Presbyterian Women and the Year of the Snake

woman with snake and appleCarmen’s Blog

The headline caught my attention: “Presbyterian Women have annual brunch, celebrate Chinese New Year’s” but the brief article broke my heart.* Thirteen Presbyterian Women gathered in the church social hall for their annual brunch wherein “Each member received an envelope containing several Chinese good luck symbols. A strawberry shortcake in the shape of a snake highlighted the buffet table in honor of the ‘Year of the Snake.'”

You remember the snake. He makes his first appearance in Genesis 3, a story known as “The Fall.” The serpent is known to be a crafty liar who leads people into temptation. There is a God-ordained enmity between the woman and the snake, unless, apparently there’s strawberry shortcake involved.

According to pagan Chinese astrology, the year of the snake is dedicated to clever schemes and to the use of whatever means are necessary for accomplishing the aims and goals of the most calculating people. Even the Chinese fortune tellers know that the snake provokes two diametrically opposed reactions: hypnotic devotion or utter revulsion. Like Eve in the garden, these women were not sufficiently repulsed by the snake’s allure.

Snakes are referred to negatively throughout the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament and the snake is understood to represent Lucifer, Satan, the enemy of God. So, why would any group of God-fearing church ladies even consider having a celebration of the Chinese New Year featuring the exalting of a snake? Because it’s all just for fun. Indicating that they have lost all sense of the very real spiritual warfare being waged over their souls.

I am certain that it was all done in good fun and some would say that no one was hurt. But I contend that anytime the people of God fail to honor God, the witness of the Church is lessened. The glory due His name is diminished. The first and second commandments are broken. The enemy of God is lifted up and the Son of God is bruised on the heel.

Yes, that heel has in fact crushed the head of the lying serpent, but the point remains that the followers of Christ ought not be trifling with pagan practices, no matter how silly.

The world is sufficiently confused already without Presbyterian Women trading Chinese good luck symbols and celebrating the year of the snake. And the world is watching. This story was posted in a community news site that all the world may know what the Presbyterian Women of one church had done at their annual brunch. Is there not a more faithful witness for Christian women to broadcast to the world?

“But they are doing good,” some will contend. And yes, they did “collect quarters for the mission project Quarters for Safe Births,” but the witness borne out to the community where they live is tainted by confusion in their failure to discern between the spirits of Christianity and the Chinese Year of the Snake.

* I am intentionally not linking to the article because my goal in surfacing this issue is not to embarrass the women involved. My goal is to raise our collective awareness at how undiscerning we have become and how easy it is to wander into the Enemy’s playground.

12 Responses

  • Carmen Fowler LaBerge says:

    Thanks for the interaction! As for Pinterest, I clearly don’t understand how it works. I certainly didn’t pin some of the things that were appearing on my page. So, I’ve deactivated it. – Carmen

  • D says:

    Re: Jeff Light
    Carmen’s interest page: A $4500 custom leather gold inlay Ayn Rand?

    You couldn’t make this stuff up…

  • Art Seaman says:

    Good grief. Such piousness abounds. This was a harmless celebration. I feel like someone needs to lighten up.
    We play at many things from Santa Claus to Halloween trick or treating. it does not mean we have embraced the dark side.
    I lived in a community in Michigan that had many different cultures and we embraced the diversity without reservation. We were still strong Christians but recognized diversity is not a threat to faith of thoughtful Christians.

  • Jeff Light says:

    I’m saddened but not surprised by your selective use of a headline to make your point. While you say you don’t want to embarass the women involved, a simple Google search brings up the full article about this women’s meeting which also mentions their devotional/Bible study theme for the meeting. (Yes, Mr. Berkley, they had a Bible study). It saddens me that instead of buidling up the church and honoring Christ, you stoop to inuendo. Did you consider reaching out to the women involved to get their perspective on the event? Carmen, have you considered the implications and witness to the world of your own Pinterest site which includes references to the atheist Ayn Rand and (gasp) Halloween decorations?

  • D says:

    I assume that Carmen and all of the others who are variously saddened, outraged, or whatever word would describe what is bugging you have eliminated all of the pagan greenery from your church during advent and Christ mass? Surely your church publications must now be intentional in using the term “resurrection Sunday” and at all costs avoid any involvement with naming the pagan goddess of the dawn. And imagine the horror if the Sunday school kids engaged in a pagan fertility ritual hunting eggs on the church lawn.

    Oh the humanity!

    Seriously, a photo of a woman with an apple and a snake?

