Who Would Jesus Do?
Christianity frowns upon the enactment of pagan rituals, but sometimes they can slip through the cracks and become popular with the faithful. Take Valentine's Day as an example. Occurring on the traditional date of the Roman Lupercalia, a festival of fertility, it was intended to replace the pagan ritual with a more 'approved' Christian version, much like the Bulacan fertility ritual of the Philippine Islands, which is actually partially held inside the local church:
The highlight of the event is the fertility dance inside the church in front of the altar after the procession has returned. It is a colorful affair. The Obando dance involves the gentle swaying of the body with arms held out to one side and then to the other. The sight of dozens of men and women performing these steps while wearing traditional Filipino attire turns back the clock.
Fertility rituals span most of the cultures across the globe and throughout history. The Celts had their Beltane, for example, and modern pagans still celebrate fertility through rituals. The Bible mentions fertility rites, but in a disapproving manner.
Considering that the central texts of Christianity hold a negative view of such ceremonies, what is one to make of this?
They're called 'conception parties,' intimate gatherings where creation of the world's most famous baby is lovingly—and literally—recreated. And for a few lucky couples, the event will pay off in a big way. Since the biblical bashes burst onto the scene just five years ago, 13 couples have gotten pregnant as a result of attending the gatherings. Two of the lucky mothers went on to have children—both girls—who share Christ's December birthday.
Thousands of Christian couples plan to celebrate the occasion of their savior's creation by attending 'conception parties' tonight, intimate gatherings where the conception of the world's most famous baby is lovingly reenacted.
Just how 'lovingly' and 'reenacted' are we talking about here? Anyone seen our version of the mutawwaeen. Would the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice approve? Would the Pope say 'Nope!' ?
Let's party like it's 4 BC
Fans of the pro-life parties say that theirs is a way of livening up the culture of life. But some Christians say that they're uncomfortable celebrating the pregnancy of a teenage girl, even if the father was a heavenly one.
FORT WORTH, TX—While the vast majority of Christians in the US will spend this weekend marking a tragedy—the crucifixion of Jesus Christ upon the cross on Easter Sunday—a small but determined minority plans to celebrate their savior with a bang. Against a backdrop of farmland, city streets, even mountain vistas, this merry band will spend tonight marking not Christ's death, but his conception.
A celebration of life"It's just a lot of fun," says Fort Worth resident and party host Earl Silos. "We'll bake a ham, put out bowls of macaroni salad and potato salad. People can relax a little, take a load off." He says that he's expecting 25 married couples to attend tonight's festivities.
Marriage is a condition of attendance, says Silos, who advertised the event at his church, on local Christian message boards and on telephone poles in his neighborhood.
I wasn't aware that such overt celebration of sexuality - in any form - was condoned, much less promoted!Silos says that he got the idea from his brother-in-law, who has hosted a conception party in Pascagoula, MS, since 1999. Today, notes Silos, his brother-in-law's annual March 25th bash attracts upwards of 100 people, including many town notables. "He does it up with a deep-fried turkey, the whole she-bang. We're a little less fancy around here," notes Silos. "We keep most of the attention on the main event."
'Main Event'? Hmmmmmmmmmm ...
Christian criticsBut not everyone is enamored of the idea of celebrating Christ's conception — especially in the form of physical reenactments that even participants admit can get out of hand.
Any adults going to be attending this function?Some Christians say that they're reluctant to shine a spotlight on the event's surrounding Mary's pregnancy. Christ's mother was only a teenager, after all, and according to Matthew, a friend of the couple, was not actually married to Joseph. "When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost," Matthew wrote in a tell-all account.
If Matthew's version is correct, Mary's actions would contradict the teachings of many abstinence-only education programs, which encourage women to remain pure virgins until their wedding nights.
But these celebrations are only for married couples! At least, that's what was claimed above! Will they check IDs? Bring your marriage license or no admittance?
A down hill slide?For critics, the new popularity of conception parties is a disturbing reminder of their faith's pagan past. Among social conservatives there is also mounting concern that their iron grip on cultural discipline is already beginning to loosen. Earlier this month, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a practicing Mormon and a likely republican presidential candidate in 2008, raised eyebrows with his statement that "marriage should be between a man and a woman ... and a woman, and a woman."
THREE wives???But for thousands of Christians who plan to don party dresses and suit jackets, tonight's parties represent nothing more than a chance to celebrate one of history's most magical moments. "Obviously none of us is going to be lucky enough to get pregnant by Him," says Earl Silos' wife Carol. "So this is the next best thing. We're celebrating what turned out to be the biggest night of Mary's life."
Who knew that Jesus had groupies!
Anyone heard from the Moral Majority about this? Are they too busy concerning themselves with Terri Schiavo to notice that the faithful are acting a bit pagan? Someone does wonder about their priorities:We may be left-wing liberals from Massachusetts, but we apparently have more regard for the meaning of marriage than this Republican Congress does. I don't know what Terri would have wanted, but I was in a similar situation when my uncle suffered a massive stroke last summer. What I learned is that close members of my family differ significantly on what we would want for ourselves and our loved ones. But we all agreed on one thing -- my uncle's wife was the one he wanted to make the decisions.
The decision about life support was left in the hands of Terri Schiavo's husband, which is where the decision belongs. When Terri married, her husband became her next of kin, and she became his. Will no one defend this marriage?
As I watch the Terri Schiavo case play out in Washington, I can't help but wonder where the 'defense of marriage' proponents have gone?
Maybe they're too busy attending a conception party?
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