Monday, March 17, 2014

Killing Patrick!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day in advance! Before I write anything about Saint Patrick himself, let me tell you a little about our celebrations in general today, and then connect it with how we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.

We live in a time—not to sound clichéd, but it’s especially true of this age—when life for many people either has no meaning, or if little meaning is recognized, it is then mangled beyond recognition. This is very evident in how we view certain holidays—the people and events of history we celebrate. Why should we have celebration or remembrance of any sort? Is it not because we remember something or someone, and we celebrate who they are, and what they did? Isn’t that why we mark certain days, and celebrate them in certain ways? But as can be evidenced from the culture of 2015 in the global village, the world has mangled the meaning of most celebrations.

I love many of the fun filled traditions of our culture that surround some of our celebrations. But these serve as aids to the primary meaning, and should not get in the way of the primary. Meaning gets mangled when we make the secondary the primary, and bury away the primary in the history books. For example, we have taken Christmas and made it about Santa Claus and a tree. We’ve taken Easter and made it about the Easter Bunny and egg hunts. Thanksgiving is about a turkey. St. Patrick’s Day is synonymous with leprechauns. None of these have anything to do with the real reason for celebrating these holidays. Content creators for various media, and the mass marketing of their business ideas (which revolve around these celebrations), have caused the meaning behind these celebrations to be lost. They have taken the solemn and made it silly. They have muffled the voice of reason and meaning in celebration, and magnified the practice of mindless partying. What we end up with is meaningless celebration that leaves people broken, empty, and worse off than before. For all these holidays, once meaning is lost, you don’t end up celebrating Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving at all. In fact, you don’t end up celebrating anything, because to “celebrate” anything you need a reason. Legitimate celebration ceases when reason ceases to be a guest at the party. Instead, all of this ends up being just another excuse to live in violation of meaning—mindless diversion. If you are a content creator you should look to point people toward the real meaning behind a celebration. If you love celebration, you have a right to have a reason to celebrate.

Meaningless celebration starts with mindless living. First, your mind is numbed by cultural lies, and you live every day without purpose, not knowing why you even live. So when it comes time to “celebrate” something, it does not matter why—you don’t need meaning—because all of life itself is mindless anyway. And why have meaning for the brief sliver of celebration, when you don’t have meaning for the bigger pie of life? 

But the hope is, you don't have to live mindlessly when you find meaning and purpose in life. Have you found meaning and purpose in life, and do you have a reason to celebrate?  

So it is with good ole Saint Patty’s Day—meaning has been lost. The green, the gold, the beer, the shamrocks; the crowds of screaming, drunk people, dancing the night away! Most, if not all, have no idea of who St. Patrick was, or why his life is celebrated. St. Patrick’s Day ends up looking like any other time or place when debauchery is the name of the game. If he were to live today, what would Patrick himself think of the day named for him, and the revelry it causes? You decide.  


At age 16, Patrick was sold as a slave to a warrior chief, in Northern Ireland. For work, he tended pigs in hill country, living with hunger, thirst, and isolation. During this time, Patrick turned to God, and constantly prayed and communed with Him.  After six years of slavery, upon one day hearing from God, Patrick fled and boarded a ship for Europe. He would spend a few years in England with his family, and then return to Ireland as a bearer of the message of hope found in Jesus Christ, who sets people free from slavery. In Patrick’s case, he was set free from both physical and spiritual slavery, and would become one of the earliest Christians to fight against the horrors of slavery, the Irish slave trade ending within or shortly after his lifetime.    

Patrick had a visible and dangerous enemy in the Druids of Ireland, who were learned people who practiced magic. He lived “in the midst of pagan barbarians, worshippers of idols, and of unclean things,” and Patrick it is said, was always a target of the Druids who “wished to kill holy Patrick.”[1] But Patrick had grown to trust the God whom he served and he wrote, “. . . I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the God of heaven who rules everywhere.”[2]
 Patrick was not a self-confident man, and struggled with his “lack of learning” when compared to the people who opposed him. Yet Patrick drew his learning and authority from God, “who stirred up me, a fool . . . and. . . inspired me who is so despised by the world.”[3] He firmly believed and experienced “God as my authority, for he knows all things even before they are done.” Patrick was a man who knew God’s love, loved God, loved God’s Word in the Bible, and loved the people of God he served. He prayed much, seeing God’s power to change his own life and the lives of those he served.

Patrick on St. Patrick’s Day

Imagine Patrick walking through the streets of downtown Chicago, New York, or even Dublin itself. Since revelers have lost all meaning behind why the day is celebrated, and engage in meaningless celebration, I’m afraid that Patrick would be so foreign, weird, and embarrassing to them, that with the Druids of his day, we today would wish “to kill holy Patrick.”

Dear reader, I hope and pray your mind has been stirred to ask what the meaning behind different celebrations is. If you have not experienced what Patrick experienced­—being set free from the slavery of sin to have meaning and purpose in life—then know that ultimately, Patrick is remembered because he lived to spread this good news to those who are still enslaved—enslaved by sin, the horrors of a mindless existence, and hopelessness. Like Patrick, by coming now to the Lord Jesus Christ, you can be set free too, and experience meaning and purpose, and celebrate the holidays, and indeed everyday of life, knowing that all celebration finds its meaning in God.

© Kenny Damara, 2015

[1] Galli, Mark and Olsen, Ted, eds. 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. TN: Nashville, Holman Reference , 2000.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

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