A little while back I posted The Bad Little Bunny: An Easter Tale, where I made my teacher hopping mad at my refusal to go along with the conventional wisdom. (Another Chattanoogan, Jon Meacham, got accused of putting a bullet in the Easter bunny, so maybe my incident needs some re-evalulation.) Evidently there’s something about this place and bunnies that doesn’t work.
Growing up in Chattanooga was cut short by something else that didn’t work: my health, brought down by endless allergies and childhood diseases. Before we left for Palm Beach–with its own challenges–I managed to send another childhood dream to the bottom, a bubble that most American parents have to burst sooner or later.
I deconstructed Santa Claus.
Let me stipulate here that, IMHO, there were few places better for a kid to live in a fantasy world than Lookout Mountain, TN/GA. For one thing the place is seriously elevated and isolated from the rest of the community; that elevation difference is more formidable in its own way than Lake Worth was for Palm Beach. On the Georgia end it gets worse: we have the Fairyland subdivision complete with Red Riding Hood Trail and Cinderella Road, Fairlyand School, the Fairyland Club, and the place that gave it its fantasy character, Rock City, full of gnomes and dwarves as the mines of Moria before the balrog showed up.
In spite of this, somewhere around the time I was seven I reached a critical moment. I’m not sure what led up to this. I suspect that my abiding interest in geography triggered my questions. The whole business of Santa mounting a sleigh pulled by reindeer and delivering presents to millions of children across several continents in one evening probably triggered a moment of cognitive dissonance, or, as my father used to say, “I’ve got a no-fit going here.”
One day, while making the long trip from the mountain to my paediatrician on the far side of Missionary Ridge, I must have unloaded all of this on my mother. While passing the National Cemetery (where my in-laws await the resurrection) she finally broke down and admitted the truth: there was no Santa Claus. However, Southerner she was, and she made this revelation with one condition: that I wouldn’t tell other children for fear of upsetting them. The solicitousness for not directly offending others is a hallmark of this culture that has, unfortunately, spread to the society in general.
But I was happy. As long as the presents showed up at their appointed time, I was good with this situation. Such belief probably wasn’t going to stick around much longer because, when we moved to South Florida, the whole idea of someone coming down the chimney was pretty stupid.
Today we have hordes of “exvangelicals” who are “deconstructing” their faith. To be honest I’ve been a part of the Pentecostal/Evangelical world long enough to understand that most of these people don’t have the intellectual mindset to deconstruct much of anything. They’re led by a vanguard of M.Div.’s, D.Min.’s and the occasional PhD, and most of them don’t have the mindset to deconstruct anything either. But all of these people have been led to believe in a Santa Claus, and that they too have a “no-fit going here.”
That “Santa Claus” is the belief that you can be a serious Christian and expect all of the things the world has to offer come your way at the same time. That speaks to the topic of renunciation that I’ve discussed in the past, but it also includes things like The Sad Lessons of Carrie Prejean. Any serious reading of the New Testament would have let the cat out of the bag, but this is the same mentality that led to Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology: insist that it’s literally true until we get to the important part, then say it isn’t.
What’s happened is that our culture has reached the point where it refuses to accept people who are serious Christians in general and who hold to the Christian sexual ethic in particular. The reality of that has sunk in, and now the careerists are in a state of panic. What do we do to fix this problem? That depends on what you think the problem is. For those who think the problem is moving up, you deconstruct what you know to be true in order to construct a reality that is suitable for the outside world. Given that same outside world is really good at keeping the goalposts moving, that’s not a good strategy.
If you think the problem is coming into an eternity with God, you stick with the truth and take the consequences as they come. But we have a generation of Evangelicals which has been drilled on the importance of “engaging the culture” and making it in this life. It’s too late for that accommodation. The balrog has showed up, and Gandalf is telling us to flee.