Trashing Santa (Christian Critique Of The Jolly Man)
In America, there are a few sacred cows that everyone knows is a lie, but we tell our kids that it is real. Santa is one of those. Coming into the 2020 Christmas season with my two-year-old son, I started thinking about the culture behind Santa. How parents use it to control their kids and how kids feel about this man that has boogeyman status for how aloof he is. I heard a podcast from a fellow reformed conservative commentary, Allie Beth Stuckey. She mentioned that she was getting a lot of questions about Santa Claus and how we should deal with the subject of him as Christians. She tried to be kind, but she applied the force when she laid out that if you think about Santa and the kind of character he is, the lore behind him gives him God-like qualities.
I want to further unpack her comment.
Santa is an Idol
Let’s just get out the most offensive reason we should trash Santa, namely:
To talk about him to kids is to make an idol for them to worship that competes with God.
Let us consider this more. The famous song goes, “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you have been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake.” We have this man with magical abilities that can see where all the kids in the world are. There is no human who claims to see one person’s whereabouts at all times, even if they are not around them. So he is talked about like he is a man, but he seems to be more like a god.
When I was a kid, I really believed in Santa. I really thought that he could do what the song told me. The second part of it is more scary. It is one thing for Santa to know what I am doing, it is another thing entirely for him to be a judge of the nature of my actions. The only way he could comprehensively know all the bad or good I am doing is if he not only can see what I do with my body, but he can read my thoughts and heart’s intentions as well. This assumes a ton about Santa. As a Christian, if there is no God, there is no right or wrong. Each person can create whatever right or wrong works for them. We are just the material world, chemicals fizzing like a soda can responding to our environment mechanically. So either Santa is God’s helper in delivering these gifts and keeping track of the acts of kids, or Santa makes up what is good or evil himself, and somehow, that agrees with a kid’s definition of what is good or evil.
The third section of this song is arguably the worst. The motivation for kids, especially the last quarter of the year, ought not to be good, for goodness sake. That is a weak and unworthy cause. People cannot be good for idea’s sake, society’s sake, or for the universe’s sake. They can only be good for themselves/their fellow man (Horizontal motive), or they can be good for the sake of God (vertical motive). This is where the idolatry really gets hairy. For months, kids are pointed to this very strict lawgiver that has no forgiveness or mercy, just exact gifting's for acts based on his arbitrary standards of good or evil, and in actuality, it is based on what the parent happens to observe in actuality. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, God calls us to “Do all things for the glory of God. Whether you eat, drink, or wherever you do.” Paul also says it like this in Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. (Santa)” and one more, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings (Santa) or of God? Or am I trying to please people (Santa)? If I were still trying to please people (Santa), I would not be a servant of Christ,” (Gal. 1:10)
Throughout much of the Old and New Testament, we see text after text, saying that the parents are to lead their kids in the truth about who God is. The main people who God has given the responsibility to train their children are parents. How are you giving them a person or human with God-like powers as a competition to God? Is that not making them worship a superhuman instead of pointing them to the God who does actually know everything because he is omniscient (all-knowing) and Omnipresent (Every place in the universe and outside of it if that is possible). A more inquisitive child can easily push back on this fictional person. “Hey, Mommy, in Sunday school, we learned about how Jesus knew what was in the hearts of the Jewish leaders. How does Santa know when I am bad or good? Is he God, too?” Or they could ask, “Hey, Daddy, if Santa is a man, how did he get the superpower of seeing what I am doing all the time, and how does he see all the kids of the world's whereabouts?” Or one last one, “Mommy, I was thinking about that song about Santa, what does it mean to be good for goodness sake? I thought you told us that we are Christians, so does that mean we do everything for God’s sake?” Questions like these are potentially there under the surface, but many kids won't ask because they trust their parents, and there is a potential for them to get a bunch of stuff guaranteed. This brings me to my second reason for trashing Santa.
The underlying theology that Santa Claus is based on is the legalistic prosperity gospel (aka if you do good, you are guaranteed to be rewarded in accords by the higher power in this life as if it is just this formula.
