If you’ve been around as long as me (27 years), you’ve probably heard stories of “Christians” wringing their hands supposedly about our culture’s “recent” and widening lack of respect for Christmas. Every year I hear another call to boycott store A or B (Wal-Mart or wherever else) that says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Notwithstanding the fact that most Christians go right back to shopping at whatever store it is on December 26th, I find Christian calls to retrieve the “reason for the season” pretty empty given that Christmas has been a worshiping at the altar of the God of Consumerism for a long long time now. I have some empathy for people who long for the good ole days of “Merry Christmas” at the register and nativities on courthouse lawns I guess, since our pagan culture at least gave a nod to Christianity in those acts.
But yesterday, I had a little moment to reflect on how the old adage “Do as I say and as I do” applies when it comes to Christians demanding our culture respect Christmas. I was in the office at the church this week, and on two different occasions, I happened to be mildly listening to the radio that was on over in the secretary’s office. Now, mind you, this is a “Christian” radio station. I had already heard “Jingle Bells” earlier in the day, which is pretty benign I guess as far as having nothing to do with Jesus but not really pushing anything else other than loving sleigh rides and grandma’s house. But later, you could say that in the other room there arose a strange clatter, and I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter. I heard the strains of a familiar song floating through the air, a song that goes something like this;
They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is gonna spy
to see if reindeer really know how to fly
And so, I’m offering this simple phrase
to kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
“Merry Christmas to you”
Seriously, Spirit FM, seriously? I must say that there is little to no hope for our culture regaining widespread respect for Christmas when Christians play “Christmas” songs about Santa and reindeer. Evidently it’s “Do as I say, NOT as I do.”
And while I’m on my high horse, I’m gonna go ahead and say this. If or when Bethany and I have children, I will tell them Santa is false from the very beginning in addition to instructing them to ruthlessly destroy other kids’ belief in that great figment of imagination. In the spirit of John Howard Yoder*, I’ll bluntly say that Santa Claus is the bastard child of an actual, goodness-to-life Saint (Nicholas) and the Germanic god Woden and any “believer” in him (whether actual or just to perpetuate a cute cultural story) needs to be told he is not at all a harmless figure. To be fair, I would expect the same approach from any committed Wiccan or Muslim or atheist to tell my kid that Jesus is false/crazy/an-absurd-figure-who-certainly-was-no-God. So I’m not crusading to knock off pagans who love their Santa stories and waiting in line on Black Friday to feed their feelies; I’m just advocating telling them they’re following an empty, sad life that removes the possibility of true joy.
*JHY famously said that Islam is the bastard child of Christianity and Judaism’s failure to love the polytheistic people group that Muhammed was a part of. In the absence of their caring, Muhammed came up in desperation with a monotheistic system to rescue his people from their hopelessly fragmented and ignored culture. Now, maybe JHY could have used a different term, but I don’t think he meant it as an epithet, but just to illustrate that the child is the result of the unwise decisions of the parents.