St Valentine's Day
Here are two excellent background pieces - first a bit lighter, the second more challenging - on the origin and implications of Valentine's Day:
First ... Chuck Colson (originally posted here):
"In the Information Age, even St. Valentine's Day has gone electronic. America Online is offering to send your sweetie something it calls an "Insta-kiss." All your significant other has to do is open his or her e-mail to hear your smacking noise loud enough to wake the dead.
Well, most of us would prefer the real thing, delivered in person. But the "Insta-kiss" is an amusing gift idea for a holiday in which we celebrate romantic love. But how many of us know the real meaning of Valentine's Day—that it started as something more than a day for a Hallmark card; it began as a symbol of Christian love.
Early church records are sketchy, but it's believed several men named Valentine were martyred in the third century A.D. This was during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II, a ruler known for his brutal persecution of Christians.
One of these Valentines was a priest who secretly married couples against the wishes of Claudius, who believed that unmarried men made better soldiers. Two other Valentines—a priest and a bishop—were beheaded by Claudius late in the third century.
Historians are not certain which Valentine it was we celebrate on February 14. But they are certain why the church chose that day. You see, in ancient Rome, February 14 was the eve of a pagan festival called Lupercalia. During this festival, the Romans worshipped Februa, a goddess of marriage, childbirth, and sexuality.
Brian Bates, a professor at the University of Sussex, is an expert on how we celebrate holidays. Bates writes that during Lupercalia, "young men and women drew lots for sexual partners in preparation for a day of sanctioned license the following day."
As Christianity spread throughout the ancient world, the church began replacing pagan festivals with holy days. In an effort to control the lewder aspects of the Lupercalian festival, the church fathers replaced this pagan holiday with the feast of Saint Valentine, in honor of one of the martyred Christians. Instead of drawing the names of sexual partners out of a box, young men were encouraged to pick the names of saints—and then spend the following year emulating the saint whose name they drew.
The focus on love lingered on, but it was sanctified from mere sexual license to chaste romantic love. Not surprisingly, the romantic aspect is what became popular, not the more austere love of the Christian martyrs.
Now, it's fun to exchange gifts with our sweethearts, so I won't ask you to read Foxe's Book of Martyrs instead of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. But we ought to take a moment to remember the early Christian saints as well, and how their martyrdom dramatically illustrates their love of God. In the midst of our romantic celebrations, we can remind ourselves that for Christians, the love between husband and wife is meant to reflect the love between God and His Church. Throughout the Scriptures, the imagery of the love between a husband and wife is perhaps the most compelling symbol of the relationship between God and His people.
So while you're buying those roses and chocolates—or maybe even one of those electronic kisses—you might want to remind yourself and your kids about the Author of all love: not America Online or Hallmark cards, but a Holy God Himself."
With more implications, from a European perspective... Jeff Fountain (originally posted here):
"Marriage Week started last Tuesday in sixteen European nations and ends tomorrow, Valentine's Day.
Richard Kane, founder of Marriage Week, says if you're fortunate enough to be in a marriage relationship, you should look after it. Starting in the United Kingdom twenty years ago, Marriage Week encourages married couples of all ages to invest time in strengthening their relationship: e.g. serving each other breakfast in bed, enjoying a meal out together, reading a book together about marital relations, taking in a film or a concert together, a weekend together away…
Everyone of course knows about Valentine's Day. The shops certainly remind us. But who knows about Valentine himself? Like many traditions in our western society, we have preserved something of a celebration but have forgotten the source.
The original Valentine was a third century Christian priest living in Rome during the reign of Claudius the Cruel. Infamous for persecuting Christians and waging unpopular and bloody campaigns, Claudius believed unmarried men fought better because married soldiers were too concerned about their wives or families if they died in battle. So he banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. This affected Christians in particular, committed to monogamous relationships, unlike most of the then-pagan Roman society. Resisting the injustice of the decree, Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.
When his actions were discovered, Claudius ordered Valentine's execution. The poor man lost his head on February 14, on or about the year 270. Legend claims that Valentine prayed for the blind daughter of his judge and jailer, Asterius. The girl was healed and Asterius became a believer. Valentine left a farewell note for the girl whom he had befriended, and signed it 'From Your Valentine.'
Today Valentine would be considered a fool to have paid such a high price for the old-fashioned institution of marriage. After all, it's just a piece of paper, isn't it? Surely if a couple has lived together for sometime, even years, it's just as if they were married, right?
Many these days regard cohabitation as the new marriage. For even without the threats of tyrants like Claudius, much of the globe has witnessed a retreat from marriage in recent years.
This means more children are being born outside of marriage, either to single parents or cohabiting couples, in countries around the world. The question this raises is: does cohabitation short-change the children? or do they fare equally well with non-married parents?
These questions are addressed in the
just-released report of the World Family Map 2017. Entitled the
Cohabitation-Go-Round, the report collates data from 100 nations
globally and concludes the following:
• Children born into cohabiting families are more likely to see their parents split by age 12 than children born into married families in almost every country;
• In the United Kingdom these children are 94 percent more likely to see their parents break up by age 12; in the United States, the figure is 102 per cent;
• While nine times more stable than single motherhood, cohabitation remains a poor option compared with marriage.
Background to the study was disagreement among scholars about the importance of marriage when it came to the welfare of children. Some argued that marriage per se did not play an important role in the welfare of children, at least in some countries, whereas others contended that marriage continued to play a central role in the welfare of children.
The report title was derived from sociologist Andrew Cherlin's 2010 study, The Marriage-Go-Round, which raised concern about family instability 'because it may increase children's behavioral and emotional problems. Some children seem to have difficulty adjusting to a series of parents and parents' partners moving in and out of their home.'
The report also examined the argument that cohabitation was less stable only because poorer people were more likely to choose it. It found that cohabitation was less stable regardless of the mother's education: 'In the overwhelming majority of countries, the most educated cohabiting parents still have a far higher rate of break-up than the lowest educated married couples.'
The Cohabitation-Go-Round report also found no evidence for the argument that the more common cohabitation became the more similar to marriage it was in stability for children. 'Higher proportions of births to single women and cohabiting couples are both significantly associated with lower proportions of children living with both biological parents.' Couples committed to one another before having a biological child usually had a deeper commitment than those who partner after getting pregnant.
Which is why healthy marriage, and thus Marriage Week, is not only about couples, but also about healthy children. Marriage not only unites a couple with each other but it unites children with their own mother and father.
Valentine was right. Marriage is worth paying a price for."