So, here’s my question of the day… what do God and Santa have in common? I’d like to answer that they spread love and joy all over the world, but part of me wonders (sadly) if their similarities lie in them being cast as men in white beards, smiling and saying they love everyone, while keeping lists that they check twice to see who’s good and who’s bad, who’s in and who’s out.
I was in Walgreen’s a few days ago and some poor little boy was having a rough time. Most of us have “been there, done that” and I sympathize with boy the boy and the parents. But, as his parent’s were carrying him out of the store crying, I heard his mom say sternly, “You have to stop that or Santa won’t bring you any presents.” Frankly, the whole thing makes me cringe just about as much as “you better believe in Jesus and do the right things or you’re going to hell.”
I’ve been working really hard in my ministry to recast this image of God, and release the Divine from the patriarchal, punitive mold. The God I know is a creative, life-giving, unconditionally loving force. I felt like I was making headway, and now it dawns on me that I have to contend with Santa as well!
Did you know that the original St. Nicholas was a fourth century Bishop of Smyrna? He was very generous, loving and kind toward the children and the poor, supposedly even throwing gifts in their windows. No where is there mention of a list he checked twice, or coal given out to the undeserving. It seems that parents over the centuries have turned St. Nick into a tool to make their children behave. And the church has turned God into a tool to keep people attending, giving and believing a certain way. I apologize for sounding a little jaded, it is just all so frustrating.
Why can’t we motivate people and kids with positive reinforcement instead of negative reinforcement? Why can’t we encourage experiencing the joy of giving, and the warm feeling of loving others? Why can’t parents say, “sweetie, I know you’re tired of shopping, so am I, but let’s think about something good… like how much grandma will love these gloves, (or Santa coming in a few weeks or Jesus being born).” Probably a pipe dream, I know. But the world never got anywhere without dreamers.