This year, Valentine's Day is also the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. A sinister minister should never skip the opportunity to soapbox about either, let alone when chocolate gets dipped in peanut butter.
Sinister minister is a nickname I picked up near twenty years ago, because I was someone enthralled with theology, but unwilling to debate the existence of God or that Christ was the son of God. I still have no interest in that. I can't prove it either way. I do however love each history, studying how humans choose to govern themselves, and the ideology of the carpenter named Jesus who preached forgiveness, acceptance, love, and service to those in need.
I spent a great deal of time these last ten years in the closet with my so-called spirituality, so it's probably appropriate to start out with talking about Lent. A lot of copy-and-paste Christians think that Lent is about sacrificing stuff for 40 days because of the sacrifices Christ made from arrest to execution to believed resurrection. That's not the story.
After Paul started the Church, Christians were severely persecuted for following a criminal the state had just executed. They were fed to lions, literally, for Christ's sake. As you would likely be if your comrades were being fed to big cats, they were pretty paranoid. To join the Christian church in those early days, a person had to go through a 40 day vetting and training which culminated in their baptism. They made great sacrifices to their safety to follow the teachings of Jesus.
Of course, the church grew, to the point of being like a government, corruption and all, and things changed. Christians were the ones killing people who believed differently than them. The Vatican hoarded wealth as the elite do. They co-opted holidays like Elvis singing rhythm and blues. Since they were baptizing people as soon as they were allowed, and all of the other religions had fancy fasting rituals, Lent changed from a boot camp, to a tradition of saying a bunch of chants, giving up booze for six weeks and eating fish on Fridays for a few months. I'm generalizing, but I think you catch what I'm casting.
St. Valentine's Day is pretty similar in origins. Sure, there's a pretty story about how he went to jail for marrying lovers, but in actuality, just like Yule, Valentine's Day was co-opted from the Pagans as the Christian crusades converted the heathens. February 15 was Lupercalia, one of the oldest holidays. Traditions varied pre-Romans, but it was always a fertility celebration. The Romans, as they were prone to do, made it pretty kinky, including a ritual where soldiers and the elite raffled virgins off by pulling names out of an urn.
So, why did I want to talk about all of this? Mostly because most folks don't know, but also because I think it highlights a greater point, that most folks don't know the reality of things because of zeitgeist. Now, that's not to say that I won't tell the people I love that I love them, or give up a habit I need to tame anyhow, or pull a virgin's name out of hat... Okay, probably not that last one. Still, I think it's important to remember that there is no reason to take any of this stuff seriously.
If you're alone on Valentine's Day, go out. If you believe in it, there is likely magic in the air. At least, there used to be, when most people believed in it. If you're not religious, but have identified some things in your life that you could do without for a while, give Lent a chance. It can be rewarding to make and break habits.
I'll probably swipe a few swipes on Tinder and go to bed feeling lonely and too old to still be putting myself out there. There are lots of things I want to course correct that I'll be trying to use Lent as inspiration to do. And I'm still figuring out how to honor the calling I feel, and to come out of the closet as a different kind of Christian. You likely noticed I'm using Rev. Dr. Salamone now. Unlike my hero, Dr. King, who had a doctorate in theology and at least a handful of the always honorary doctorate of divinity degrees, I just have the later. And after how long it took for me to get a masters in religious studies, I'll likely never enlist in theological doctoral program. But my calling is also not as large as my hero's was. But he and others of his generation throughout the world paved the way for mine.
The Christian Socialist movement is all but forgotten in the modern age. Heck, most Christians are perceived now as snake handling, mega-church hate machines to those who don't know a different way. I may have been closeted far too long, but I promise you, I'm not the only Christian who doesn't care what you believe in, but only cares that humanity starts serving itself and our neighbors as Christ commanded. I'll speak more of this as we move forward, but for now, let's stick to Lent and Valentine's Day.
Celebrate. Celebrate love. Celebrate your love for others and your love of yourself so much that you are willing to do the hard work to become a better human. That's the reason for this particular season. Get some.