Saturday, December 20, 2008

THe THeological Problem with Santa

Every year there are debates around the land about Santa.

Does the Santa story take away from the true meaning of Christmas? Does the cycle of believing in Santa (and Santa's cohorts for Easter and Teeth, not to mention the Great Pumpkin or the Holiday Armadillo) and then learning the truth breed cynics who won't believe in anything? Does it lead children not to believe in God (or Jesus depending who is launching the argument)?

I find these questions to be pointless. And really the answers depend on the children. My girls are big on Santa but also know the Christmas story. Because we have chosen to make sure of that. And I know few, if any, people who were scarred by the mythic creations of childhood. If we teach our children well they can easily handle the difference between truth and fact and parental "lies" like this. And if the Santa cycle is all it takes to undo your child's faith then I would suggest that the teaching of said faith has not had a lot of depth.

But I do have a theological problem with Santa. Santa, as used to control children's behaviour, lacks grace. Santa, we are told, knows who's naughty and nice, and only gives gifts to well-behaved children.

Where's the grace of God? Where's the graciousness of Christmas, of God-with-us? The Santa story denies the concept of unconditional love. And in this world anything that challenges unconditional love needs to be addressed.

So I am all for Santa, but drop the Orwellian list of naughty/nice and watching us sleep etc. Santa is an agent of God-made-manifest. And as such Santa's gifting is unconditional.

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