Guest / Limited Access /

If you've ever read an article about St. Patrick's Day, it probably talked about how little the celebration has to do with the actual Patrick.

I, for one, have grown tired of the annual rehashing of how he didn't really drive the snakes from Ireland and didn't really use the shamrock to explain the Trinity.

Still, it's worth pondering for a moment why we celebrate St. Patrick's Day far more than, say, St. Augustine's Day or St. Athanasius's Day, even though those two men probably had more influence in shaping Christianity across the world. Put simply, it's because Patrick didn't shape Christianity across the world—at least directly. (Though one can argue that his work in shaping Irish Christianity later bore fruit that would affect the faith through the ages.) He's a large but local figure. And, to over-simplify a bit, it was mostly Irish Americans rather than Irish Irish who made the day a festival of national pride.

Ironically, the socio-political meanings of St. Patrick's Day—a pushback against anti-immigrant sentiment and a protest of British rule—have now been as lost in the bacchanal as the historical Patrick, if not more so.

Imagine for a moment that we "took back" St. Patrick's Day. The groups that launch "Defend Christmas" campaigns every year could have a second market here. The question is, What would St. Patrick's Day be about, if not nationalism and booze? Some ideas:

1. Fighting human trafficking

It's hard to think of a social justice issue that's hotter for evangelical Christians right now than human trafficking. The historical figure most commonly hailed for his work in this area is William Wilberforce, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueDaily Bread and Bombs in Ukraine
Subscriber Access Only Daily Bread and Bombs in Ukraine
A snapshot of Christian witness in the world (as it appeared in our June issue).
Current IssueKenneth Bae: My Story of Faith in a North Korean Prison Camp
Subscriber Access Only Kenneth Bae: My Story of Faith in a North Korean Prison Camp
Why this missionary’s prayer changed from “Send me home, Lord” to “Use me.”
RecommendedHow the American Bible Society Became Evangelical
How the American Bible Society Became Evangelical
A look back at a major turning point in the 200-year history of the storied organization.
TrendingNicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
I had no untapped, unanswered yearnings. All was well in the state of Denmark. And then it wasn’t.
Editor's PickLetters with the Mosque Next Door
Letters with the Mosque Next Door
How a budding friendship between a pastor and an imam brought a community together.
Christianity Today
Reclaiming St. Patrick's Day
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

March 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.