There are some things that it is difficult to face up to on your own. Boring Hollywood movies is one of thing, along with extreme violence, fake news and movies that compromise the innocence of children with adult themes. So, there I was, last Saturday evening, sitting in front of the television, alone except for my customary glass of wine, searching vainly through the TV guide for something worth watching.
I poured another glass and settled into my favourite chair, eyes slowly reading the printed word while trying not to absorb the promos for extreme violence, man raging against the machine, man raging against impossible odds and other men. So I started surfing the channels trusting in my ability to leave the wave of computer animated characters who look more alien than real whenever I liked, only to be confronted by tales of corruption, decadence and fake news on Your ABC. There was a time when the entertainment value of television was so bad, you would still hang around just to watch the test pattern on Channel 2. At least it wasn’t woke even if it was black & white biased.
Suddenly, I was awake. I put down the newspaper and the wine glass (it was already empty). I moved the bottle out of the way and the poof where my feet might rest in peace. Now I was comfortable. I refilled the glass. I had stumbled across the ultimate, feel-good Christmas story of Tim Allen and The Santa Clause. For the tenth or eleventh time, I would be able to watch Tim Allen deal with the forces of unbelief.
We in Australia, just like the United States are surrounded by unbelief. There have always been unbelievers but it is only now, that it has been the basis of so many university courses. The atheists and their experts in the academy tell us there is no such thing as Santa Claus; that there is no need for a pagan ritual celebrating the birth of a boy-child.
Haven’t you heard? God is dead. Enjoy the festive season and hope that there is a real increase in this year’s retail sales. Forget that story about the gifts brought to a child born in a stable; humble beginnings, shepherds abiding, angels adoring, wise persons. Don’t forget the post-Christmas sales. Ho! Ho! Ho!
The lesson of the Christmas story, like the lessons of the beginning in Genesis and the Promised Land teach a benevolent Divinity who gave mankind a perfect beginning. Man’s fall from perfection is not the end but the beginning of his own search for the best way of life that secures his happiness.
Tim Allen becomes Santa. But he struggles against the unbelief of almost everyone in that movie, friends, family, neighbours, everyone except his son and the other children (oh, and the elves at the North Pole – it is a movie). No adult believes that he is Santa. But then they don’t believe in anything that makes the lives of others happy. He has to show them the benefit to them of giving to others, to those who will appreciate it the most.
When you give the Santa tale some thought, you realise that it demands that once a year, you teach your children the happiness that sharing brings. That is charity and while it does begin at home it spreads as far as you want it to. That act of charity is a redeeming act, redeeming for the adults and for the children; and the instructions for it were written in a stable about twenty-one centuries ago. But you have to believe that it had a deliberate purpose which was to make people’s lives better, and not just some chance historical event that seems cute in retrospect.
Without that belief, the reason for society is the crudest form of self-interest which might not be true but is nonetheless poisonous. It may be more ‘woke’ – it definitely is more ‘woke’ – to be cynical; but without a belief in the inherent reasonableness of mankind and the societies to which he is naturally suited, such a woke view is poisonous.
Despite the violence, the lies and deceit of some, without a belief in mankind’s inherently natural preference for virtue over vice and the reality of Divine assistance to achieve that end, there will be a loss of confidence in the future and an increasing willingness to do what it takes to survive.
Tim Allen’s movie actually proved, not only that Santa can exist in all of us, but that with a well-grounded belief in the purpose of Christmas, we can make a lot of people very happy if only for one day of the year. But then we can try to do better on every other day. I know there have been sequels to that original movie. To tell the truth, I have never felt the need to watch them, the original was so good.
Many years ago I attended a conference at Melbourne University. The old buildings are the most impressive aspect of that place. Nature, however, obliged my to visit a restroom and on the inside of the cubicle door someone had written: “God is Dead: (signed Nietzsche).”
Underneath, someone else had written: “Nietzsche is Dead (signed God)” All too true.
Have a happy and holy Christmas.
David Long is a retired solicitor, economist and PhD candidate at Griffith University, School of Law.
Illustration: Walt Disney Pictures/Hollywood Pictures/Outlaw Productions.
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