In the Middle Ages this was expressed as 'Christianization'. It's tough to explain this to your kids, how on the one hand we speak of Medieval Europe as being 'Christianized' but in no way does that mean it was Christian. It's a Social and Cultural concept that hijacks the word 'Christian' and recasts it in a social mold. You'll be hard pressed to even find a Church history that will deal with this topic in an honest and Biblical fashion.
Everything in society has to fit into this power structure. It must be transformed and given 'christian' value and interpretation or it must be burned at the stake as it were.
With the advent of the Culture War in the United States, this idea has been reborn and with great vigour. Many Christians believe the Social Consensus was lost in the 1960's. I would argue it was lost more than a generation earlier and the seeds of its destruction were planted at least a century earlier. The Church had become the world and only when a serious line was crossed, did the people in the pews begin to wake up.
Unfortunately the American Church has viewed the problem through the wrong lens and has spent more than thirty years on a path of harmful futility.
Today I meet many Christians who come alive at the mention of politics, but shut down when you bring up theology or discuss a book in the Bible. That's the real satanic element to this. It has created soldiers who are little more than manipulated sheep led by the wolves who want to use them.
By the 1980's new movements were afoot seeking to provide a theological impetus and justification for the fight. The cluster of Dominionist concepts coming out of Dutch Reformed Theology were re-worked for an American context by such figures as Rushdoony and Schaeffer. These ideas provided the ideological foundation of the Christian Right. A simple and traditional Patriotism wasn't going to be enough. The Culture War had to be turned into an act of devotion and considered in terms of moral imperative.
By the 1990's, the movement expanded and sought to bring in Roman Catholicism and the Charismatic movements. Major shifts were taking place in the thinking of American Evangelical and Fundamentalist circles. History was re-written.
In the 1970's and 80's Fundamentalists and Evangelicals looked at historical and social movements from the Middle Ages to the Civil Rights movement with a degree of scepticism. They weren't thought of as representing Christian teachings or values.
Roman Catholicism and Liberal Christianity were the great enemies. By the 1990's the Middle Ages were being re-cast as an inspiring Christian culture and the Civil Rights movement suddenly became something to be 'claimed' and identified with.
This completely ignored the fact that just a few years earlier the Middle Ages had been denounced as a Catholic Totalitarian nightmare and Martin Luther King Jr. was called a Marxist and not reckoned a Christian at all.
I'm not saying I agree or disagree with these sentiments. My own views on someone like King are a bit more nuanced. The point is a shift took place and it wasn't because everyone's heart was softened and suddenly former racists now embraced minorities. It wasn't because suddenly everyone realized that Protestant and Catholics had no differences.
The motivation was political. The goal was to unify diverse political forces into a new movement.
They wanted to combat the growing influence of secularism and re-infuse American society with 'christian' symbolism and meaning. But none of it was Christian of course. It's merely Christianization.
It's ironic. For years there was a great fear of the Ecumenical movement and yet many of these conservatives helped to provide the very framework for the Ecumenicism they once feared. In recent years we're even seeing Mormons embraced. I knew something had changed when Fundamentalist Christians I know began to entertain the possibility that Mormons like Glenn Beck and Mitt Romney were perhaps Christian brethren. The political alliance has trumped all theological sensibility.
By the 1990's the Christmas Wars were on and all the associated battles over school prayer, crosses and other things which most Biblically minded Christians reject anyway. The courts would be used. Everything would be politicized from Bible study and devotion to worship and the family. Eventually this thinking would trickle down to the minutiae.
Even silly attempts to Christianize Halloween and Labour Day would be attempted. Undoubtedly the realization that you weren't going to change the culture on these points led to a re-thinking. If you can't beat them, join them and redefine what you're doing. Halloween once again became the Catholic superstition of All Hallow's Eve. Labour Day, that wasn't about Leftist Labour movements or the Pullman Strike. No, that was now about celebrating the value of work and the doctrine of Vocation.
'St. Valentine's Day' is no exception.
I keep hearing Christians argue this is some kind of holy day. Twenty years ago no one in Protestant circles argued this. People celebrated it but viewed it as a cultural holiday, basically secular in nature. It's really just a marketing trick if anyone would bother to look.
Why the shift?
If it really is just a secular holiday, that has to be challenged. Sacralists (believers in the sanctification of culture) don't believe secular culture or any non-Christian form or expression is culturally valid. It either has to be transformed or defeated.
They're not going to eliminate Valentine's Day. Not a chance. So they claim it instead. This has become much easier as Medieval Catholicism has been re-embraced as a sort of Sacral Parent...a Christian culture they wish to emulate and improve on. Now we hear Evangelicals speaking of 'saints', sacred music, art, architecture and other such superstitious nonsense.
Of course there are no Christian holidays to begin with. Most of our 'Christian' holidays stem from pagan accommodation and the impulse of Christianization which in itself is often a form Judaizing. The Church refuses to accept the Spiritual Kingdom of Heaven. They want the tangible forms that come with a 'holy' land and state and certainly the trappings of the temple even though Christ rent the veil.
As the Jews lived in Babylon, we too live in a pagan culture. The Jews didn't worry about what holidays the Babylonians celebrated. If a Babylonian was saved, he became a Jew and turned his back on Babylon. They lived as pilgrims and exiles. Babylon could never become Zion. They had no desire to build a temple in the plains of Shinar or plant a Star of David atop the Ziggurat.
Sacralism confuses and eliminates the antithesis. It believes this world has to be transformed into the Kingdom. The Common becomes the Holy. The Kingdom is not understood as Redemptive....saved. It redefines salvation in terms of culture and civilization. It seeks to create a heavenly utopia in the present. Some will admit this will never fully succeed but they believe we are to work toward this end.
Keep this in mind as you hear Christians argue that Valentine's Day is somehow Christian.
I know, 'Saint Valentine'. Yes, as I said, it's a pagan holiday and always has been.
Don't be brought into bondage either by a false church or an evil culture which is just trying to manipulate you into embracing values that are contrary to the Kingdom of Christ. Love your spouse every day. Make your own special times. Don't be an automaton, a sheep following the herds of the lost.
Your wife will appreciate a genuine surprise... not mere adherence to social ritual. If not, then perhaps it would be a good time to re-think our relationship to the world.
Our culture worships 'romantic' love...the erotic. Many are in love with the idea of falling in love. Love is viewed as butterflies in the stomach, anticipation and unsatisfied possibility.
While certainly exciting it's pretty shallow.
Real romance and intimacy occur within the confines of marriage and has little to do with ritual. It's the joy of companionship, the deep intimacy in daily life that makes the special occasions and the flowers more meaningful.
A husband bringing home flowers to a shoddy marriage in order to fulfill a social obligation is scene to be pitied. My wife knows I love her when I demonstrate that I think about her throughout the day and when I listen to her at the end of it. We'll have the special occasions when it's convenient for us, not when we're told to by a culture that wants us to spend money or a deluded Church that's trying to score a political point.