Grounded on Prosperity Gospel
A belief among some Christians that God rewards those who live faithful lives with material wealth (and health):
The normal way that the prosperity gospel is portrayed in the church or might I say the false church is that people give money in faith to these people on TV and God sees that and blesses them with health and wealth. It is a business exchange between God and man, and the middleman is these TV scammers. The lore of Santa does not take money in exchange for gifts; instead, he takes “good deeds.” The key overlap is:
Formulaic exchange (do this, and you are guaranteed to get that)
For good acts, you get good things.
If you do not do good, you do not get good things.
So not only is Santa competing with God for the spot of deity, he is doing it in such a way that he is representing a false formulaic god that does not exist. The god of prosperity gospel is made up. Thus, it is a lie based on another lie. It would be a bit more redeemable if it was based on the biblical God and was competing with it like the golden calf, but it totally messes up that. Once the holiday season is over, and parents go back to actually teaching their kids about God, the lens of seeing God through the Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.), the lens will not go away.
When talking to some friends about this subject, they claimed that their kids were not harmed by believing in Santa for years. They did not think of the mass indoctrination that it can be on to God. Often, kids will think of God in this way for years, and some of them will never break thinking about God in this way. Thus, the lore of Santa becomes false teaching all unto itself, and unfortunately, the adult (normally a parent) becomes the false teacher, misleading their children in their Theology Proper (Theology of who God is). God is a person who is complex. In the Bible, sometimes we see him testing people as to whether they were righteous or evil. Other times, we see God blessing evil men with wealth like Solomon. How God decides to orient each person's life is secret and mysterious; thus, it is unique to each person. That is somewhat scary to think about the fact that God has our own life planned out, but the good news for us and our kids is that if we love Him, He will work out all things for our good. (Rom. 8:28) The key distinction is that our imagination of what is good: health, wealth, and power is not necessarily what He plans as our good. God is not an impersonal formulaic God, He has a master plan for His own glory that He accomplishes through each person, whether to glorify His mercy or wrath (see Rom. 9)
3. Telling children that something is true for years, even though you and all adults know it does not undermines one's authority/trustworthiness and undermines the trustworthiness of all adults.
This example is a very practical one. Even though it is practical, it has long-term implications. One could talk about other fake things like the Easter Bunny that we pretend is real and the tooth fairy. All these “fake truths” confuse children. They are very gullible and dependent on adults, especially before they can read for themselves. They are not free to read and learn for themselves like adults are. (I think of them being like an illiterate people in the medieval times, dependent on the literate priest interpretation of the Latin Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible at the time) Where this hurts the most is that by the time they become pre-teens or teenagers, they might want to question your trustworthiness about spiritual things. They might think that you as a parent cannot be trusted; thus, they will learn from their teachers, peers, Google, and YouTube instead of the people God has called to teach them, namely their parents. For example, if you teach them that Jesus was the Son of God and lived a perfect life, they might think that you are just telling them a “fake truth” again to hold them to your set of moral standards. Their logic might be, when I was little, Santa made sense to me, but now that I am older, I have a little more complex “fake truth” that seems more plausible. There is already enough things trying to lead our kids astray; we do not need to add to it.
Teaching children is sinful because it goes against our call as Christian parents to train them up in the way of righteousness. Santa Claus is a false god, based on a false gospel, that leads children to trust adults less. Instead of teaching them the lie, teach them the truth about Saint Nick. Tell them that he was a generous man. When you as parents give them gifts, it is a Christian act of a loving God. You are showing them that giving out your own money to others is God honoring and shows how God is a giving God who is generous to us. Stop allowing Santa to steal from the glory of God.
Tim Bankes II
Tim is a Christian author. His worldview that informs his writing is Calvinist, Baptist, and Libertarian. His main series is his Christian picture book series, "About God for Kids", where he discusses the attributes of God in a way kids can digest. He also wrote a Christian Romance novel, libertarian book for beginners, and Christian coloring books. He graduated with a Bachelor's in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He has written a book on freedom called “Are You Free” (If you are into listening to books I have it in audio also, Are You Free Audiobook )and he has written multiple children’s books about God. Be Sure to check out the podcast version of the blog, Labor for Truth Podcast. And check out “The Truth About” Youtube Channel. You can find his works at his amazon author page, https://amazon.com/author/timbankes. He even has a free digital ebook on how God is the creator. Get your free copy today at, Greater Creator .Also If you are into Christian Fiction, he has made his first book in his Futuristic Christian Fiction series free, Her Dying Wish