Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and Church

I remember the day that I found out he was a figment of some adult’s warped mind. We had gone shopping in the family station wagon and the groceries were piled high in the back. When I was a kid, there was no such requirement as wearing a seat belt, so we were free to frolic around the car uninhibited. In my travels, I came upon a grocery bag bulging with candy.

My brain exploded.

Why would mom buy candy when the Easter Bunny was about to visit our house in a couple of days? What was happening here? If mom bought the candy, why was it necessary for the Easter Bunny to carry such a heavy load of candy around with him? And why would he have to bother coming to my house at all if the candy had already made its way to my Easter basket without him?

There was a conspiracy afoot!

Mom’s answers to my questions seemed vague and evasive, though at age seven or eight, I had no idea what the words vague and evasive meant. Frankly, she just acted weird.

Then came the moment of truth. It just couldn’t be true. Could it? Here comes the all-important question: You mean there is no such thing as the Easter Bunny? “That’s right, there is no Easter Bunny,” she said in a hushed tone, still keeping the deception in place for my younger brother and sister. It was too much. How could such a thing happen? Why were we not told the truth? What right do these people have to deceive us like this? Who is responsible?

I really want there to be an Easter Bunny!

Life was so much nicer when we knew the bunny would come and give us candy every Easter. It was something we could rely upon. It was something everyone knew was right and proper and we were all much better people because we all anticipated the yearly event.

And now all that was ruined. Now, I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny.

But wait, if there is no Easter Bunny, then what about Santa Claus? I made the connection and suddenly the awful truth dawned on me. No bunny – no alien being coming miraculously into our house while we slept and leaving behind all sorts of candy and goodies – therefore, Santa might be in jeopardy as well since he is known for sneaking into houses unseen and leaving even better stuff behind.

Indeed, the unthinkable had happened: There is no Santa Claus.

My mother nodded pensively. I was right! They had lied to us about Santa, too.

There it was: A bold faced lie. The whole red suit deal was a farce. No real jolly mister fat guy sneaking into children’s houses. So, where did the presents come from? Dad? What do you mean you buy the presents and hide them in the attic? Is that why you freaked out at my brother and me when we tried to get into the attic and see what was there?

Christmas would never be the same. Somehow, it had lost its magic. How could we ever enjoy it again? It changed everything. But, I didn’t want it to change. I wanted the organized lie to remain the same. Sometimes even now, I wish that horrible day had never happened. How wonderful it had been to watch sugarplums dance in my head, while wondering how reindeer really know how to fly.

It was indeed a full-blown conspiracy.

Everyone was in on it. Old people patted me on the head and asked, “What did Santa bring you?” My friends all had their own visitations. After all, there was evidence fitting the criteria of a visit from Old Saint Nick. The toys were there. The stockings – empty when we went to bed – were now brimming with goodies. That, in and of itself, was impossible without Santa’s visit. And, of course, the most damning evidence of all: The milk and cookies. Eaten! The milk emptied from the glass! Proof!

For me it had gone from proof to poof! Just like that my world came crashing down. I lived the entire year for this day. How could I go on? Everything I had believed in, participated in, dreamed about – even wrote letters about, to Santa of course – was a fairy tale.

Someone had just made it up.

And it was not just one someone; it was lots of someones. What would we know about Rudolph if Johnny Marks hadn’t written a song about his revelation way back in 1949? And who knew all the sacrosanct details of Santa’s life without the extra-revelatory work of Clement Moore’s work entitled The Night Before Christmas? Until he divulged the true inner workings in 1823, people had worshipped Santa improperly and without revelation. They had not known what we know now; maybe that’s the reason they call it the Dark Ages.

And now, it all comes to naught. We must somehow learn to enjoy Christmas without the sacred focus targeted upon Santa, his elves, and the ever-present flying reindeer. What was Christmas about without Santa? We might as well chuck the whole thing since it has lost what we thought was the true meaning of Christmas. You can say that Jesus is the reason for the season all you want, but we all knew the real truth: Santa was the reason for the season – kid or no kid – we all know it is true. We tolerate all that ‘Jesus’ birthday’ stuff so we can get our presents. After all, if it was my birthday and everyone else got the presents instead of me, I’d be pretty mad. So, we know Santa and his jazz are really it. Right?

