Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Pagan Origins of Spring Cleaning (2016 Edition)

Februss - The Roman Deity
Honored By Spring Cleaning
"Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled." - Titus 1:15 (KJV)

The season is coming upon us again.  That means it's time to revisit this subject once more.  "The Pagan Origins of Spring Cleaning" was one of the most read and shared articles from The Bruised Reed Blog in 2015 and we are sharing it once again by popular demand.    

Speaking of the December season and related celebrations both religious and secular, Edward Pola and George Wyle wrote a song in 1963 titled, "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year."  In it they lauded the roasting of marshmallows, the joy of children playing and, yes, even the dreaded pagan term "Christmas."  Lately this song has been playing on the radio and in retailers across America. And so, once again, we are made aware that the world is turning its calendars nearer to the 25th of December and we are left to debate whether or not this time of the year is wonderful at all.

To some it is shunned as Saturnalia (even though that event was actually commemorated on the 17th of December, not the 25th).  To others it is shunned as the birthday of the deity Mithras (even though Mithraic mysticism did not commemorate a birth of its deity).  To others it is shunned as a day dedicated to the worship of a late Roman deity called the Unconquerable Sun (even though Sunday is also a day specifically dedicated to the same deity which few seem to object to).  To some it is accepted as the birthday of Jesus Christ (even though there is absolutely no evidence of this).  To others it is celebrated as a day of religious remembrance of the birth of the Savior (even though no such celebration is mandated or mentioned in Scripture).  To others it is a holiday, either secular, familiar or religious, used as a time for family to gather much like Thanksgiving Day.  

Regardless, somewhere around Black Friday in the United States religious zealots on two fronts begin sharpening their swords in eager anticipation of December 1st when, after a year of the subject sleeping soundly, the war once again begins to rage.  On one side we have the Pro-Christmas Zealots who, with Bible in one hand and candy canes in the other, begin to hurl tinsel covered evergreens across the battlefield at their opponents while tugging on their ugly Christmas sweaters and adjusting their goofy reindeer horn headbands.  To the other side are the Anti-Christmas Zealots who, with Bible in one hand and Alexander Hislop's "The Two Babylons" in the other, fire furious salvos of pagan artwork depicting December deities in full celebratory regalia while proudly sporting "Bah Humbug" and "Vote For Grinch" t-shirts.  

Between the two sides is a battlefield littered with the broken bodies of gingerbread men, Santa's burning in effigy, smoldering mistletoe, chestnuts burning over open fires and scattered pieces of Jeremiah 10 (King James Version only please) along with a multitude of confused people who simply stand looking at each other with perplexed faces wondering what just happened.  You see, they are the residents of the middle ground and, for them, both sides seem a little odd.  After all, for 11 months of the year both sides are fighting for the same cause.  But with the turn of a page on the calendar everything changed.  Why?  The Pro-Christmas Zealots might say they are defending against puritanical Pharisaical Christianity while the Anti-Christmas Zealots might say they are defending against libertine neo-Pagan Christianity.  

By all means, let us all agree that paganism is pagan and, therefore, not Christian.  But let us go further into the business of paganism and, specifically, that of pagan origins.  Let us consider a grossly pagan practice steeped in idolatry and, yet, practiced by many Christians today:  SPRING CLEANING.  

Yes, Christian housewife, you are potentially leading your children into the very clutches of Satan's claws by insisting that they assist you in the ritual purification ceremony called SPRING CLEANING.  What you are probably not aware of, but thankfully have an authority such as myself to instruct you concerning, is the horribly pagan origin of this seemingly innocent practice in which a housewife systematically demolishes an entire household so that it may be set in order once again.  Lifting your broom against the evil dust bunnies which lurk under the couch may seem like a good practice to you, but are you aware that you are performing a ritual in honor of the Roman deity Februss?  That's right!  The god for whom our month February is named to honor was the god of ritual purification and, when springtime rolls around, was honored by a month-long period of washing, cleaning and purification of persons, homes and lands.  

Februalia, as it was called, is very easily identifiable with our modern practice of SPRING CLEANING!  Notice the similarities:  Februalia began in February.  In warmer climates, it is not unusual for individuals to begin their SPRING CLEANING in February as the coldest parts of winter begin to pass.  Regardless, as with the correlation between Saturnalia and Christmas, Februalia and SPRING CLEANING may not necessarily occur on the same day but their ceremonies are linked because of similarity.  With Februalia houses and persons would be purified by washing and cleaning.  All this time you thought washing those windows, scrubbing those floors and airing the house out was just in order to expel the must of winter.  Such ignorance!  You've been celebrating Februalia and are participating in a pagan celebration!  

