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.