Sunday, February 14, 2016

Thinking about Justice and Theology on the Feast Day of Saint Valentine

Here's one of those strange feast days, a feast day that's more popular in the general culture than it is in the church culture that pays attention to saints and their days. Of course, February 14, Saint Valentine's Day, hasn't been a true feast day for decades.  But as Christians, why not celebrate love, along with the rest of the Western world?

Well, it's fraught, isn't it?  How many of us have perfectly happy marriages?  How many of us have romantic relationships with a primary person at all?  In any church congregation, we likely have more divorced, widowed, and single people than married people, at least if our congregation matches national demographics.

We could spend the day talking about what we learn about God's love for us in the love that we experience from each other.   If my spouse's love for me is but a pale shadow of the way God loves me, then I am rich in love indeed.

We could talk about the actual story of the actual person of Valentine.  This blog post gives us interesting background:  "And I'd be all for recovering a St. Valentine's Day about civil disobedience -- not letting the state tell you whom, or whether, you can marry -- and friendship."

There are other justice aspects of this holiday.  Last night I went to the grocery store.  The flowers were right there just beyond the entrance, followed by a huge display of chocolates, and just beyond them, the bakery with every heart shaped confection you could want.  I thought about how much money we spend on this holiday--and I wasn't even near a jewelry store.

If you want to show me you love me, don't spend thousands on a bauble.  Go ahead and pay down the mortgage.  It may not seem romantic on its face, but what could be more romantic than ensuring that I have a roof over my head and a door that locks.

But there are even darker justice elements.  This blog post reminds us of how many of our Valentine's Day traditions are built on the backs of abused workers--and not just abused workers, but enslaved workers and children:  "70-75% of the world’s chocolate comes from cocoa beans harvested in West Africa, where almost 2 million children work under violent and hazardous conditions.  Many of these children are kidnapped or sold (some as young as 7 years old) and forced into such labor."  The statistics are similar for our roses, our diamonds, our technology, and our stuffed animals. 

I thought about this post as I was at the grocery store.  I bought us some fair trade chocolate as a treat.  I came home to see where my spouse had planted the hibiscus--so that we can see it out of the kitchen window as we wash the dishes--a better approach to flowers.  It seemed a good way to usher in Valentine's Day.

I also enjoyed these theology valentines--no need to pay for a card!

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