Valentines, Values and Social Solidarity
by Berit Kjos <www.crossroad.to>
In the third century AD, a kind priest named Valentine refused to renounce his faith in God. His disobedience to Roman laws angered the Emperor. Claudius II could tolerate neither Christian truth nor criticism aimed at the pagan gods he worshipped. To vent his anger and to frighten his subjects into compliance, he persecuted the uncompromising Christians. Valentine was killed and buried in Rome.
Almost a century later, Pope Julius I granted sainthood to the faithful Valentine and built a basilica over his grave. He and others knew well that Saint Valentine died, not because of the passionate, romantic love (eros) popularized in Roman mythology and culture, but because He loved God more than his own life.
As the years passed, Rome accepted cultural Christianity, while many Church members looked with longing at the popular culture that surrounded and beckoned them. As so often happens, the two groups moved closer to the social center. Christians no longer faced persecution. Many grew increasingly complacent in their faith and tolerant of the sensual rites of their pagan neighbors. Eventually, it became natural to blend their commemoration of St. Valentine with the lustful Lupercalia, a fertility festival celebrated on February 15.
By now, the "patron saint of lovers" bore little resemblance to the martyr the early Christians revered. The popular eros love had displaced his expression of agape love. The two cultures -- Christian and pagan Rome -- had found a "common ground."
GLOBAL SOLIDARITY. Neither human nature nor the strategies of ambitious leaders have changed much through the centuries. Today, whether we participate in conflict resolution, neighborhood mediation, classroom group work, or workplace team thinking, the aim is still "common ground" based on a preferred ideology. Such social and spiritual unity is the goal of the consensus process. It is the antithesis of Biblical Christianity, for it always encourages compromise: one step after another toward the new center, the new ways of thinking, a new set of values. That's why this Hegelian dialectic (consensus) process worked so well in the Soviet Union. It replaced absolute truth and unchanging Biblical values with compromise and ever-changing group values.
Compromise is essential to the UN vision of global solidarity. During the 1996 UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), I attended a day-long "Dialogue" on the meaning of "Solidarity" at Istanbul’s elegant Ciragan Palace. The announced list of 21 panel members included UNESCO Secretary-General Federico Mayor, Millard Fuller who founded Habitat for Humanity, and Maurice Strong  who led the 1992 UN conference on environment in Rio de Janeiro. They would introduce the missing factor in the old Soviet version of dialectical materialism: a spiritual foundation for an evolving global ethic.
"I have gathered leaders with tremendous wisdom and prestige," began Habitat Secretary-General Wally N’Dow. "They are bringing the spiritual dimension—the only ingredient that can bind societies together." He had chosen an American moderator who would add credibility to the discussion: Robert McNeil (of McNeil-Lehrer), "one of the gurus, the spiritual lights of the media industry today." Moments later, McNeil introduced the panel members. Each filled in a piece of the global puzzle.
Habitat II model for
"What’s needed is an interfaith center in every city of the globe," said James Morton, dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, who organized the panel. "The new interfaith centers will honor the rituals of every… faith tradition: Islam, Hinduism, Jain, Christian [not Biblical Christianity, but a universalist distortion that ignores the cross and blends with other beliefs]… and provide opportunity for sacred expression needed to bind the people of the planet into a viable, meaningful, and sustainable solidarity."
[Notice the communal building in the center of the
picture and the three high-rise apartments in the back]
"Citizenship for the next century is learning to live together," added Federico Mayor. "The 21st Century city will be a city of social solidarity.... We have to redefine the words... [and write a new] social contract."
The new social contract would, like Roman law, force everyone to conform to government standards for "common good." Already, children who dare to criticize or refuse to participate in pagan classroom rituals (Multicultural Education) are being recorded and tracked by the national-international information system. The "kindnesses" of the state in its delivery of needed services (higher education, better jobs, drivers' licenses, etc.) would be conditioned on compliance with standards that include readiness to renounce commitments to God, country, and Biblical values. Non-compliance would bring reprisal. Its severity would depend on the media's success in mobilizing the masses against "intolerant" and "exclusive" "extremists."
GENUINE LOVE. Trained to follow feelings rather than facts, much of the public has embraced the consensus process as well as the sensual, self-focused view of love. But the real message of Saint Valentine is not, "Will you be my valentine?" but "Am I willing to give my life to help meet your highest need." Agape love, unlike eros love, means giving, not self-seeking. It is rooted in reality and commitment, not fantasy and feelings. Pastor Ray Stamps of Lone Hill Church in San Jose, CA, described the difference:
"The irony of the celebration of Valentine's Day is that Saint Valentine knew the love of God and was willing to die rather than to betray that love -- agape love. What came to be celebrated on Valentine's Day was a mythical, unrealistic expectation built on a love, which by its very nature will self-destruct. Yet, couple after couple through the ages have been swept up by its power and passion, and they are brought into the myth -- hook, line, and sinker. They believed that this highly emotional, powerfully passionate, highly volatile, and hormonally charged love would sustain an ideal relationship for a lifetime. It makes for great fairytales but not great marriages. Yet, what Saint Valentine had is exactly what is needed for today's marriages. Valentine had a love, which teaches you how to love and keep on loving in sickness and in health, in riches and poverty, in good times and bad, until death shall part us. That's really what Valentine's Day is about!"
1. Legends tell of another early Christian by the name of Valentine. A Bishop of Terni, he too, was martyred in Rome. Some historians have wondered if the two accounts are merely two views of the same devoted follower of Jesus Christ
2. Maurice Strong failed to come as scheduled.
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