Is Santa Claus a whimsical concept that brings kids joy -- or a holiday thorn with the power to harm children’s faith in Jesus Christ?
Dr. Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, says Santa actually "hurts Christmas" and that he's a counterproductive force both theologically and socially.
While not everyone celebrates the religious tenets of the holiday, it’s safe to say that there would be no Christmas without Jesus, whose birth is the centerpiece of the celebration. But with commercial and pop culture interests often driving the conversation, Santa Claus is also a major holiday fixture -- one that millions of children embrace.
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Moss, who recently wrote about Santa’s damaging impact for the Daily Beast in a post titled, “How Santa Hurts Christmas,” said the myth of good 'ol St. Nick simply “doesn’t work.”
By lying about Santa, Moss said parents are doing a disservice to their children, specifically when it comes to their Christian faith.
[sharequote align="center"]"When they find out Santa isn’t real, there’s a risk they think of Jesus in the same way."[/sharequote]
“After spending years deceiving our children about the jolly man who brings presents, can we really say ‘Gee you got us, but that part about the virgin giving birth to a child? Now that’s the real deal?’" she wrote. “We’re hardly building trust here. We’re catfishing our children."
Moss is concerned that Santa and Jesus are lumped together and said learning that Kris Kringle isn't real will cause kids to assume Jesus is also a fabrication.
“The reason why Christian parents should be especially concerned about Santa is that he is so closely linked to Christmas and the birth of Jesus,” Moss told TheBlaze in an email. “Children see them as part of the same package. When they find out Santa isn’t real, there’s a risk they think of Jesus in the same way.”
Aside from the fact that she believes Santa has the ability to hamper one’s faith in Jesus, Moss also said that there are some socioeconomic disparities that kids quickly notice.
“Any 5-year-old can see that rich naughty children are pulling down more than their fair share of the gifts,” she said. “That’s if less affluent families can afford the luxury of purchasing gifts from a figment of the cultural imagination.”
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She continued, “When petulant rich kids get more presents than poorer angelic ones, it sends mixed messages. The historical St. Nicholas is said to have given money anonymously to poor children. The commercial Santa brings laptops to rich kids. What’s the lesson we’re teaching our children? Life’s not fair? The rules are different for rich people? Better learn the harsh realities of life early.”
For those parents who do choose to tell their children about Santa, Moss said that they should take some pointed steps.
“Christian parents want to be careful to distinguish between the Jesus story and the Santa myth in some concrete ways,” she told TheBlaze. “Christmas can still be magical without telling lies.”
What do you think? Should parents tell their kids that Santa is real?
Read Moss’ entire Santa critique here.