Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
March 16th, 2022
“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to man-made traditions!” Mark 7:8
Well, this week we find ourselves between two minor occasions on the calendar that only get attention for a few days: the changing of clocks for daylight savings time, and Saint Patrick’s day, which occurs tomorrow. One of these may be going the way of the Dodo bird, in that the senate unanimously voted yesterday to stop moving clocks twice per year,* and the other could practically be called extinct already.
Not that Saint Patrick’s day has become invisible: no, no. You can currently buy green donuts, green coffees, silly t-shirts, green beers, etc., you will see politicians wearing green ties or green scarves tomorrow, and I’m sure every radio and local TV news will be giving it a shout-out. But what has changed over time is that it has practically entirely ceased to be about Christianity IN Ireland, it has just been ‘generalized’ to now be a day in American culture recognizes Ireland/Irish culture (and, nearly universally, a 2-dimensional, stereotyped form of it at that).
Now: the history of St. Patrick and Christianity in Ireland is significant: last year I wrote my mid-week update all about that history (when the day fell on a Wednesday). At the risk of seeming lazy or self-plagiaristic here, I won’t do so again this year, but if you’re interested to re-read it, you can find last year’s e-mail by typing “St. Patrick” into your e-mail history search, or you can simply reply here to this e-mail requesting it, and I’ll forward it to you. 🙂
But I just want to reflect today on the prevalent de-specifying of holidays’ original meanings, to become more ‘palatable’ to the broader society. We’re obviously aware that this happens with Chrsitmas: Santa Claus and Christmas trees replace the baby Jesus in the manger, and also Valentine’s day, when a historical Christian character gets exchanged to the general concepts of “love”, red, and chocolates. But St. Patrick’s day seems to have been ‘de-fanged’, redefined even further, in that now St. Patrick’s day seems to be observed mostly as an occasion for drinking & carousing, which are actually opposite of the principles of Christianity, and therefore “Saint” Patrick actually stood for.
I suppose I need to “put the shoe on the other foot” regarding what an overtly Christian holiday might mean for a person in a minority religion in our county. I have to admit that, if I were in a country in which Christianity were a minority to another (monotheistic or polytheistic) religion, I’d be happy about a gradual de-specification of the religious aspect of holidays, and of having more of a “let’s all just have a general celebratory time together” feel. I still feel I’d likely not participate in such festivities, the histories of those holidays being incongruous with my beliefs, but I suppose I’d like to not have the religious aspect ‘shoved down my throat’ too much.
But for adherents of specific religions to gradually forget the historical reasons they/we celebrate their holidays is particularly tragic. For a Christian child to celebrate the cultural trappings of a holiday without intentional instruction as to its original significance is a loss of a golden opportunity! You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be telling my kids a simple version of the story of St. Patrick tomorrow as I drive them to school in their green outfits!
So I guess I get it: Starbucks and Target want to have something ‘special to celebrate’ to try to spur sales, while not alienating clientele of religious (or anti-religious) convictions of another direction, but if that’s the end of people’s perceptions, what you end-up with is just a milk-toast version of the holiday for general gaiety’s sake.
I want to be careful here in what I advocate: a form of ‘Christianity’ being “shoved” upon society is what will bring on the time of trouble in the last days (Revelation 13:11-17), so maybe we should be thankful of secularization trends, rather than religious coercion ones. But we still have an important role to take in our families & faith communities: to remember what these holidays originally commemorated, and keep that understanding alive year after year.
I pray that you will be grateful for “Saint” Patrick’s efforts in Ireland so long ago, and that we would strive to have similar influence within our own families and social circles. May God bless us as we continue to shine his light into our community (Matthew 5:14-16).
May God bless you all
Pr. Mark Tatum
* how often does a bipartisan, much less unanimous vote happen in the U.S. senate?! But it’s not a done deal yet: apparently it still has to be voted by the congressional House & signed by the President. But that would be significant, and I’d say it looks likely!