Daddy Freeze, Christmas and “the Paganization of Christianity”

An ancient Jewish proverb says: “If you wish to strangle, be hanged on a good tree.” It means, if you must rely on an authority, you do well to make sure it’s a reliable one.

This was my deduction after watching an hour-long YouTube interview with Daddy Freeze by Abimbola Adelakun in July 2019.

For those who might not be familiar with these two figures, here’s a brief background:

Ifedayo Olarinde (popularly known as Daddy Freeze) is a Nigerian broadcaster who who propelled himself to national fame in 2016 by calling out and virulently criticizing the doctrines and practices of popular pastors and ministers in Nigerian churches. His regular boiler-plate rhetoric against Pentecostal clerics carved for him a niche, and in 2018, he declared himself the founder of the Free Nation In Christ Online Church (or “Free The Sheeple” movement).

Abimbola Adelakun is an Assistant Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas. She is also a columnist with Punch Newspapers. Her research interests include Critical spirituality, Pentecostalism and Pentecostal culture, religious creativity and modern African cultural performances and expressions. She identifies as a “non-theist” and is obviously a Secular Humanist.

With the pedigree of both the interviewer and interviewee, I was hoping to gain some insights into the ideological underpinnings of this man who is frequently vaunted as an “undefeatable critic” of Nigerian Christianity.

But after ten minutes of listening to this man talk, I cringed at the wide gap between his bombastic claims and his supporting arguments. By the time the video got halfway through, I bristled and pressed “Stop” because I could no longer stomach his harsh, bullying tone and mutilation of basic facts, history and logic.

Since he touched on the topic of Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit that interview and address some of the things he said. His words appear in blue while Dr. Adelakun’s words are in green.

I’m going to throw some light on Christmas … A lot of people argue that, “Oh yes, we agree Christmas was a pagan festival, but Christ came to replace it.”

This a straw man. Whatever pagan worship that was occurring on December 25 prior to Christ, lacked any coherence or a chain of continuity that could be directly traced down to those observing Christmas today.

Granted, many customs, words, concepts and styles of one civilization pass on down and influence one another. But if some of them had pagan significance at some other time or place, it doesn’t mean it still does.

The fact that December period was observed in some old festivals doesn’t mean that they have the same influence or significance today. After all, people can choose any day of the week or month to observe whatever is of importance to them. You don’t have to forge a connection between theirs and the past.

Not to mention, our modern calendar is not the same as ancient calendar of other cultures.

Let me give you this example: you are the river goddess, I’m Christ, okay? We are both born on the same day. It makes no sense for us to shift Christ’s birthday if it happens to fall on the river goddess’ birthday. Hey, we are both born on the same day, let’s do it together, you understand? But we know the Christians are separated from the river goddess’ worshippers…

This is a vapid oversimplification of paganism and it does nothing to strengthen his argument.

Pagan religions don’t specify a date for the nativity of their deities. Most ancient festivals were based on local geographical weather, seasonal cycles, moon phases, and astrological dates. In plain terms, their festivals rarely fell on the same day each year.

For example, Tammuz, which the Encyclopedia Britannica defines as a Mesopotamian “god of fertility embodying the powers for new life in nature in the spring” had varying festival periods in the pagan calendar.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary says his festival was observed in Chaldea in “the month of July, the beginning of the summer solstice.”

The Fausset’s Bible dictionary says “an annual feast was kept to him in June” at Byblos.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says the “mourning by Tammuz was celebrated in Babylonia by women on the 2nd day of the 4th month… [while in Syria his death was celebrated] in midsummer.”

Now Christ was born three months before Christmas, and you took him from his birthday. You didn’t bother finding out what day he was really born and of all days you are matchmaking with the river goddess.

This is a frozen argument. The claim of Jesus being born on September or October is debatable, but Mr Freeze says it dogmatically. No one is definitely sure which exact month Jesus was born on, neither does it matter. What matters is that He was born.

The allegation of matchmaking a deity’s birthday to another also assumes that all ancient cultures or geographical locations used the same calendar or shared the same concept of their deity’s “birth.”

People like Daddy Freeze suppose that if something once had a pagan significance, it must always be of pagan significance! That’s untrue.

The days of the week and months of the year were named after pagan deities. They had pagan significance in the past, but it doesn’t mean they still do so.

Friday was named after Frigg and Thursday after Thor. That you hold a religious service on a Friday doesn’t mean you worship Frig. Neither does having your religious festival on a Thursday mean you worship Thor.

The names, Mercury, Venus, or Mars for planets were originally pagan names. But no one today supposes that planets are deities.

And you can’t hide behind Jewish calendar because during the Babylonian captivity, the Jews renamed some of their months in Babylonian terms. The month of Abib was renamed Nisan and another one was even named Tammuz! Yet no one would accuse Jews of worshipping Tammuz.

This time it was a god, Nimrod with Christ. And then you say you’re replacing Nimrod with Christ. Oh brilliant! But you’re still celebrating with Nimrod’s tree and the Yule and the mistletoe and the gifts and the parties, so where is the Christ?

It’s there

This is where he sounded so lopey that it was embarrassing for me to watch or listen to. Notice that even Dr. Adelakun who had no intention of defending Christianity had to point it out to him: the Christ you say is absent in Christmas is there. But daddy Freeze sees Nimrod.

Many anti-Christmas/anti-Easter zealots are like a close circuit; they read the same set of hogwash, rehash the same lines of arguments and repeat the same trope of misinformation which they never bother to fact check in any objective or valid sources.

