Don’t fear the Christmas

Sunday Star-Times - - News - Jonathan Milne edi­[email protected]

We took our three boys to visit Santa at Smith & Caughey’s. Else­where, Mr Claus has to set­tle for a grotto, but at the his­toric depart­ment store he gets a whole en­chanted for­est of 300 green-and-white tin­selled conifers. No won­der he was in ruddy good hu­mour.

Not so my old­est son. Last year, he scowled at Santa, con­vinced he was a ring-in for the real Fa­ther Christmas who was prob­a­bly neck-deep in lo­gis­tics spread­sheets and ar­gu­ments with sup­pli­ers in his fish­bowl of­fice over­look­ing the con­crete-lined ware­house be­neath the North Pole.

This year, de­spite be­ing warned to be on his best be­hav­iour, the 8-year-old re­fused eye con­tact, iden­ti­fy­ing him­self only as ‘‘M’’. He knows once a big re­tailer gets your name and email ad­dress, it’s all over.

He’s not alone in his scep­ti­cism. An Auck­land 7-yearold got a tick­ing off from his teacher, after sug­gest­ing Christmas presents came from mum and dad, not Santa.

Kather­ine Hogg says her son was sim­i­larly doubt­ful about Mary and Joseph. He didn’t want to join this week’s na­tiv­ity play be­cause he didn’t be­lieve in God. So she kept him home. Cue out­rage: ‘‘PC go­ing mad,’’ says one Catholic prin­ci­pal.

But it’s not po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. It’s fear. Fear of be­liefs, ideas, ide­ol­ogy.

Be­liefs are pow­er­ful. But what is dan­ger­ous is how peo­ple act on those be­liefs – as with any form of fun­da­men­tal­ism.

Atroc­i­ties have been com­mit­ted in the name of Je­sus Christ and Al­lah. But so too, geno­cides have been com­mit­ted un­der ban­ners of sec­u­lar­ism, like Mao’s Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion and Pol Pot’s killing fields.

Hu­man­ity’s worst out­rages have not been about the ex­pres­sion of ideas, but about the sup­pres­sion of ideas.

My point? Our ‘‘sec­u­lar’’ schools must teach chil­dren about Je­sus. They must teach them about Bud­dha. They must teach about Rangi and Papa. And they must teach about the of­ten fiery athe­ism of Richard Dawkins and other hu­man­ists.

So if our kids are to cel­e­brate Christmas, we should ex­plain it to them. Oh, and there’s an­other thing we should ex­plain.

M’s grumpy scep­ti­cism at meet­ing Fa­ther Christmas? Kids, about Santa, there’s some­thing you need to know . . .

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