Do Jehovah's Witnesses Celebrate Holidays?
Plus: My brother thinks he's God, and what to serve Catholics on Fridays in Lent
Confused about how to behave in interfaith situations--or how to act in your own religion's ceremonies?Email us your questions.
A coworker who's a Jehovah's Witness brought her seven-year-old daughter to work on Valentine's Day. I didn't want to ask her why her daughter wasn't in school, but I'm wondering if it had anything to do her religious beliefs.
-- A.R., Washington, D.C.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe in love, but not necessarily in Cupid, who was a minor god of the Greeks. The real Valentine was a third century Roman who was tortured and finally beheaded in what was obviously a futile effort to make him renounce Christianity: It's hard to renounce anything if your head isn't screwed on tight. For about 150 years, Christians observed February 14 as the day on which Valentine was martyred. In fact, the phrase "from your Valentine" was how the slain saint signed a note he sent to the daughter of his jailor: the little girl had befriended him while he was in prison.
In 496 A.D., the pope merged Valentine's Day with the ancient Roman holiday that was celebrated on February 15 -- Lupercalia, which honored Juno, the goddess of marriage. Eventually, Lupercalia's theme of romance supplanted the original Valentine Day's theme of sacrifice and the image of little angels with bows and arrows replaced the more gruesome image of Valentine minus his head.
Jehovah's Witnesses stance toward Valentine's Day is part of their efforts to be faithful to the teachings of first century Christianity. In fact, they are so determined to do this that, while they respect the American flag, they believe that saluting it is an idolatrous act.
My brother started meditating two months ago and now he thinks he's enlightened. He's preachy and judgmental and acts not just like he's seen God, but he is God. How do I bring him back to reality? -- S.E.M., Boston, MA