So most of the time, when you’re dealing with the “Christmas-is-of-pagan-origin” folks, you’re stuck with a self-perpetuating and self-validating worldview. Mr so-and-so (who isn’t even a scholar in the field he’s pontificating on) says it or wrote it, and he is in our coterie, so that settles it.

I’ve written about the fatal flaws of the “Nimrod-is-god” assertion and I do not wish to repeat it here. Both the Bible and history indicate that Nimrod was never worshipped as a deity (whether a “father god” or “king of the gods”); he founded no religion and has no valid link to deities in the Babylonian, Persian Greek, Roman, or Nordic pantheon.

In plain terms, the old theory of the “Babylon connection” of Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz to pagan deities (both ancient and modern) is at best, tabloid sensationalism.

I don’t see it, unfortunately. I don’t see it. What I see is the paganization of Christianity and here is the biggest point that everybody misses, Christ never asked for his birthday to be celebrated. Never. There were many years that Paul went to meet Peter… no birthday. They remembered to do so many things but never remembered to celebrate his birthday? It was never part of the doctrine.

Daddy Freeze’s Free the Sheeple movement is simply one of the versions of the Sacred Name cults or Hebrew Roots movement. These are aberrant religious groups that teach that all of Christianity except theirs is irredemably infected with hellenized paganism, that Christianity went off the rails right from 325 AD.

Yup, no one got it right for 1700 years. The real name of God was lost, the name of Jesus was paganized. The gospel was paganized. Everyone was in darkness, lost and doomed for hell until the light came on in the 20th century when some pockets of people knew “the restored truth.”

And what’s their truth? That using the Hebrew name of God and Jesus, following the laws of Moses and disavowing apostle Paul and the epistles of the New Testament as “Greek pagan corruption” brings you to the light…yes, new light. Doesn’t that sound familiar yet?

So when Mr. Ifedayo goes off in tangents and tells us about how the only two birthdays in the Bible were instances where men were executed (the second through a chain of manipulation and indirect assassination), he’s not deriving this from either Scripture or history, but his cultish ideology – the kind that is inconsistently selective about pagan origins.

According to Browser’s Book of Beginnings, the earliest evidence of a game that featured two opposing teams kicking, tossing, and aggressively advancing a ball in opposite directions was practiced 5,000 years ago in Egypt—as a fertility rite. Sounds like football doesn’t it?

So why do they rail against Christmas and still play or watch soccer?

There are so many issues with Christmas. The paganization is not even the date (which even is paganized), the paganization is even the celebration…

In the Bible, Jesus is called a Lion (Rev. 5:5), Satan is also called a lion (1 Pet. 5:8). Using Daddy Freeze’s logic, Jesus is Satan!

The woman called Mystery Babylon had a cup in her hand; the Lord has a cup in his hand (Ps. 75:8). Using Daddy Freeze’s logic, God is mystery Babylon.

Pagan kings sat on thrones and wore crowns; the Lord sits on a throne and wears a crown (Rev. 1:4; 14:14). Using Daddy Freeze’s logic, the Lord Jesus is pagan.

Pagans worshiped the sun; the Lord is the “sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2). Pagan gods were likened to stars; the Lord is called “the bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16). Using his logic, the God of the Bible was “paganized.”

Someone needs to school Daddy Freeze (and Reno Omokri, another kook in the barrel) that taking a stand against paganism shouldn’t be taken to foolish extremes. If you want to fish for pagan origins behind every bush and shelf, you will have to reject the Bible as pagan!

All of the following practices or beliefs mentioned in the Bible were also known among pagans: raising hands in worship, taking off shoes on holy ground, a holy mountain, a holy place in a temple, offering sacrifices without blemish, a sacred ark, a city of refuge, bringing forth water from a rock, laws written on stone, fire appearing on a person’s head, horses of fire etc.

That some primitive tribes worshipped trees in the past doesn’t mean people decorating trees during Christmas today are worshipping trees. That’s the dumbest argument in the book.

When was Christ’s birthday celebration decided? 317 years after He died! Oh wow, it took you 300 years, and who decided it? The Council of Nicaea and Constantine who worshipped the sun all his life and “gave his life,” why because there was a problem in his kingdom. Come on.

This was the lowest water mark. Anyone who is so lacking in intellectual dignity to the point of claiming that the Council of Nicaea and Constantine decided on Christmas shouldn’t be taken as an authority on any Christian doctrine, no matter how large his YouTube subscribers might be. It’s simply irresponsible for Daddy Freeze to spout such an outright falsehood for public consumption.

At this point in the video (at 20:00-20:06) you could see the look of “My goodness, I can’t believe you’re this wack” on Dr. Adelakun’s face.

Okay, so I think this is where I’ll disagree with you. First of all, the things that you highlighted, it’s like you seem so much invested in faithfulness to an origin rather than looking at it as an appropriation of the past to meet the exigencies of the present. So if we say Jesus… [DF rudely interrupts her mid-sentence to ramble].

There is really nothing you can do because what you have called Christianity today is a composite of all these past paganism, Jewish culture

[DF quickly interjects again aggressively]:

My Christianity is a Christianity that starts in the red Bible which is the highlighted words of Jesus. Anything else that history has is history’s business.

Notice how he contradicts himself. He appeals to history to bolster his hypothesis that Nimrod is the figure being honoured at Christmas and leans on Constantine and the council of Nicaea, but when he was given a picture of history that conflicts with his bias, he quickly throws history into the bin and dives into that oh-so-cool solo scriptura jibe.

Daddy Freeze only considers history as  valid so long as it supports his abstractions, fancies and self-canonized authority. This is a very unreliable man, a hack who pretends to do serious research – a false teacher who shouldn’t be teaching you – that is, if you don’t wish to go astray.

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