As the Lunar New Year awakens on February 10th, 2024, the dragon stirs once more. It weaves through Chinatowns not in flesh, but in vibrant decorations, festive greetings, and excited chatter.
In Chinese culture, the Year of the Dragon signifies potent energy, boundless ambition, and auspicious fortune. This symbolism ignites awe and excitement among followers of the zodiac.
However, for Christians, dragons hold a different image — one not of cool companions, but of fearsome monsters. Think of the leviathan in Job 41, a leviathan churning seas like boiling oil, its shields impervious to any blade. Or the seven-headed, ten-horned dragon of Revelation 12:3-4, lashing its tail and sweeping a third of the stars from the sky. These were not creatures to embrace, but foes to be vanquished, monsters defeated by heroes wielding faith and God’s word.
Clearly, the dragons of Chinese lore and biblical accounts are not interchangeable. Conflating these distinct interpretations can be confusing and unproductive.
Therefore, we shall set aside the dragon’s symbolism for now and instead explore the Chinese zodiac as a whole. How can we explore its cultural meaning and navigate it with both faith and sensitivity as we celebrate the Lunar New Year?
The Zodiac Through A Cultural Lens
For centuries, the twelve animal figures of the zodiac have sparked imagination, each embodying unique qualities and stories that offer a window into Chinese values and aspirations. While a theory suggests a connection to ancient totem worship, this connection isn’t universally accepted or practised in modern times.
However, the zodiac’s roots in Chinese astrology and ancient religions can understandably raise questions for some Christians about how they should practise their faith with cultural sensitivity.
Our true source of strength and guidance lies with God alone, not in zodiac predictions or interpretations. Yet, acknowledging the zodiac’s cultural significance isn’t a betrayal of faith, but an opportunity to bridge understanding and share our own values with respect.
Finding Common Ground
Exploring the zodiac can be a cultural lens through which we appreciate the universal human desire for meaning and purpose. Shared values like perseverance, resilience, and hope offer common ground, building bridges across cultures and beliefs. A friendly dialogue about the zodiac becomes a beautiful way to exemplify Christian values of love and respect, honouring both God and our fellow human beings.
The Bible teaches us to dedicate our worship solely to God. Relying on the zodiac’s supposed influence on our future or life decisions can indeed be seen as placing faith in something other than God. This shift in focus can distract us from our true source of strength and guidance.
However, simply acknowledging the zodiac year as a cultural gesture, without relying on its predictions or attributing power to it, is not an act of worship or idolatry. In fact, it can be a beautiful opportunity for meaningful dialogue and for building bridges of harmony,
So, let’s embrace both faith and cultural sensitivity as we celebrate the Lunar New Year. The two are not mutually exclusive.