Thursday, December 23, 2004

Santa Claus and the cleverness of the Evil One

I was struck yesterday by a theory about Santa Claus that came to me during one of my classic stints in the restroom. It's amazing what comes to you while sitting on the porcelain throne.
Despite the place and activity which wrought this theory I am about to place before you, I think if it has even a thread of truth, which no one will ever know for sure, it is quite brilliant.

Santa Claus. A gracefully benevolent 'man'. Gracefully benevolent because his goodness seems to surpass the bounds of good or evil. There was once talk of a naughty and nice list which he kept to ferret out the bad little boys and girls, who would then receive coal in their stockings instead of the good gifts that the good little boys and girls would receive. It seems in recent years that this has gone out the window, and that it doesn't matter how you behave, Santa will still bring you your list of wants. 'Man' is in quotes because Santa is not entirely human...

Santa is omniscient. He knows if you are sleeping, he knows when your awake. He knows if you've been bad or good... You know the rest. Santa seems to have the power to see everything you do and think from a moral perspective, he knows if you obey your parents (or so they threaten) and sets his 'judgment' of your 'reward' based on said judgments. But this is really nothing new.
Santa is also omnipresent. He has the ability in a 32 hour period to visit every home in the world to gbring his gift rewards for the good behavior of children everywhere. Physicists have actually tried to figure out how fast he would have to move in order to achieve this feat. They concluded that the speed at which Santa would have to travel with his reindeer would be so fast the the energy created would actually cause the reindeer and Santa himself to spontaneously combust in the process of bringing said gifts to said children. Which would also make Santa Omnipotent, because obviously, Santa could not possibly DIE while bringing his gifts. So Santa must also be all powerful. Or at least have a really cool energy forcefield.

All of this has been discussed before by others. The comparisons between Santa and God have long been the center of discussions on the evil of Santa Claus and how allowing children to know and 'believe' in him is a great danger. This aspect of my thinking is not at all new. But there is an aspect that I have not heard spoken of before. Perhaps it has been, but I have not heard it.
What struck me about this whole discussion actually raises the danger of teaching the myth of Santa to Children to an all new level in my mind.

Yes, there is a problem with teaching children about a character who has god-like attributes who achieves god-like feats for what seem like god-like reasons. The fact that these attributes have a thread of truth to them is what makes him so dangerous. But the reason for this is not because children might replace God in their hearts with Santa Claus and worship him instead of the one who gives real gifts of real worth, however true this may be.

The real problem lies in how implausible such a figure is.
We can all think back (those of us who were taught about Santa growing up) about that moment at which Santa went from childhood dream to laughable foolishness. For some it was the trauma of classmates dashing the myth from our fragile minds. Others caught mom and dad sticking presents under the tree while sneaking around one Christmas Eve (My own mother preempted this by having gifts clearly marked both from herself and Santa). Still others just eventually grew out of their belief in the Old Jolly fellow.
The point is that eventually everyone loses their 'faith' in Santa.
We get this character in our heads with god-like qualities and are strung along far enough to where we actually become attached to who he is and what he does. But eventually the truth comes out and the lie is laid bare. This omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent character could not possible exist, and he obviously doesn't.

So what does that do to our belief in God? The real one?
After getting our lives and hopes entwined in a lie, we later become trained not to believe the truth that lies behind that lie. Teaching our children about Santa Claus can damage how they look at and see the True God. Because if Santa doesn't exist, how can God?
On one hand we tell them that this Santa figure is not real, but this other guy, who is a whole lot like Santa (generally speaking of course), is real... come on! What could be more confusing to our children?

The key is of course that it is far more important that our children know and understand the true God, who He is and what He has done and can do. So that they are not taken in by cheap red suited imitations which our culture would like to sell them.

1 comment:

Kevin Kehler said...

It took me some time to come up with an informed, thought-out opinion on this matter. And I wasn't even sure which way I was going to lean. I didn't want to just play "devil's advocate" (N.P.I.) but the answer somewhat came to me while I was watching one of the Harry Potter movies.

I was watching and admiring the imagination that went into the story line and characters but then even moreso the imagination and creativity of all the probably hundreds of minds that went into the production of the movie; i.e. effects, stunts, graphics, set etc.

So let's begin.

Imagination is a gift. All gifts are from God. Furthermore, all gifts should be used to their full potential, and if they are not, they can rust and wither away. People who do not spend enough time with their family (gift) will inevitably lose them. Those who do not practice their art like singing or painting (gifts) are sure to be unhappy and lose skill.

Childhood is a time for sowing the seeds of the gifts you are given, of beginning to understand their use, and most importantly what they mean with regard to their role in God's plan for us.

I understand the dangers involved with opening the eyes (the windows to the soul) to things in this world that may corrupt. However, as with all things, the important thing is not necessarily to be sheltered from them, but to recognize them in such a way that you know to reject them.

Every once in a while, the Christian "right" will protest something like a book or movie. Sometimes it seems like their views are so extreme that if they had their way there would only be one section in the library--NON-FICTION. Or perhaps even more extreme, there would be only one book--The Bible.

What would the imagination be without reading? Without movies? Art? etc...

I think that the development of the imagination in childhood is what eventually gives an adult the ability to differentiate between fact and fiction, right and wrong, good and evil, impossible from possible.

All children (with average or better guidance) will eventually understand that Santa is an impossibility. That same guidance and learning process can be used to comprehend (as best as any human can) that God is in fact above and beyond imagination; above and beyond impossible; above and beyond comprehension. As all three of these things are gifts and could not exist without Him.