  • KEN says:

    I have been leading a study of the so-called “Minor” Prophets, of which there are none. “Shorter Prophets” would be a better term.
    Most recently, we have been studying the Prophet Zephaniah. In the very first chapter, the Prophet indicates what the”Day of YaHWeH” will be like for ancient Israel:
    “I will also stretch out my hand on Judah, and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will cut off the remnant of Baal from the place—the name; and the idolators with the priests— those bowing on the roof-tops to the host of the heavens; and those bowing and swearing by YaHWeH and swearing by Molech too; those also who turn away from YaHWeH, as well as those who have never sought YaHWeH, nor enquired of him.” Zephaniah 1:4-6 (My translation)
    It may be desirable to study the beliefs of other religions, but I see no justification for using either their rituals or their charms, amulets, fetishes or other “tools of their trade. To do so, it seems to me would be the equivalent of “swearing by YaHWeH and by Molech too.” Is it not interesting that the prophets includes those who do these things as members of “the remnant of Baal”?

  • Joanne says:

    I am wondering what the context for this event was in the community where the church is, and what it means to the rest of the community that the church is serving. What does the Chinese New Year mean to the community? At the least, however, if this was a church-supported event, it could use the serpent image in a way that honor’s the Lord – why else have a gathering as Presbyterian women in particular? I am thinking that an image of the brass serpent, and perhaps a devotion on what Jesus said about it in John’s gospel, would be one approach. Celebration of the New Year in any culture as simply a community or cultural event, nothing more, is neutral. I am also wondering why only quarters are collected for missions at such an event – how much did the cake and “good luck” charms cost?!

  • Jim Berkley says:

    I am more saddened than outraged by this news item. What a sorry, banal excuse for a meeting that must have been!

    The saints gather. There could have been meaningful Scripture study or exposition. Nope. There might have been fervent praise raised to God. Nope. Outreach to souls who need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ? Hardly! Well, there may have been dedicated service rendered to others. Uh-uh. Maybe there was discipleship and training in the ways of the Lord. No way.

    What ensued was trite, lame, vacuous, and boring, although filled with calories and worthless trinkets. The opposite of good isn’t always evil. Sometimes it’s simply worthless.

  • Breck Castleman says:

    I grew in a Chinese church community where my dad was pastor. Every year Chinese Christians celebrated Chinese New Year – whatever the animal designation – without investing any occult or spiritual meaning into the Chinese astrological symbol. I celebrated Christmas with Santa Claus ass a kid, which is basically a crass accomodation to the idol of greed. I have pastored 2 churches on Mardi Gras parade routes in the New Orleans area. We would gather as church members, have the kitchen and dining areas availble for people to eat a meal. We would watch the parade and try to catch beads, trinkets and dubloons thrown from the floats. We did not engage in any bacchanalian activities so often associated with a very pagan festival. Mardi Gras can be a family-friendly and spiritually neutral activity, depending on how you participate. If a kid has a snake as a pet, that doesn’t mean there is a potential satanic connection being made. The point is that observing Chinese New Year and recognizing that to the Chinese it is the year of the snake, does not necessarily indicate a compromise of one’s spiritual health or commitment. If there were a celebration of the pagan and astrological meanings attached to the animal symbol that would be a different matter. I doubt that was the case.

  • Leslie Day-Ebert says:

    I understand Christin’s point above but, unfortunately, I feel that in our effort to be “multicultural” we are devolving into syncretism. This is not to be taken lightly. I can honor the intent of these women but grieve that there wasn’t someone overseeing this who had a good grounding in Reformed Theology who could have directed their efforts in a more God-honoring manner.

    • Nancy says:

      And, therein lies our problem. PCUSA is losing the folks who know and value Reformed Theology. We have lost our plumb line. While I feel this to have been a fun event and I doubt very much they were thinking about multicultural issues (and I can be wrong), it was a church event. PCUSA has become a melting pot and many who do not come from Reformed tradition have no clue what it means for our world and for ourselves. Clergy, (who are ultimately responsible) where are you in the spiritual leadership of your flock? Perhaps, a sermon including correct information on the Year of Snake at the beginning of the year could have prevented this. That would have been multicultural. Some will say all of this is an overreaction. I believe that we need to be more careful as we set examples for others. I pray that this becomes a learning experience for all on future activities held under the name of a church.

  • Christin says:

    The Chinese New Year is a rich cultural tradition for many people in our world. We are (or SHOULD strive to be) a multicultural church, lets embrace our God-given identity as the diverse body of Christ. To celebrate the Chinese New Year, and to exchange symbols that honor the very important Asian tradition which many people celebrate does NOT “lessen the witness of the Church.”

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