Pastor Mark Driscoll is weighing in this week on un upcoming holiday that many women love but men dread, saying the real St. Valentine would be "mortified" by what Feb. 14 has become.
In a Wednesday post on his blog, the former pastor of the now disbanded Mars Hill Church in Seattle who now leads Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, highlighted the spiritual roots of Valentine's Day.
While accounts of Valentine's remain murky, Driscoll explained, Valentine was allegedly Christian and was canonized as saint by the Catholic Church. His name derived from "valens" a Latin word that means strong and powerful.
And the holiday as celebrated is far removed from the Christian heroism that is attributed to him through several legends.
"Around AD 498, Pope Gelasius chose February as the day for commemorating Valentine's life because that was the day he reportedly died as a Christian martyr around AD 270. That day proved to be serendipitous, as the medieval legend emerged that birds select their mates on February 14, thereby associating the day with romance and love," Driscoll said.
But that day became closely associated with what Driscoll called the "Hefner-esque" day of Luperealia, a Roman fertility feast that occurred on February 15, "a drunken naked crazy-fest not unlike modern-day Mardi Gras celebrations."
This overtly pagan festival was "dedicated to the god of partying, Faunus, and was marked by the usual frat-boy nonsense of naked guys running through the streets while crowds danced and drank heavily, and young singles enjoyed 'hooking up,'" Driscoll said.
"Once Saint Valentine became connected with the debauchery of Luperealia, his Christian influence on the holiday quickly waned; the two holidays essentially merged and the spirit of Luperealia remained but was renamed Valentine's Day," he continued.
Leftover pagan remnants of Luperealia still appear today in Valentine's Day imagery like the "winged pseudo-angel Cupid, who is the mythical son of the Roman goddess of love, Venus," he noted.
As with many major holidays, Valentine's day has become a money-making enterprise and heavily commercialized, particularly with greeting cards, which started being mass-produced in the 1840s.
Nowadays, "an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentines Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, following Christmas," Driscoll said.
Other legends note the severe opposition Valentine endured. He was arrested for trying to convert people to faith in Christ and was imprisoned for marrying Christian couples and helping Christians being persecuted by Emperor Claudius. When Valentine tried to convert Claudius, the emperor was furious and had him put to death, having demanded he give up his faith, according to Catholic Online. Miracles of healing are also attributed to him.
"As a pastor, [Valentine] likely would have been mortified at much of what is done in the name of love to commemorate the day his head was chopped off because of this love for Jesus," Driscoll concluded.