Why should pentecostal youth revel in Valentine Day celebrations ?

1362675February is with us again and with it comes the excitement about Valentine’s Day which is celebrated on February 14. Roman Catholics observe the day in honour of a saint called Valentine. Notable among the activities that are undertaken on this day is sending gifts to loved ones.

Catholicism has a tradition of paying glowing tributes to distinguished christian ancestors whom the Popes canonize as saints in a special sense. Among these saints are New Testament personalities like the blessed Virgin and her husband Joseph as well as the apostles.

I am yet to come across an instance of other christian denomination disputing the canonization of any of the saints so far declared by the Catholic church. The fact is that all the departed christian ancestors chosen by the Popes distinguished themselves by their lifestyles on earth as icons of the christian faith.

Not much was known about Valentine Day in Ghana until the middle of the 1990’s. It is the electronic news media that has popularized its celebration including moving the Ghanaian society to steadily transform what used to be a solemn Catholic religious ceremony into a carnival that sometimes goes deep into the night.

These days many Ghanaian Christians celebrate the day in one way or the other. A great number of non-christian youths are also seen on Valentine Day joining in the orgies that now characterize its celebration.   I am particularly interested in the increasing patronage of Valentine Day celebrations by even the youths of pentecostal and charismatic churches.

Interestingly, even some of the pentecostal and charismatic clergies comment favourably these days on the celebration of the Day amid advising their members to celebrate the day with a sense of decorum.

Nevertheless, the same Pentecostal and charismatic churches are among the christian denominations that condemn the liturgies used by the Catholics to honour these saints. They label the practice as idolatry. A derogatory term used by some of these christian critics to describe the liturgical adulations of the blessed Virgin is Mariolatry.

I am a Pentecostal Christian but I started my christian life as a Catholic. I consider it a paradox when I see pentecostal and charismatic youths in particular gravitating towards the celebration of Valentine Day. Perhaps it can be construed that their leadership have at least tacitly endorsed celebration of Valentine’s Day.

Nevertheless, the generality of the teachings of our pentecostal and charismatic churches do not support the above deduction that their leadership have consented to what they themselves describe as ‘saint worship’.

They are still vociferous against the liturgies that are dedicated to these saints whom we all respect as worthy men and women of God during their lifetimes. There certainly must be a reason for this seeming contradiction. What makes the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day acceptable to pentecostal and charismatic christians? Again, what makes the celebration of the days of the other saints who include New Testament stalwarts like the blessed Virgin, Joseph and Paul unacceptable to Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians?

I dare say that the increasing moral degeneration that has come to be associated with the yearly celebrations of the day by our youths offers a clue to this dichotomy. Most often, we have reports that the venues for some of the night parties are littered with used condoms after the celebrations.

It is no wonder then that it is mostly the youths in our churches that are attracted. When you ask them why they celebrate Valentine’s Day they will tell you because it is the day of love.

I regard what is happening in our churches as religious complicity. We are quick to condemn the Catholics for ‘worshipping’ our saints. However, when the gratification of our own sensual desires is at stake we somersault to adopt an aberration of a holy rite observed by the Catholics; a rite which involves a saint not well known in christendom.

Nobody vociferously complains about these promiscuous aberrations; not even the Catholics who regard the day and its rituals as hallowed.

The Holy Bible teaches that the greatest demonstration of love is the incarnation of the Son of God, His life on earth and His crucifixion and death on the cross of Calvary. This may sound weird but it is the Truth. For somebody who is worshipped in Heaven to shed His deity and offer to be born in a politically weak and poverty stricken family under the conditions described in the Bible speaks volumes.

Even though we say that this Earth is made by God for us, we most often abhor residence in certain communities because we consider them as below our standards. Can we compare any spot in this world to the glories of Heaven: its beauty, bliss, security, etc.? Nowhere on earth is qualified to even be a pigsty in Heaven.

But the Creator, the Lord of lords chose to grace this earth with His presence and to the extent of even dying a shameful death for us to be saved. This is real love. And so as christians we regard December 25, Easter Friday and Easter Sunday as days that connote love.

Few years ago some articles were published that sought to throw more light on the personality of St. Valentine. I noticed one or two that depictedthe man as a sexually promiscuous monk who had problems with the leadership of the Church. However, majority of what was published about him extolled him as a priest who was the epitome of love.

Personally, I do not subscribe to the schools of thought that describe St. Valentine as a promiscuous priest. There are too many departed Catholic celebrities for the church to canonize a flirt as saint. Besides, in popular parlance, we most often shy away from using our local translation of the word ‘lust’ and rather use the word ‘love’. Therefore, when our youths are told that 14th February is a day of love they understand it differently. This is shown in what they do at their night parties. A day of love indeed!

And so if Valentine’s Day is gaining ground even among christians who accuse Catholicism of ‘saint worship’, it does not necessarily connote acceptance of the doctrine. It is the pervasion of the Day that is attractive to our Pentecostal and Charismatic ‘born-agains’.

I believe in denominational criticisms for so long as they are born out of a genuine desire to uphold true christianity. Unfortunately, a lot of what is seen these days as denominational criticism is mere religious propaganda. Our interest is more in religious head-hunting than going out to win unbelievers for Christ.

If only a particular Christian denomination should be acceptable to God as portrayed in our teachings then the business of Christianity (i.e. winning souls for Jesus Christ)is running at a loss. I am thankful, though, that God is only interested in those who sincerely look for Him.

We as Pentecostals and charismatic christians have criticized the Catholics enough. If we now find a good reason to take back our own vomit then we should come out clear and not accept their doctrines depending on how they suit our convenience.

If we as pentecostals and charismatic christians want to join Catholics to honour St. Valentine we should do so as God’s children. The increasing worldliness in our churches should be our worry and not which group has the best doctrine.

By Robert Aborfra

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