by Dr. Stephen Kim
Earlier this week, my wife and the women of my church were having a discussion on the issue of “Valentine’s Day.” Whether or not the day ought to be celebrated often becomes a topic of contention in many churches during the month of February.
Very early in our marriage, we decided not to celebrate “Valentine’s Day.” The women in my church were curious and were asking my wife for our reasons. Later in that day, my wife requested that I write her an email reminding her of the reasons for our decision. Below is the actual email that I wrote to my wife wherein I reiterated the “why’s” of our position concerning the Feast of Saint Valentinus.
Good question. Here’s my short, but to the point, response.
The reasons we do not celebrate Valentine’s Day are:
- Christians are told to actively flee sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:18). Valentine’s Day was a “Chrisitanized” version of a February pagan holiday celebrating eroticism (sexual lust) and fertility. That much, is pretty much a fact and universally accepted. Although I admit the fact that we do not know which “St. Valentine” we are attempting to commemorate, even your Gospel Coalition article concedes that, “It was 469 when ‘Valentine’ was given a feast day, in the hopes of replacing February’s pagan feasts of love and fertility with a theme of Christian love and martyrdom” (emphasis mine). We are rather certain, therefore, that it was a “holiday” created to replace a day of rampant sexual immorality.
- The argument that, “Well, Christmas replaced what was once a pagan holiday” does not hold weight because Christmas does not hold any remnants of the pagan holiday that it supposedly replaced (the modern Valentine’s Day is still a celebration of eroticism–not Christian martyrdom). Irrespective of when Christ came, we know for sure that He did come. Hence, in celebrating Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus–not the date nor the time of year. It may very well have replaced a pagan holiday, but it’s called Christmas for a reason. Valentine’s Day does not celebrate the person of Christ or any other historic point of redemptive history. Rather than celebrate Christian martyrdom, the present-day celebrations of Valentine’s Day seem to mirror pagan celebrations that the Church hoped to supplant.
- As born-again Christians, we do not celebrate any of the “feast days” of Roman Catholic/Early Church “saints.” If one celebrates the “feast day” of St. Valentinus, then why does one not celebrate the “feast days” of all the other Roman Catholic/Early Church “saints?” The Roman Catholics are at least consistent. They celebrate them all. Why are we just choosing to celebrate the feast day of Saint Valentinus? We should not be celebrating any of Rome’s feast days.
- The Roman Catholic Church’s (depending on your dating of the beginning of Roman Catholicism) desire that St. Valentine’s Day replaces a day of “pagan feasts of love and fertility” has not worked. Justin Taylor rightly noted this fact in the Gospel Coalition article that you sent me. Taylor wrote, “Judging by today’s customs I’d say the scheme wasn’t altogether successful.” I would agree with Taylor. Unfortunately, quite the OPPOSITE has occurred. What might have eventually passed into oblivion (as all other ancient pagan holidays), is now a recurring celebration of eroticism, pre-marital sex, and fertility–all in the name of “Saint Valentine.” Sex is commercially lucrative as businesses globally gear-up for the celebration of erotic love (it is not arbitrary that the movie Fifty Shades of Grey is being released on February 14). In New York City, countless men are drooling at the opportunity to fornicate for a box of chocolates.
- I do not understand the notion of this “holiday” serving as a reminder and impetus for Christian love. Christians do not need a “Day of Saint Valentinus” to demonstrate the command to “love one another.” 2 Peter 1:7 says that we ought strive continually for “godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” Valentine’s Day does not fulfill this exhortation. “Christian love” is not a sexual love. Hence, Valentine’s Day (which is usually the celebration of erotic love) does not convey “Christian love.” Christian men do not “celebrate” Valentine’s Day with other Christian men. Additionally, marital love can be properly celebrated (e.g., date nights, anniversary dinners, etc.) without the tethering to a Romish feast day.
- Unhealthy secular peer pressure for our youth. Say what you want about “redeeming” the holiday for our Christian youths, the fact of the matter is that when you’re a Christian kid in a secular high school and all your peers are getting Valentines and “getting laid,” Christianity and the “redemptive” nature of Valentine’s Day tends to take a back seat. (And I mean way back.)
- Don’t forget how much unwarranted pressure unmarried, single Christians feel on “Valentine’s Day.” They probably feel incomplete, incompetent, and intolerable on February 14th. You can only imagine…
Finally, I deeply love you. But not in the Saint Valentinus way. I love you in the Jesus way: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
Christ, not Valentinus, is our standard for Christian love.