In Ricky Gervais’s brilliant film “The Invention of Lying”, the central character is able to accrue both fortune and reputation from his ability to fabricate truth in a world unfamiliar with the concept of lying it is immoral, hollow and ultimately not enough.
CS Lewis in Miracles refers to lies as “the only defensive weapon of the child”, pointing out that “parents and schoolmasters so often tell us they can stand any vice rather than lying”. In reality, lying is the only defense of the vulnerable, or to remove the positive spin, it is the final defense of the guilty (as many a public figure has discovered).
The bible seems pretty clear on this, Proverbs 6:16-19 lists, “six things God hates” one of which is “a lying tongue”.
Lying is a powerful vice that presents untruths as truth, attacks coherence by breeding confusion and destroys closeness by attacking trust.
What the hell is the story with Father Christmas then?
In going along with this christmas tradition we are routinely and pre-meditatively engaging in a complex and elaborate and endemic lie and through perpetuating it…
- We are happy to model behaviour to our children that we actively discourage in our children;
- we risk confusing them by presenting them with one view of the world before fundamentally undermining that view;
- we risk our intimacy and influence with our children by adversely harming their trust in us.
For some reason these issues, serious ones in most contexts, are not considered important in this one context.
In that same passage in Miracles, CS Lewis reasons that it is the “Rational and moral element in each human” that gives us evidence of the supernatural in our world; evidence of God’s hand at work. That there is more to our world than just the order of “nature” seems undeniable to me as a Christian,
Yet the Father Christmas lie presents as true a supernatural figure who flies round the world, climbs down chimneys and gives presents to every living child (who has been good) all in one single night. in stockings and presents we also provide physical evidence to support that lie.
In teaching our children about the nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we also present a supernatural figure; who knows all, sees all, is all powerful and is everywhere. But this time much of the evidence is spiritual and its physical form is less concrete and the source of which more open to debate.
Is there not a danger that in perpetrating a clear lie and providing evidence that seems tangible, we are irreparably damaging our children’s paradigms of the supernatural. When they discover the lie, how are we encouraging them to vandalize their understanding and perception of God?
in an age where morals and truth is relativized and yet where people are seeking concrete certainties ever harder, the lie gains apace through commercialism.
I’m not completely sure of the origins of the Father Christmas concept, I may be wrong in assuming it to be some syncretistic blend of European Pagan and Neo-christian traditions. Nor am I keen for my children to be the ones responsible for spoiling the ‘magic’ of the stocking for all the rest of their peers.
However, it does not sit well with me. How about you?