CALIFORNIA December 23, 2013 — Why doesn’t Santa Claus attract the same legal challenges as Nativity scenes on public land, or singing Christmas carols at schools, or even praying in the name of Jesus Christ before city council meetings?
Is it because Santa Claus isn’t a threat to religious sensitivities, or is it because he’s a convenient tool to further anti-Christian hostility?
Santa isn’t a threat to atheists. Both he and Jesus Christ are considered no more than myths, something from fantasyland. But unlike Santa, Christ is a threat to an atheist’s worldview. Jesus Christ’s divine nature (Philippians 2:6-11), redemptive act on the cross (1 Peter 3:18), and resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-28) offer hope for both a changed and eternal life to everyone.
This is something atheism can’t offer (Psalm 53:1). It’s not surprising, therefore, that a growing number of atheists are openly hostile to any expression of Christian faith in the public square.
Santa isn’t a threat to the American Civil Liberties Union and other likeminded legal and activist organizations, either.
The real threat to these groups is the public outworking of Christian faith (Matthew 5:13-16) and God’s authoritative, timeless truths that define good and evil (1 Timothy 1:8-10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Exodus 20:1-17).
By misapplying a “separation of church and state” principle, attacks on anything pointing to Jesus’ divinity and our personal moral accountability have raged for decades. Clearly this is spiritual warfare targeting only Christian beliefs and never Santa, even though he’s uniquely identified with Christmas.
What about non-Christians? Obviously many have no problem with Santa Claus; he becomes a creative way to celebrate a holiday that’s widely observed and enjoyed. He also embodies endearing characteristics that stimulate a child’s enjoyment through fantasy.
But there’s a subtle side to this non-war. Right or wrong, perpetuating the warm, cuddly Santa myth among children may actually be a clever tool to perpetuate a purely secular worldview. A child may see the powerful imagery of a benevolent Santa personified later in life in a parental government. Both take care of peoples’ needs; both are assumed to be good and want the best for everyone; and both appear to have unlimited resources at their disposal.
Both Santa and the government also seem to be incapable of maturely discerning between the worthy and the unworthy while distributing their “gifts.”
If there ever were a war on Santa, who would be the most likely to wage it?
The most obvious answer would be Christian families. Santa isn’t just a fictional character with some historical roots; he’s the perfect embodiment of what man would create god to be like. Santa is a superhuman with divine characteristics. This pseudo-god competes with the true God for our devotion.
Is attributing uniquely Biblical divine characteristics to Santa farfetched? Consider this: Santa Claus has Omnipotent powers in many ways. He makes virtually anything he wants to meet the desires of those he chooses to unconditionally bless. This power is unrestrained by costs, logistical concerns, or any other limitation mere humans encounter.
Santa is also Omniscient. He knows when you’ve been naughty or nice, and understands hearts and actions in light of life circumstances. In theory, he rewards good behavior and withholds goodies if someone’s bad. But in reality, the politically correct Santa is non-judgmental and gives children presents however they’ve behaved.
Since Santa sees everyone as basically good, there’s no real sin with eternal consequences. In effect, he precisely mirrors a worldview that trivializes mankind’s sinfulness and amplifies any goodness, no matter how small.
Santa is virtually Omni-present. On Christmas Eve he delivers the right gifts to the right child throughout the entire world in one night. Who but a beneficent god-like person could possibly be capable of doing such an unimaginable feat?
Finally, even though most of the year Santa’s far away and stays in his home until needed at Christmas time, children communicate with him through letters and prayers. Santa then answers those requests, knowing what’s best for each child.
No wonder there’s no “War on Santa Claus”. He’s just another convenient tool, both inside and outside the Christian community, to draw affections away from anything pointing towards the true message of Christmas: the God-man Jesus Christ who is Savior and Lord (Colossians 1:15-23), and the true God that faithfully meets the needs of those that trust in him (Matthew 6:25-34).
By encouraging attention to a competitor to Christ, we teach children two things: that parents lie, and that the supernatural is probably make-believe, just like Mickey Mouse. Not only is this corrosive to faith, it’s related to what the gospel writers warn about in Matthew 19:13-14 and Mark 10:13-16.
It’s been said that God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27), but ever since then man has tried to create god in man’s own image. Clearly, Santa fills the bill.
He’s not a threat to atheists, or ungodly organizations that attack public expressions of Christian faith. But Santa is definitely a distraction from the redemptive message embodied in the Christmas holiday.
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