There is a new movie out about a “Bad Santa.” Is there any other kind? Generations have grown up under the spell of the “Good Santa.” We were told “Santa Claus is coming to town.” We heard it from the highest authority; we were told he was real (wink and a nod). We saw him everywhere, in stores, in soft drink advertisements, and on billboards. He has bored his way into the Western sub-conscious like a virus infecting the cranial hard drives of three generations. (The Santa America has come to know and love is not eternal- but was born less than a hundred years ago in a marketing gimmick to sell post cards and has grown into a multibillion dollar business.) The Apostle Paul found out the hard way on several occasions, talk about religion all you want, but don’t mess with the idol business. But isn’t it all just innocent fun? Demonizing Santa is like humanizing the Virgin Mary, both make people angry. We need only count the candy canes in our Churches this Christmas to see how far we have wandered from the manger. Except for the cavities they cause, I guess there is nothing wrong with candy canes.
The drunken Santa in “Bad Santa” is closer to the truth, I am afraid. We would rather imagine ourselves in a Norman Rockwell painting (I too love Norman Rockwell), than in the dysfunctional real one most endure. (If your life is a Rockwell work of art, then pardon me- but for most, the Holidays are as much pain as it is presents). Bad Santa is a depraved human being dressed in an obligatory red suit of modern mythology. If Christmas were cancelled (and if Osama has his way, it will be) the Western world would collapse into another great depression. I don’t want to be blamed for that! Forty percent of retail business is generated between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many stores would go bankrupt without Christmas.
This sounds so Scrooge-like it is annoying, but that is what prophets are supposed to do. Preachers are not supposed to tell everyone what they like to hear, but then, no one pays a prophet. They made their generation uncomfortable with being comfortable with the world. I don’t want to sound like a Jehovah’s Witness, but the sorry spiritual condition of Christianity is never so apparent than it is at Christmas.
To shield the children’s eyes from watching “Bad Santa,” stagger across the parking lot is a natural protecting reflex of a caring parent. However, there is no such thing as a “Good Santa.” Exposing Santa as Satan’s assistant is a thankless job. Puck has been outdone. Shakespeare could not have imagined a whole civilization looking so silly and falling in love with an illusion. Most will awaken from the enchantment sometime in January when the first credit card statement arrives. Bad Santa!