The Big Guy

With the Christmas season officially upon us, and chubby-cheeked or just plain chubby Santas everywhere you turn, my passion for truth is stirred once again by the ubiquitous Santa myth (or the Smyth, as I like to call it ;-)). A few years back I penned my thoughts on the Big Guy and actually had it published in our major metropolitan newspaper…one of only two compositions I received payment for. Yea!

Mine is not a popular position, but here’s what I think about jolly ol’ St. Nick.

I expect I’m about to be called a grinch, or a scrooge, or worse, but here goes. I don’t believe it’s good for children to be taught the myth about Santa Claus.

Even now some who are reading this are making plans to destroy this page before their young, believing children happen upon it. Why is it important to so many parents that their little ones continue to believe a lie? We don’t call it a lie, but it is.  It’s a big fat one, and I have to believe that this grand deception has a definite and negative effect on our children’s perception of truth.

Most, if not all, of us have struggled to some degree with the hypocrisy of teaching our children to always be truthful, yet feeding them a line about Santa. We fear the day we’re going to have to own up to our duplicity and wonder how it will affect them. I believe it has to be, at the very least, a huge disappointment, and if a child is fed a steady diet of fanciful and fun but false stories, i.e. Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Wish Upon a Star and Your Dreams Will Come True, he will be more susceptible in later life to swallowing all kinds of spiritual nonsense. Or, he may be so disillusioned because of the abuse of his trusting heart that he won’t want to believe anything.

Why do we take a risk like this with our children? Why do adults, who were deceived themselves as children, insist on perpetuating this myth about Santa Claus? We keep it alive as if Santa embodies everything that is good and to abandon the myth would mean the loss of all love and joy and innocence. The New York Sun editorial writer who penned the famous “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” confidently asserted that, “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist.” And, “how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus!…There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.”

So, instead of putting our faith and trust in the God who is real and is the Creator and Provider of all good things, we choose to promote, defend, and believe in a mythical, godlike creature and in the process cheat our kids out of the wonderfully incredible truth that there is Someone who really can deliver gifts to all the children all over the world in a single night. And the security of knowing that this God loves them and is always with them and is able to give them everything they need. God is the real deal; Santa is an imaginary pseudogod.

Do we hang on to Santa because our faith is weak and we don’t feel confident teaching even our children that God is sufficient and all-powerful? Or is it that we just don’t like how God operates because He doesn’t give us all the material things we want? Maybe we like Santa better because he gives but doesn’t make any demands on us. Sure, he keeps a list of who’s naughty and nice, but the naughty kids, and adults, still get presents. So he makes us feel all warm and fuzzy ‘cause he’s a great, big “sugar daddy” and we don’t even have to spend any time with him.

Some, I imagine, get on the Santa bandwagon because they love the look of wonder in a child’s eyes as he or she takes in the whole story of the North Pole and the flying reindeer and sliding down chimneys. But, let’s face it, what’s the most wonderful thing about Santa to children? It’s the bagful of toys for all the girls and boys. Santa doesn’t discipline or allow trials in our lives to teach and refine us.  Nobody wants those things for Christmas, or anytime, but they come with the package, when you’re dealing with truth.

But how do our children approach the truth about God when they learn that what they’ve believed for so long has been a lie? Will they totally abandon the idea of absolute truth as so many have nowadays, so that truth is relative and then nothing, really, is true at all?

Santa Claus is here to stay, I’m sure, but this Christmas, and every day I have with them, I am passing on to my children one of the greatest gifts Santa, or anyone, could ever give: a love of truth.