting faiths and LGBTQ+ people and their families.”

Parity sells glitter mixed with ashes, and Fort Hays quoted its rationale for this controversial mixture:

Glitter is an inextricable element of queer history … Glitter+Ash is an inherently queer sign of Christian belief, blending symbols of mortality and hope, of penance and celebration … This Ash Wednesday, we will make that spark [of life] easier to see. We will stand witness to the gritty, glittery, scandalous hope that exists in the very marrow of [the LGBTQ+] tradition.

Glitter may be a fitting symbol for the LGBTQ movement, but it isn’t a fitting symbol for Ash Wednesday.

Roman Catholics, many evangelical Protestants, and Anglicans like myself celebrate Ash Wednesday as the beginning of Lent, a season of fasting meant to echo Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness before he began his earthly ministry.

The period also looks forward to the week of Jesus’ passion—the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, the Crucifixion on Good Friday, and the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. (Eastern Orthodox Christians begin Lent on Clean Monday, rather than Ash Wednesday.)

Lent encourages reflection and repentance, and many Christians adopt a spiritual discipline during this time, to grow closer to God and to more fully appreciate the feast of Easter.

Ash Wednesday puts an exclamation mark on this season of fasting. Christians wear ashes on their foreheads as a symbol of humility and repentance. When receiving ashes, they hear the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Pastors and priests give somber sermons and homilies, urging Christians to reflect on their sins and to embark upon the practice of a “Holy Lent.”

Glitter, by contrast, represents a bombastic joy and party atmosphere entirely at odds with the spirit of Ash Wednesday. Even if traditional Christianity and the Bible didn’t condemn homosexual activity as sinful and transgender identity as a rejection of God’s creation, the mixing of glitter with ashes waters down the heavy message of Ash Wednesday.

Parity, the pro-LGBTQ group that sells Glitter+Ash, tacitly admits this incompatibility in sections of its website that Fort Hays State University didn’t quote.

“Glitter+Ash exquisitely captures the relationship between death and new life,” Parity claims, suggesting that glitter is a symbol of life to contrast with the symbol of death. “God insists that we look for the spark of life, of hope, in ourselves and one another.”

Parity warns Christians against projecting their fear of death “onto the other, the alien, the stranger in our midst,” simultaneously suggesting that glitter represents life and hope, but that it also represents inclusivity.

Yet the ultimate hope of Ash Wednesday rests not in inclusivity but in the physical Resurrection of Jesus. Ash Wednesday needs to be heavy because it reminds us of our sin; mixing glitter with the ashes dilutes the sobering reminder that we are mortal and sinful.

Furthermore, the very inclusivity that glitter supposedly represents is incompatible with the Bible’s clarion calls to repentance.

The Bible teaches one standard of sexual morality—sex is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman for life. When biblical figures violated this standard, it didn’t work out well for them. Neither Jesus nor the Apostles teach any other standard.

LGBTQ proponents insist that Jesus himself never singled out homosexual activity as sinful, but he didn’t need to do so because he upheld the sexual moral code of the Old Testament book of Leviticus. Furthermore, Jesus taught that sin rests in the heart, saying that if a man lusts after a woman, he has committed adultery in his heart (Matthew 5:28).

The Bible also clearly states that God created humans male and female, and both the Old and New Testaments forbid cross-dressing. Many Christians teach that transgender identity represents a rejection of God’s good creation.

Christians should be the first to admit our own struggles with sin and to preach the good news that Jesus died to save sinners, no matter how sinful. We should remain humble, but we also should teach and stand by the standard that the Bible teaches, even if it is unpopular.

C.S. Lewis noted that Christians consider pride to be “the great sin,” not because pride represents the LGBTQ movement but because pride represents the elevation of one’s self above others, and ultimately above God. Pride, whether in an LGBTQ identity or our personal accomplishments, is antithetical to the spirit of Ash Wednesday.

Fort Hays State University promoted “Glitter+Ash” to be inclusive, but the mixing of ashes with glitter excludes any Christian who understands the meaning of these symbols. This action also represents an endorsement of a new, pro-LGBTQ form of Christianity over the traditional Christian faith, along with sending the message that Christians who disagree with the mix are somehow insensitive or even hateful.

Modern America focuses so much on the now, on instant gratification and self-esteem, making Ash Wednesday’s message of mortality and repentance not just spiritually necessary but also refreshingly countercultural. It’s a shame to see a publicly funded university watering down that message with the same old mundane politics.


Tyler O’Neil is managing editor of The Daily Signal and the author of “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

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