Sunday, December 18, 2011

2011.12.18 Anyone Noticed Santa/God?

The wondrous Christmas figure of Santa Claus as many know was based on the generosity of an early Church Bishop Nicolas of Myra (ca. 342 CE) who gave without condition—and NOT exclusively to those in need, but to all, most especially children.

His behavior was so strange that he became Saint Nicholas aka Santa Claus. He’s all around this time of year.

My grand daughter Phoebe screeched last year at the idea of sitting in the lap of this bearded and red-suited stranger going HO HO HO. But now she’s 3 and very sophisticated. She was silenced into awe when a Santa squeezed her shoulder. Told it to anyone who would listen.

Now that’s just how the ancients felt about God and Christ through their spiritual experiences. They told it all over, spreading the good news: He touched me. He touched me.

There’s a BUT to this joy, and that is that many faithful people have projected onto God the same conditional perspective we put into our ideas about Santa: IF you’re nice you get a gift BUT IF you’re naughty you get coal, or nothing. AND of course both MEN are omniscient so they know. Spooky dooky!

Do you think kids believe that threat? Probably not or no one would ever give Santa or God a chance, because they both always comes through with something without needing to be bribed by goodness.

So why, in heaven’s name literally, do some Christians have so darn much trouble adjusting their theology to allow for the central value of their faith, which is unconditional love or grace through forgiveness? Repentance isn’t, in my unhumble opinion, required. Rather it’s a byproduct.

That’s the free grace of divine nature. We may not know it or care about it. We may not be able to be that way ourselves. And we may not be able to receive such unconditional grace. Does that make it unreal?

Hell, if God is any old benign conditional parent in the sky, then I’m an a-theist.

PS An old friend who couldn’t resist just sent us some cocktail napkins with a cartoon on them depicting a mother with a small girl in a line waiting to give Santa this year’s demands, read transactional grace. The caption reads: “You should go and talk to Santa, dear, even though you feel he screwed you last year.”