Saturday, December 17, 2011

Those Who Are Tardy Do Not Get Fruit Cup

Does Jesus haz a sad? This is being passed around on Facebook today:
Jesus: Santa.
Santa: Yes?
Jesus: I'm sad.
Santa: Why are you sad? It's Christmas right? It's your birthday!
Jesus: Yeah. That's the point
Santa: Why?
Jesus: Because whenever its Christmas the kids only wait for you and not me! They only celebrate Christmas because of you! Why Santa, why not Jesus? -Dec. 25 is for Jesus not for Santa. (Repost if You Believe in Jesus !) P.S He Knows You Looked -deny me in front your friends and I will deny you in front of my Father.
Maybe if Jesus brought presents every year, instead of loitering around in Heaven? Supposedly he promised to come on clouds of glory, but he's almost two thousand years late. And you know what that means. Stuff like this is a reminder of the sheer tackiness of grass-roots Christian culture, which is why I'm posting it here and saying snotty things about it. If Christian parents want to put more stress on Jesus at Christmas time, nobody is stopping them that I can see, so they should stop whining and get to it. It's not even incompatible with using the Santa myth: there's room at Christmas for both, and most Christians seem to be able to handle that.

(Something else I just noticed about that exchange: despite the Christian doctrine of kenosis, which teaches that Jesus gave himself selflessly for us, in much popular Christian lore -- which includes parts of the gospels -- everything is always about him. Aw, gee, Santa, I'm not the center of attention. Not a very good role model, in my opinion.)

In the past couple of weeks an elementary school teacher got in trouble for telling her students that Santa Claus doesn't exist. I didn't notice any hardcore Christians coming to their defense by pointing out whose birthday Christmas really is. I did see people complaining that kids should be allowed to believe in Santa for as long as possible, like this person. Now, I don't believe that it was the teacher's job to disabuse her students of this popular myth, but the controversy made me ask myself again what I would do around Christmas time if I had children.

Back for a moment to the mom I linked before. Before she became a parent she vowed she'd never inflict Santa Claus on her children.
And then my kid turned 2. It was Christmas and her eyes lit up with love for Santa, and all of a sudden, I was hooked on the magic and the innocence of her belief.
I started to ask myself how her 2-year-old learned about Santa in the first place, but given the ubiquity of Santa in the media and malls at this time of year, I suppose it's obvious enough. Still, all parents have to explain to their children why they don't go along with everything they see around them: why they're Christian instead of Jewish, or Jewish instead of Christian, or atheist instead of any of the above.

Wouldn't it be possible, and workable, to give your children gifts under the tree and explain that we give presents to people because we love them and want to share with them, because we know how good it feels to get presents from people who love us? Is that too abstract for a two-year-old? I've never been responsible for the upbringing of a child, so I don't know. But it seems like a better way to me, because then, instead of encouraging the idea that you can make a list of things you want and a magical stranger will bring them to you, you could foster the idea that giving presents to others is fun and satisfying -- and that's why you'll get presents yourself. It's all part of teaching kids to share, and to express love and caring for others. In the end, it's what you must do anyway. And if giving and receiving gifts is a pleasant and meaningful human practice, as I believe, then it shouldn't be a chore to teach it. I would think it one of the more satisfying parts of being a parent.

I also don't see any good reason to tell children a lie that you will eventually have to turn around and admit is a lie. Adults are too fond of lying to children anyway, because they're smaller and defenseless and it doesn't count. But it does.

And if anyone still believes in Santa Claus, there's always this, which seems to be described here. (It may or not really fit, but I've been wanting to link to it so I can find it later.) But come to think of it, it does fit very well. It's exactly how many adults react to Noam Chomsky, as a mean old man who delights in telling them there's no Santa Claus and ruining their beautiful innocence.