My biggest issue with Santa Claus is simple. But before I critique the bulging philanthropist, let me defend him for a minute. Really. Because I think most Christians attack him unfairly.
Most Christians’ biggest issue with Santa Claus
Here it is: Santa Claus apparently diverts our collective attention from Jesus’ birth. But I disagree. Why? Because our attention is already diverted from Jesus’ birth. Santa is just the jolly-fied symbol of our diversion, which means he’s also the scapegoat for our distraction. Santa isn’t the problem, folks. We are.
Christians’ second-biggest issue with Santa Claus
Santa apparently twists the meaning of Christmas into a holiday about getting, not giving. And again, I say, leave the red and white guy alone. We’re the ones consumed with consuming, not him. “Santa spirit” rides the wave of supply and demand. He’s what the market (a.k.a, the collective us) demands. The bigger problem, it seems to me, is that we’ve equated both giving and receiving with stuff you buy from a store.
Jesus and Santa are like two uncles coming to visit over Christmas. One brings a boat-load of toys (stuff) to play with; the other brings himself. Who do you think your kids are looking forward to more? But again, is this Santa’s fault, or our own?
My biggest Issue with Santa Claus
My biggest issue with Santa Claus is more philosophical. My real critique lies with his legendary ‘naughty and nice list’. I think Santa should rethink his core values before heading out on Christmas Eve.
1. Being “nice,” the de-fact0 standard for receiving a gift from Santa, isn’t exactly the pinnacle of moral development.
Nice apparently means “pleasant, agreeable, good-natured.” I get it. We want kids to behave. But nice people don’t stand up to bullies or injustice or armed gunmen in classrooms. Brave, sacrificial people do. I think Santa is rewarding the wrong thing. But wait: Santa isn’t real, so that’s… us rewarding the wrong thing, not him.
2. Santa’s ‘naughty and nice list’ teaches people they have to earn gifts.
No, it’s a reflection of our theology. It’s a mirror showing us what we collectively believe about grace. We think good things from supernatural beings don’t come free. We believe you have to earn them. So don’t blame Santa. He’s just playing by our rules.
3. The ‘naughty and nice list’ is a farse, anyway.
How many parents withhold gifts from their kids for being naughty or actually put coal in their stockings? That’s what I thought. Deep down, we believe we’re all on the ‘nice’ (translate: good enough) list. Nobody is bad enough to fail, to be judged, to be excluded or (gasp!) damned. The list that doesn’t matter also reinforces our unspoken desire that God would grade us on a curve and find a way to “pass” every student in our class. Santa doesn’t forgive, he just overlooks—because that’s what we want God to do.
My biggest Issue with Santa Claus, it turns out, is that he’s not my biggest issue. Santa Claus is a big, fat, red-and-white reflection of us. Which means rejecting him out of some moral-cleansing crusade isn’t going to get us very far.
It’s time we took off the fuzzy white beard, dropped the magic suspenders, and took a good, long look in the mirror.
As it turns out, my biggest issue with Santa Claus is that he makes me look bad.