Let me see if this is as laughable, pathetic, blasphemous, silly, and obnoxious an idea as I thought it was when I first read it.
Talk show star and media entrepreneur Glenn Beck (with whom I share more than a few political views) has announced that he is writing a book and producing a movie called The Immortal — which “turns Santa Claus into the warrior protector of a young Jesus Christ.”
Pardon me while I knock the side of my head a couple of times to make sure I’m reading that correctly.
With the goal of making Christmas more “Christian,” Beck said he came up with the brilliant idea of inserting the ( spoiler alert, kids ) fictional Santa Claus into an actual historical event. And not just any historical event, but the most profoundly sacred event in history — the life of Christ — according to the world’s 2.2 billion Christians. (That’s 1 out of every 3 people on the planet, by the way.)
Beck: “The premise behind it was how can I take a guy, Santa, and completely reshape him and make him into something even more magical than what we already think. How can I tell the story of Santa and place him into the actual first Christmas story without damaging the actual Christmas story?”
“Magical”? No, Glenn, he’s fantasy. Every time you conflate the fictional Santa Claus with the immortal deity Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, you run the risk of giving kids a reason to put them both on the same level of (1) man-made unreality, (2) questionable moral equivalency, and (3) spiritual insignificance. Putting an imaginary elf and the Being Who created the entire universe (John 1:3) on the same plane, in addition to sounding like a blasphemous episode of South Park, is rather like comparing a hydrogen atom to the solar system.
“Tell the story of Santa” by “placing him into the actual first Christmas”? Whose story is important here, Glenn? That of Santa, or Jesus? It is true that there is a legitimate literary form of historical fiction that inserts real historical characters into a fictional setting. The Seven Percent Solution brought Sigmund Freud into the world of Sherlock Holmes, and (to borrow a phrase from Rumpole of the Bailey) it was a “rattling good yarn.”
Therefore I would find at least a small amount of precedent if I wanted to write a novel that explains that Paul’s seizure and blindness on the road to Damascus was in actuality merely a dinner invitation, delivered by thunderbolt, from Zeus. So the next time Paul was in Greece, he joined Zeus, Hera, and all the other Olympians for a feast, and ultimately came to agree with them that it doesn’t matter what religion you follow — they all take you to the same place in the end. What have I accomplished (other than wasting my time) by introducing fiction into a sacred reality? Answer — Not a thing.
And what will Beck’s mishmash of Hollywood action hero, Santa ex machina, childhood fantasy, and fictionalizing of the sacred, in the end, actually accomplish? Very likely the same answer.
Beck justifies his anachronism of placing Santa at the time of the Nativity — even the legend of St. Nicholas, whose name the fictional Santa Claus has filched, only goes back to the 4th century — by saying, in essence, that Santa is Public Domain. He asserts that he’s allowed to change anything he wishes about the character of the jolly fat man, because after all, Clement Moore and Coca-Cola did it. No, Glenn, you are allowed to add anything you wish to the Santa legend because it is total, absolute, 100%, pure fiction — and no one owns a copyright on it.
And here’s the final bit of Beck’s what-the-heck-is-he-talking-about nonsense.
Beck: “It started two years ago when my kids were getting ready for Christmas, and all they could talk about was presents, toys, and Santa and elves. I kept trying to come up with some way to work Christ into it. You know, can we stop with the, you know, fat magic fairy that gives you everything you want for Christmas? Let’s actually talk about what it is.”
Yes, Glenn, why not actually talk about what it is?
And that’s the irony of Beck’s final miscalculation. He says that, as a father, he was frustrated with his children having no referent for Christmas other than Santa and getting presents. So he wanted to get “Christ back into Christmas.” Both of these are laudable goals for people who celebrate December 25 (or January 7). But awkwardly force-fitting Santa into a “warrior protector of the young Jesus Christ”? This solution seems as crazy and doomed to failure as someone who says, “I don’t like lemon in my iced tea, and so…” — rather than just taking the lemon wedge off the lip of the glass and discarding it — “…and so I think I’ll see if I can grow lemons that taste just like iced tea!”
You see, Beck admits that he can’t get past his own dubious lemon-wedge premise: “Santa is an important part of Christmas.”
No, Santa and tinsel and Rudolph and mistletoe and “a tree from the forest decorated with silver and gold” are no more parts of the birth of the Savior of all mankind than bunnies and painted eggs are part of His death and resurrection. Let all these human abstractions and traditions live isolated over there somewhere, and be enjoyed through heartwarming, thankful-to-God celebrations of family gatherings, gift giving, kids, toys, and candy.
It makes no sense, however, to festoon the life of Jesus the Messiah inside any of these trappings — especially if our goal is (as I sincerely believe Beck’s goal is) to teach the children how to worship the true God of the universe, and why it’s important. (Jeremiah 10:2-4, perhaps?)
Glenn, I pray for the quick and complete healing of your debilitating illness — but I suggest it’s time for a major re-think on this Santa thing.