Friday, December 15, 2006

Theological Confusion and Elvis Presley

I know, I know! You read the title and said to yourself "Whaaa? Elvis has never lead me astray theologically? Why, he's well known as one of the great explicators of the New Testament, and stands with such philosophical giants as Saint Augustine and Dietrich Bonhoffer!"

To which I say "yes, but have you listened to this song?"

That's right: Here Comes Santa Claus, as sung by Elvis on my Christmas iMix, is theologically suspect!

See, I was wrapping Christmas gifts, while listening to such purveyors of the hymns of the season as Brian Setzer Orchestra, and BNL, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Wrapping presents is a bit of a production for me. I have an obsessive love of things that sparkle and shine, and wrapping is an opportunity for me to go mad with glitter and bright ribbons and little ornaments tied festively to the packages.

But even amidst my sparkly delirium, the lyrics of this tune pierced through the glitter and forced me to listen. Here they are:

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus Lane
Vixen and Blitzen and all his reindeer
Pullin' on the reins
Bells are ringin', children singin'
All is merry and bright
Hang your stockings and say your prayers
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He's got a bag that's filled with toys
For boys and girls again
Hear those sleigh bells jingle jangle,
Oh what a beautiful sight
So jump in bed and cover your head
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He doesn't care if you're rich or poor
He loves you just the same
Santa Claus knows we're all God's children
That makes everything right
So fill your hearts with Christmas cheer
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He'll come around when the chimes ring out
That it's Christmas morn again
Peace on earth will come to all
If we just follow the light
So let's give thanks to the lord above
That Santa Claus comes tonight!

Now, the first two verses are just fine. Standard stuff for the season: Santa won't come until you are asleep sort of lyrics. But then, in the third verse, we get this incongruity:

He doesn't care if you're rich or poor,
He loves you just the same.
Santa Claus knows we're all God's children....

Now, sure as anything, there are obvious problems here. If we are all God's children, and Santa loves us all the same, how come some kids get iPods and PlayStations and skis for Christmas, and some kids get sensible clothing, huh? I mean, any kid knows that there are significant disparities in gifts received across socio-economic lines. Even if they don't say it quite like that.

Plus, in equating Santa's gift giving with the acknowledgement that "we're all God's children," Elvis has squarely raised the question of why does an all-powerful, all-loving God give some kids underwear for Christmas? Are Santa's gifts a measure of how much we are loved by God? And what about the Jews?

Equally disturbing is the final couplet of the last verse: "Let's give thanks to the lord above/That Santa Claus comes tonight." Apparently positing that Santa's activities are, directly attributable to the [L]ord above, thus conflating Santa Claus and Jesus, who having been born in a desert community was not known to wear a red furry suit and black boots.

It's a disturbing juxtaposition of two worlds that, until now, have stayed firmly separate. But putting them together like this is kind of like seeing your seventh grade math teacher at the beach in a bathing suit. It just makes the brain freeze up, and makes the universe seem off balance. It is just wrong, people! Math teachers should stay off beaches, and Santa needs to stay away from the manager scene and nobody gets hurt.

3 comments:

michelle said...

I almost snorted eggnog! Great post.

~moe~ said...

I'm with you! Math teachers: Stay off the beaches! This means you!

But I'm with you on the rest too. I'm okay with Santa, in his place, and Jesus' birth, absolutely, but putting them together...ew.

Toast said...

It's a disturbing juxtaposition of two worlds that, until now, have stayed firmly separate.

Yes. YES! Thank you. I know I'm a year late to this comment thread, but I stumbled across this post by way of researching that horrifying lyric.