In a recent post, I sought to illustrate the problem of many Christians who are taught to fear anything that is not expressly ‘Christian approved.’ One of the first online recovery forums for people who had followed the teachings of Bill Gothard) coined the lighthearted term “sin cooties” to describe this superstition. Young children use ‘cooties’ to refer to infectious microbes, but those who followed the teachings will recall the days when anything could be like a hidden pathogen that would lead to doom. When thinking of the way some Christians protest Christmas as pagan, I thought of another colorful example of a sin cootie idea that should bake some noodles.
The Litugical church celebrates Epiphany on January 6th to remember the Magi – the wise men who traveled under the guidance of the Star of Bethlehem to present gifts to Jesus. Many people trust the way Christmas cards merge the Epiphany (‘the revealing’) of Jesus to the Magi with nativity scenes, but it took place as long as two years later. Scripture tells us that the wise men knew of the birth because of astronomical/astrological signs, yet we are told nothing of this process. Many Evangelicals gloss over this because it seems like an unholy convergence of the sacred and the profane.
Our modern astronomy charts still bear witness to the names that the Magi knew for the stars, reflecting their own astrology. It is said that Seth, the son of Adam (the first man), taught them to Enoch, and Enoch who communed with God knew all of their meanings. The Syriac Magi studied, interpreted and preserved this knowledge which most people call the Zodiac (a ‘circle of animals’) and what Job called the Mazzaroth (the ‘twelve signs’). This tradition asserts that the stars told us parables about the drama of life, the promise and the Life of Jesus, His Crucifixion and Resurrection, and the final defeat of evil.
The writings of Seiss and Bullinger about the Mazzaroth remind me that if God is indeed who the Evangelical believes Him to be, such things should be celebrated rather than feared or avoided. Years after we walk away from these superstitious systems, irrational fears still linger inside of us. Thinking through ideas like those the Magi pose can offer an opportunity to shift us away from a fearful perspective. Anyone familiar with the language of the Bible will recognize the references captured in these ancient names of the stars. What if changes in the constellation of Virgo communicated to the Magi that Jesus had been born? If the Magi’s tradition was evil, why do the Scriptures even mention them?
I left my Quiverfull church and in winter, and every evening for the first few months, I could clearly see the constellation of Orion. I remembered that Orion’s heel was named Siaph which meant ‘wounded.’ Its counterpart named Rigel meant ‘the foot that crushes.’ I knew these references well from the first promise of a Savior in Genesis 3:15. The significance of the serpent’s hatred for the woman contained in that passage was not lost on me either, as there was so much hatred of the strength of determined women in the church I had left.
I cannot tell you of the fortifying peace that I gleaned from the silent sky that season, especially when so little else in life consoled me then. But if the sky itself spoke to me with the mighty hope that evil would one day be crushed, I could carry on without fearing sin cooties everywhere. If God is who the Evangelical claims, we need not fear any truth, as it all should belong to God.
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Cindy is a nurse who was raised in Word of Faith, a Second Generation Adult of cultic Christianity. She and her husband dabbled in Calvinism and Theonomy as a foil to Christian anti-intellectualism, and they were exit counseled together when the walked away from a church that embraced Gothard’s teachings. Cindy escaped many Quiverfull pitfalls but became a social pariah for failing to birth a family. She’s been decrying the abuses of the Patriarchy Movement since 2004, and she writes about spiritual abuse at her blog, Under Much Grace. Read more about her here.
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