Valentine's Day. Love it or loathe it, it's a massive occasion in our culture, and come February 14th you can guarantee the shop windows will be full of big red hearts, the TV schedules will be dominated by Richard Curtis movies, and Mark Woods will have written a piece for Christian Today about the real Saint Valentine and why you've been getting him wrong all these years. It will be everywhere.
So since you can't beat it, and as locking yourself in a dark room for a day is a rather extreme alternative, I propose that we embrace the occasion in the only way I know: by uncovering the weird and wonderful world of Christian Valentine's Day cards and gifts. Yes, of course they exist. Gift items that either find an appropriately modest way of demonstrating romantic affection, or which ask whether, after all, we shouldn't be pointing to the Greatest Love of All on this most over-commercialised of days. But enough about Whitney Houston, here are some perfect specimens of the Christian Valentine sub-genre...
There aren't many areas of consumer culture that haven't now been invaded by those loveable Bible-quoting vegetables, so this set of wholesome 'Children's Valentines cards' should surprise no-one. One card includes a great message that anyone would love to receive on Valentine's Day: "Beauty on the inside is what really matters." Also available in the same range: "You've got a great face for radio" and "Have you ever thought about becoming a shoe model?"
Passive-aggressive fridge magnet
This gentle paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13 is a great way to remind your other half that you really have totally and completely forgiven them for that awful thing they did. Genuinely, totally forgiven. Absolutely not keeping a record of that wrong, no sirree. But just in case they forget that you had to forgive them, here's this handy red fridge magnet, to be displayed prominently at the heart of your home at all times.
Inspirational Valentine / John 3:16 card
Someone clever spotted that the letters of the word 'Valentine' appear sequentially in the most famous verse of the Bible – which just happens to be about love. Coincidence? Someone call Mulder and Scully (a reference which is suddenly up-to-date again)! Not wanting to miss an opportunity, they and many other people decided to feature this on a Valentine's card. Also available as a motivational poster, mug, bookmark, coaster and more – just like all the best Bible verses.
Jesus is my Valentine t-shirt
Here's the perfect gift for the monk or nun in your life – one of what seems like hundreds of t-shirt designs bearing the classier version of 'Jesus is my boyfriend'. Greater theologians than I might argue that the Church is the bride of Christ, and that such a statement only panders to an individualistic view of what was always intended to be communal faith, but then no-one likes a killjoy.
Celebrate Saint Valentine!
Not feeling particularly romantic? No problem – you can still send loads of cards celebrating the love of God, including this one, which features sword-and-fern-wiedling man of the moment, St Valentine himself. He's quite a dashing chap actually, pictured here in his favourite position; lying with his head on a plate in the middle of a lino floor.
Stealth Bible verse mousemat
Because what else says 'I love you', like a computing peripheral that's now redundant for 90 per cent of users? This charming design looks like a lovey-dovey gift; it's actually a reminder to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and computer use. Also an excellent present to give to your Internet accountability partner.