Santa vs. Jesus

Author David Frum recently published an analysis of the two big figures in Christmas: Jesus, and Santa Claus. Despite being someone who routinely celebrates Christmas but doesn’t believe in either character, I have to admit, I found it fascinating.

Surprisingly, it turns out that Santa is kind of a dick.

Obviously, Jesus is well known for preaching forgiveness, turning the other cheek, etc. But as Frum points out in his article “Santa vs. Jesus” if you look closer into the Santa Claus mythology, the so-called jolly ol’ elf is a lot more grim than the Christmas birthday boy.

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He’s making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

While Santa is checking his list twice for naughty children to be denied gifts, Jesus rebuked a disciple who asked if he really was expected to forgive an offending brother over and over again.

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Santa brings gifts and presents to the good, and denies them to the bad. Jesus on the other hand is not nearly so certain about who is good.

The author goes on to discuss the famous “let he who is without sin throw the first stone” story from the Bible, as an example of the sort of forgiveness and compassion that Santa Claus is not necessarily known for.

In addition, there’s an interesting disconnect in how we view Santa’s attitudes toward children and Jesus’s.

Santa, we are told, is actively hostile to the pouting and crying of small children. In fact, if they want any gifts, they had better not pout or cry at all. Jesus by contrast thinks it’s better to have a millstone tied around your neck and to be drowned in the sea than to make a child suffer.

Now, friends and longtime readers know that I’m not a Christian, and I don’t put a lot of stock in most of what the bible says… But in retrospect, it does strike me as odd that Santa is viewed as this cheerful rosy-cheeked child-friendly character, while Jesus is used as a boogeyman by a surprisingly large portion of his followers to scare people into obedient submission.

But at least Santa gives us stuff wrapped in shiny paper and ribbons every year, right?

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