SPRING CLEANING is an accepted Christian practice with roots deeply tied to paganism and is directly correlated to the keeping of Februalia in honor of the god Februss.  Now that you know the pagan origins of SPRING CLEANING can you continue to practice it with a clear conscience?  Do you believe God is pleased with your keeping of Februalia?  Is it not idolatry to perform an act in honor of the god Februss?

Are you still reading this without laughing at my premise?

But here is the part that is not laughable.  Are you aware that, according to Scripture, if you really believe SPRING CLEANING is a ceremony in honor of a pagan deity and your conscience condemns you for doing it, you are wrong to do so?  Yes, dear Christian reader, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul gave clear directive in regards to such matters in Romans 14.  If you have a personal conviction regarding SPRING CLEANING then you are bound by your conviction and your refusal to participate therein should be done to the honoring of God and not the shaming or shunning of your Brother.  On the other hand, if you do not believe SPRING CLEANING is a ceremony in honor of a pagan deity and your conscience does not condemn you for doing it, you are not wrong in doing so and should keep the practice of spring cleaning in honor of the Lord God and not for the shaming or shunning of your Brother.  

Romans 14 is an easily forgotten passage of Scripture because it removes from every Christian the right to judge another Christian on issues which are not addressed with specificity in the Scriptures.  For the Apostle Paul the issue was the keeping of Jewish religious holidays and dietary laws.  Nowhere in the New Covenant was the keeping of these portions of the Law of Moses mandated neither was it condemned.  They fell into a category we could call "personal."  Romans 14:1 called them "doubtful disputations" in the KJV or, perhaps more clearly understood, "opinions" in the ESV.  If an individual wanted to abstain from eating meat as a personal conviction, they could.  However, they were forbidden by God from condemning their Brother who ate meat.  If an individual wanted to have their Assembly on Friday or Tuesday instead of Sunday then it was a matter of personal preference.  They were not to be condemned for doing so neither were they to condemn others for not doing so.  

The entire issue of Romans 14 comes back to motive.  Why is the Brother observing a day?  Why is a Brother not observing a day?  Why is a Brother eating meat?  Why isn't a Brother eating meat?  Why can this Brother do something for which I feel convicted?  Why doesn't this Brother do something which I feel no conviction over?  Motive.  Motive.  Motive.  He that does it does it so that he may honor the Lord and he that doesn't do abstains so that he may honor the Lord (see Romans 14:5-6).  If the Word of God condemns something explicitly we must lift our voice as the Church universal and condemn it as well.  However, those things which are not so addressed must be allowed to fall into the category of "personal" and left to the conscience of the individual Believer.

What are we commanded then to do?

Romans 14:1, 10-17 (HCSB)
"Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues...But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God...Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way. (I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.) For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love.  Do not destroy that one Christ died for by what you eat.  Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." 

We are told clearly to ACCEPT the one who holds a different opinion on doubtful issues.  We are forbidden to shun them, separate from them or otherwise judge them so as to isolate ourselves from them and cause them to stumble.  We are to give them liberty and walk before God in our integrity in obedience to the Spirit as it directs our conscience while leaving the Spirit to work in the conscience of another Believer for that which is necessary in his own life.  The written Word of God lays down the absolute "bottom line" standard of the Church.  The Spirit of God indwelling the Believer may well give him convictions which go beyond that "bottom line" but that does not give that Believer the right to mandate those personal convictions, or doubtful issues, on the remainder of the Body of Christ.  Instead, he is commanded to keep his conviction to himself (see Romans 14:22) while embracing other Believers who maintain the "bottom line" while possibly holding to different opinions on doubtful issues.

The Scripture says, "
Whoever serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and approved by men" (Romans 14:18).  What does that say of the one who does not serve Christ in that way but, rather, judges against his Brother in personal matters and doubtful issues?

So what is the conclusion of the matter?  If you are convinced Februalia and SPRING CLEANING are the same and it is a pagan custom that your conscience cannot allow you to keep as a Christian, then do not keep it.  You would be wrong to.  But, do not dare to condemn your Brother or think yourself morally superior to fellow Believers who do not share your conviction because the Word of God stands against you doing so.  On the other hand, if you chose to participate in SPRING CLEANING leaving aside the pagan origins with realization that your motive for doing so has nothing to do with pleasing the god Februss and everything to do with cleaning your house even though the actions associated therewith may look extremely're free to do so according to the Scriptures.  But, do not dare to condemn your Brother or think yourself morally superior to fellow Believers who do not share your liberty because the Word of God stands against you doing so.

In short, read Romans 14.  Obey Romans 14.  Live Romans 14.  Do that and God will be pleased with you as a Christian.  Furthermore, you might be surprised how much more easily the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is maintained (see Ephesians 4:3).  Funny how easy it is to be a Christian when we follow the instructions.  

Merry Februalia, everybody!  Let the Church roll on!  
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