Saturday, December 19, 2009

Santa loves me, this I know

This morning I was listening to a radio DJ take calls from little boys and girls who were sharing what they'd asked Santa for this year. I was only listening briefly, but after one little girl gave her wish list, the DJ said, "Thanks for calling, Santa loves you".

Santa loves you? I am nearing my 28th Christmas (only 23 or so that I remember) and I don't remember Santa's love being part of his lore. Perhaps it is there in the background as an assumption, but his predominant characteristic seems to be a rewarder of the good kids and (at least in theory) a reprimander of the bad kids. Santa always seemed more impersonal and karmic than loving to me.

Am I reading too much into this? Or is John Granger's insight on movies somewhat true of the Santa lore as well? "When God is driven to the periphery of the public square, the human spiritual capacity longs for exercise, and it often finds it in the 'suspension of disbelief' and activity of the imagination."

Could it be that when we drive a God of love (and a God who rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked) to our periphery, we shape our cultural myths and stories to fill that void? Or am I just making too much out of what a disc jockey said on the radio? Discuss.

9 comments:

Vanessa said...

You don't know what kind of home life this child is from. You need to think of how a child's mind works and reasons with the information they get, it is different then how you are I do.This simple statement from the radio D.J., can and most likely will have a positive affect on this child.This child may be but into a situation in the near future and think of those words SANTA LOVE YOU and make the right chooses not the wrong. Santa also stands for the Sprite of giving, which reflects Gods love for all.! Sorry you never felt that special love from Santa when you were a child.

mannaword said...

I think your conclusions may well be valid. When our children were small, my husband and I purposely did not instill a belief in "Santa." choosing instead to keep the love, care, gifts, etc... identified with the Lord Jesus. We "pretended" Dad was Santa and enjoyed it all thoroughly - they were robbed of nothing, but they always knew who it was who loved them -- the Lord Jesus.

I have no doubts Vanessa is also right -- it probably did not harm the child listening, and probably helped for the moment. The problem comes when we learn that Santa is really a myth.

Larry C said...

On the flip side of this coin, a 5 year old asked the Pastor during children's time at my Church "How many Jesuses are there? One gets born each year so how many are there in heaven?"

The child that gave the DJ their list may live in dificult circumstances. But, at some point the message of God's love delivered at Christmas has been lost in this Americian consumerest culture (specificly lost to this DJ). Wherever we encounter this misrepresentation we, as Christians, have a responsibility to clarify whose love is celebrated at Christmas. Especially in the hearts and minds of children.

Plus, unless the child reads this blog, the only person to do them harm was the DJ.

Jared said...

I am not sorry I never felt that love from Santa as a child, because (especially around Christmas and all that we were celebrating) I felt that love from God instead. Of course, even if the DJ believed the true Christmas story, I'm sure he couldn't say that on the air, but I guess that's my point, isn't it? When we shove the God of Christmas to our periphery, we still feel a need for the love of someone during the Christmas season (and the rest of the year for that matter). A love that transcends all the crap and "situations" that most kids (and adults) are going through.

Whether we let our kids believe there is a Santa or not seems to be a smaller, surface issue. The real question is, as we progressively remove Jesus from Christmas and God from society, how many of God's characteristics will we smuggle into our cultural myths to fill that void? Will Santa be forgiving next year? Or just? And how will he solve the conflict between the two? Will he be omniscient? Omnipotent?

Yoshimi said...

Um, really?

"The real question is, as we progressively remove Jesus from Christmas and God from society, how many of God's characteristics will we smuggle into our cultural myths to fill that void? Will Santa be forgiving next year? Or just? And how will he solve the conflict between the two? Will he be omniscient? Omnipotent?"

And you're getting all this because the DJ used the word "love"? Because "love" is one of "God's characteristics" then no one else should use it? Or if other people use the word "love" in other contexts then they are simply "smuggling" Christian elements into secular society to "fill the void"?

This is a smarter blog than that, my friends.

There is room in this child's life for love from different places. Yes, sure, Santa isn't a real place, but maybe that famous letter to Virginia isn't all that wrong either...or maybe it's all a big commercial scam for marketing purposes. Either way, it's totally nuts to draw a line from this radio statement to some kind of problem-with-Jesus-loving-her-too.

Of course there is a pull between the secular holiday and the Christian holiday at this time of year. And different people do different things to fight it, including, as we read here, doing away with Santa altogether. Maybe that's something all Christians should consider.

But seriously now. "Love" in particular is a word that isn't Jesus's domain only; it isn't at all comparable to "forgiveness" etc and the use of it here isn't at all suggesting that soon enough Santa will be co-opting all other Christians terms, rituals, etc.

Yes, in answer to the original post, you are making much too much of this. And thankfully you recognized that in the first place or you wouldn't have asked.

Ophelia said...

I agree with Yoshimi...

Christians do have to struggle with the fact that "Christmas" is both a religious and a secular holiday. That can be tough. And however that came about--when that happened, and to what extent Christians were complicit in allowing it to happen--doesn't really matter now as we try to figure out how best to deal with it in our personal lives, with our children and families and so forth.

But we spend too much time trying to have it both ways. We want the holiday to remain ours and ours alone, and we want it deeply religious and significant and unsullied by commercialism or materialism or secularity. At the same time we demand that the holiday extend out, everywhere, into the public sphere. We want our religions displays on public property, we want our public school children singing carols and acting in Christmas pageants, we get mad if the clerk in the store wishes us a "happy holiday" instead of a "merry Christmas."

What do we really expect will happen when we demand that the entire country (entire world?) celebrate "our" holiday, "our" Savior's birth?

At the very least we ought to appreciate the free publicity that Savior's birth is getting this time of year! Who is to say that the Santa who loves this little girl won't, some day, lead her to Jesus?

And for Pete's sake we really can't go around yelling "that's ours!" whenever we hear the word "love".

Jared said...

Yoshimi,

Of course I was being a little tongue-in-cheek in that quote. And I was certainly aware that I probably was making a mountain out of a molehill because of a little phrase. And my intention here is not even to throw out some sort of "Put Christ back in Christmas" argument. In fact, that whole campaign falls flat for me.

I was simply asking if what was certainly a throw-away comment for the DJ was indicative of something larger that's taking place in our culture in general.

I'm not trying say that Christians "own" Christmas or the idea of love. So I wholeheartedly agree with the last two comments. My question was really an extention of the earlier post on John Granger's comment about the movie Twilight.

Yoshimi said...

Jered:

Fair enough.

But here: "I was simply asking if what was certainly a throw-away comment for the DJ was indicative of something larger that's taking place in our culture in general..." I would still say, come on. "Something larger taking place in our culture" in this case is, what? Using the word "love"? Suggesting that a jolly fellow like Santa might "love" children? This is a sign of something larger happening in our culture?

It was grasping at straws in the Twilight post, and it's grasping at them here.

Santa loves kids.

Jared said...

Fair enough! I asked if it seemed I was making too much of it, and by a jury of my peers the answer is "yes".