This is why I don’t encourage my children to believe in Santa Claus. It’s not that I’m against the true principles of Christmas; it’s that I’m not an advocate of teaching our children to believe in fairy tales they will inevitably learn are phony.
First you want me to believe in a hopping bunny who delivers eggs. Wouldn’t the sun be more appropriate as a symbol of gratitude for the return of spring? Oh that’s too pagan, right? But a bunny delivering hard boiled eggs has no foundation in paganism, eh?
Then we ask our children to believe in the tooth fairy. I love this one: Kids eat candy till their teeth fall out, and what do we do? We reward them with money. Yes, I’m being facetious; but seriously, who dreams this foolishness up?
Now I’d like to direct your attention to the mother of all fairy tales: Santa Claus. We insist that our children believe in a fat guy who rides a sled pulled through the air by magical reindeer. He possesses the mystical ability to travel the entire globe and visit every home in a single night. We’re expected to believe this enormous man can land on our roof without collapsing it. But that’s not all! We’re also expected to believe he can carry a huge bag of presents down a six inch chimney flute during winter when there should be a fire at the bottom.
And here’s the best part. Legend has it Santa even possesses some potentially terrifying capabilities: He can see us when we’re sleeping; he knows when we’re awake; he even has the ability to know if we’ve been bad or good, so we better be good for goodness sake. Okay, I’m not going to pretend you don’t see where I’m going with this, but please indulge me, you’ll be surprised.
I’m not an atheist, and I’m not trying to abolish Christmas. I just want us to ponder one simple question: Why should we expect children to believe in a living God when every other invisible character they’ve ever loved has let them down? Think about it.
I don’t believe it’s necessary to extinguish Santa Claus altogether. I just believe we should consider the future of our children’s spiritual development, and bare this in mind as we propagate fairy tales to them. I’d like to see us have a healthy balance between not going overboard on Santa and not underestimating the importance of daily discussions about God.
If we consider it long enough, we might say these disappointing fairy tales have led some to atheism. Please don’t misunderstand me; many things have contributed to atheism in the world – particularly the courage people have in expressing their views now that moral law prevents the church from killing atheists.
But think about it: Kids have been led to believe in these mythical characters only to be told later, “Oh we were just messing with you, kid.” Then after gaining a little more intelligence, they learn about the mythical gods of Greece. These gods were just as real to the Greek children as the God we teach our children about today. Maybe someday there’ll be a class entitled ‘mythical gods of the modern western culture.’ Surely one of them will be the god of mammon.
As they grow older, why should they not expect to hear, “Oh we were just messing with you about God too. You should’ve caught on when we described Him as having the same powers as Santa Clause. You know the guy who had all those magical powers, but still couldn’t deliver everything you wanted. Is that any different from god?”
After being broken hearted by Santa, can it be any wonder why many believers don’t expect to get what they ask for? They excuse it to themselves with, ‘God’s will.’ But didn’t Jesus say, “If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, then how much more so will your heavenly Father give good gifts to his children.” (I always find it reassuring when Jesus refers to God as “our Father” and not as “His Father” alone) Or perhaps, Jesus would say to some of these believers, “According to your faith is it done for you.” In other words, if you’re not really expecting God to come through for you – and who can blame you, since the Bible repeatedly reminds us that we’re unworthy sinners – then you’re results will reflect your faith.
So my point being: Go ahead and promote Santa Claus a few days out of the year; but as often as you can throughout the year talk to your children about God. Whatever God you believe in is fine. I prefer not to paint a particular picture of God in their mind, but some form of God is better than no God. I think it’s like a cell in your body trying to describe you to another cell. Yes, the cell is a part of you, but how can the cell claim to know your personality or attributes? There are some fundamental and universal aspects which we can ascribe to God and those being: love, kindness, helping, goodness, and forgiveness, but beyond that it’s pure speculation. So I teach my children about these principles without the added colorization of a particular religious viewpoint. Michael Blakeslee