Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Subordinate Clauses

Well, it's only a couple of weeks out from Christmas, so I expect a lot of you are excitedly trimming trees and buying presents for friends and family and listening to Christmas music.  Despite being an atheist, I love this holiday.  I think a nicely-decorated Christmas tree is lovely; we'd have a tree this year if I could get out of my own way long enough to go get one (which, with luck, will happen this weekend).  Plus, I really enjoy giving presents to friends, so having an excuse to get stuff for people I care about is awesome.

I even like most Christmas music, especially the older carols.  For example, I grew up singing the lovely French carol "Il Est NĂ©, Le Divine Enfant" and still feel nostalgic every time I hear it, and I think that "O Holy Night" and "Angels We Have Heard On High" are absolutely gorgeous.

Some of the newer ones, on the other hand, bring "annoying" to new heights.  For instance, I doubt there's been a more banal set of lyrics ever written than "Little tin horns and little toy drums, rooty-toot-toot and rummy-tum-tum."  And my considered opinion is that whoever wrote "Let It Snow" should be pitched, bare-ass naked, headfirst into a snow drift.

Still and all, I like this holiday and a lot of its traditions.  Which is why I was alarmed to find out that Santa, the Jolly Old Elf, is actually...

... Satan.

Or at least, so says James L. Melton, of the Bible Baptist Church of Sharon, Tennessee.  Melton is virulently against Santa, and not just because of the usual "put Christ back into Christmas" stuff you hear, exhorting Christians to focus more on the religious traditions than the secular ones.  No, Melton thinks it's worse than that.  He says that Santa is literally Satan, and that you shouldn't put out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve, you should put out devil's-food cake.

[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

What are his arguments, you may ask?  I was thinking of just giving a summarized list, but some of his reasoning (if I can dignify it by that name) needs to be seen in the original.  So here are a few examples.
Tradition holds that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, a place ABOVE the rest of us.  
"Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King." (Psa. 48:2)
I don't think Psalm 48 was referring to the North Pole, but what do I know?  I'm no biblical scholar, of course.  Maybe the bears that god sent to the Prophet Elisha to eat the children who had teased him for being bald were polar bears, I dunno.
Santa wears a red furry suit.  
"And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God." (Rev. 19:13)
Well, there were lots of guys on Star Trek who wore red, and as I recall, they weren't all-powerful.  In fact, nearly every episode, several Red Shirts ended up dying in nasty ways.
Children are taught that Santa "knows when you've been good, and he knows when you've been bad".  
"The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." (Pro. 15:3) "And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?" (Mat. 9:4) 
Is it just me, or is the idea of an omniscient being spying on you at all times a little... creepy?  I don't care whether it's Santa or Jesus, I'd rather not have someone watching me in the bathroom.
Santa has the ability to defy the laws of gravity and fly around giving gifts to people.  
"But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." (Eph. 4:7-8) 
So, what are you saying, Reverend Melton?  That if I'm good this year, Jesus will bring me a Little Tin Horn and a Little Toy Drum?

There are plenty of others, including Santa's elves being evil spirits, and Santa and Jesus both having white hair.

Then he ends by saying that because Santa is sometimes called "Saint Nick," and an old slang for the devil is "Old Nick," that proves it.  And that was when this linguistics geek sat up and said, "Hey now.  You've left the realm of goofy pseudo-theology and started to mess with false etymology. Them's fightin' words."  Because I happen to know that "Old Nick" is the devil because the German word for demon is nickel (yes, it's a cognate to the name of the metal, which was called kupfernickel, or "copper demon," because its ore looked like copper ore but it didn't produce any copper).  "Saint Nick," on the other hand, comes from the name Nicholas, which means "victory of the people" (from the Greek nike, victory + laos, people).

Of course, Reverend Melton would still think the similarity was significant.  He even says that it's no coincidence that "Santa" and "Satan" are spelled from the same letters, something that was pointed out twenty years ago by the "Church Lady" on Saturday Night Live.

So we're not talking about someone who's rational, here. If you look at other things Melton's written about, you find out on his home page that he's also against Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and rednecks, that he's all for capital punishment, and he thinks kids need to be spanked regularly.

He also said that he doesn't believe in evolution, which is no great shocker.  He says that you can't use biochemistry to support evolution, because biochemistry is "where scientists mix genes and chromosomes in their effort to prove relation between man and animal."

So it's not like Melton has that firm a grasp on reality.

And I doubt whether his message is going to have much impact.  Too many people like Christmas and get into the traditions, whether they approach it from a religious or a secular stance.  I'm thinking that very few of us are going to give up giving holiday gifts because "Santa is a COUNTERFEIT GOD" (the stuck caps lock courtesy of Reverend Melton).

As for me, I hope to get my tree up this weekend.  I've also gotta get cracking with getting gifts for people.  I might even play some Christmas music today.  Time to get ready, 'cuz Satan Claus is comin' to town.

Um.  Santa Claus.  My bad.


1 comment:

  1. If only the put Christ back in Christmas people would put Christ back in the rest of the year too. We'd have the hunger, homelessness, violence, and inequality problems licked in no time.