A year ago I published “Tales of Tiberius, the Christmas Adventures,” Featuring a novella “The Secret of Santa Claus.” In it a fictional psychologist argues passionately against the ‘lie’ of Father Christmas, trying to be helpful to children. I wish I could say that I was surprised when, a year later, I ran into a newspaper article in the Telegraph making exactly the same argument. The real psychologists could have been quoting from my fictional lecture.
Here are some excerpts from the fictional Edward Johnson.:
“I want to say in conclusion how vitally important it is at this time of year to keep children grounded in reality. I’m pleased to say that we are making progress keeping nonsensical religious displays off of public property. None the less, many people at this time of year insist on filling children’s heads with nonsense.”
“…the story of Santa Claus is nothing but nonsense. The sooner they stop believing in Santa Claus, God, the tooth fairy, and,” he paused frowning at the front row, “most especially elves, the better. Scientific thinking is the only path to truth. The sooner they accept that the better off they will be. They will be better children for it and you will be better parents.”
Here are some comments from the actual articles highlighted in the recent Telegraph article:
Writing in the respected journal The Lancet Psychiatry, they argue: “If they (parents) are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?”
Defending the claims, Prof Boyle, from the University of Exeter, said: “The morality of making children believe in such myths has to be questioned.
“All children will eventually find out they’ve been consistently lied to for years, and this might make them wonder what other lies they’ve been told.
“Whether it’s right to make children believe in Father Christmas is an interesting question, and it’s also interesting to ask whether lying in this way will affect children in ways that have not been considered.”
Is there really any difference here?
Where these professors go wrong is in assuming that Santa Claus is a lie and once that lie is discovered, the children will be left with nothing. The novella “The Secret of Santa Claus” makes it clear that nearly the opposite is the case. The Secret of Santa Claus is that the truth is greater than the story, not smaller. Santa Claus is a model not a lie. When we tell our children that Santa Claus brings them toys on Christmas day we are making the complex simple for young minds. After all, what child under five would really prefer eternal life and an end to suffering and disease, than a toy? But someday they will be old enough to understand the truth and on that they, our children should be overjoyed with happiness, not disappointed. The true story of Christmas is, as John 3:16 puts it, that God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. What has happened is far greater and more wonderful than any toy could ever be.
It’s hard to say in a sound bite what you’ve spend years working to explain in an carefully crafted novella. I hope if you are reading this you’ll pick up a copy of Tales of Tiberius the Christmas Adventures and get the rest of the story.