You see, even though we all discover there is no Santa, we join right into the myth and keep it going for the next generation. After all, it’s tradition. Do I believe in Santa? No. But I still spend the Christmas season acting as if he were real. It’s like being a recovering alcoholic who doesn’t drink anymore but still acts out all of the actions of a drunk. He would be called a dry drunk. We are all dry-Santa-aholics. We are opposed to him and his deception but we don’t know what else to do during that season so we gladly participate in all of the Santa-isms that ruled us before we found the freedom found in the truth that there is no Santa.

Well, you’d better sit down. This isn’t going to be pretty. I have some news with the potential to shake you right down to your fuzzy little Easter Bunny slippers. And here it is:

There is no such thing as church.

It’s a myth – try not to hurl – and please remain seated until the dizziness dissipates. You will be fine in a moment. I think you need to hear it again: There is no such thing as church.

As much as I was devastated when I found out the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus were just someone’s imagination run wild, the truth about church came as an even more disturbing revelation. As it turns out, what I have believed since childhood about church is as much of an aberration as Rudolph and the elves and the big white beard. Someone made up the whole deal. There is no basis in fact for the farce of Sunday worship services, pastors, sermons or any of the other gory details of church.

I don’t believe in church.

Let me help you back up onto the couch and explain myself. I recommend a cool cloth for the forehead and a stiff shot of, well, non-alcoholic eggnog to help revive yourself as you read.

I don’t believe in church.

Notice something right off: I never said that I don’t believe in the Church. Just that I don’t believe in church. By church I mean this specifically: Any organized, institutionalized, denominationalized, pastor-centric-one-guy-upfront-doing-all-the-talking-ized, building worshiping group of people pretending that the Emperor’s new clothes are truly magnificent. I don’t care whether the church has one pastor who has to work a real job on the outside to paid his bills, or if there are three hundred pastors on staff to meet the needs of the thousands who run in and sit for a couple of hours looking at the show up front. Either way, it is an aberration, an illusion counterfeiting the truth and drying up the very bones of the Saints.

I know that you might disagree; I may be wrong, but I doubt it. There is no such thing as church.

Let me begin this discussion with a disclaimer: I don’t bash Santa and the Easter Bunny, or rather, I am not a grinch who hates all the commercialism of Christmas or Easter. Hey, Jesus’ real birthday is probably in either September or October, and Jesus already rose from the dead, these are true and no red-nosed fat guy is going to put my faith in jeopardy. I love to give great gifts and best of all, I love to rise early on Christmas morn and open all the presents under the tree marked “Timmy.” There, I’ve said it, and we can move on.

Let’s make sure our definitions are in place. The Church is that Body of believers in Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation whose sole intent and purpose is twofold. First, their purpose is to develop relationship with Father, and second, to reproduce themselves for the Kingdom of God. This Body is an organism without formal boundaries and is defined entirely by people. Any building associated with the Church is nothing more than a sheep barn hindering the growth and health of people.

Here is a good way to understand it: If one is the Church then one cannot go to church because one is the Church and when one is the Church one cannot go to, participate in, join, or in any way attend church. When one goes out to dinner with another Church, then the gathering is Church because when more than one Church connect it is Church. But if one relies upon a gathering that must meet under the condition of what has been previously defined as church, the confines of a building and a program structure inhabiting it will serve only to strangle the life out of those who are the Church.

You may argue that everyone who attends church knows they are the Church and the building only assists them in their function. I would assert that whenever the Church confines itself to a building deemed a church, the entire gathering becomes corrupted by the very presence of the church building. Everyone in the Western world understands that church is a building. People go into it, sure, but church is a building and one cannot do “God” without a building. This building-worship has so permeated the mindset of the world that the Church has been robbed of its efficacy and replaced by impotent programs, services, and sermons.

Some have argued that this discussion merely concerns semantics and is just a way to coerce people into still another option for the saints to meet together in Jesus’ name. This is not the purpose at all. I feel like we are living in the most exciting time in history. The Saints are about to see a new thing that will make the hair on our heads (such as it is) stand on end. Father has allowed what we have deemed ‘church’ long enough and He is about to revolutionize it into what He intended all along. This means all we know and understand about church must be destroyed and replaced with something entirely revolutionary.

It strikes fear in the best of us to hear such news, yet, when pressed, most of those bolstering church as is will admit at least two things. First, church doesn’t really work. And second, something is about to happen.

Sitting there like a dumb lump of flesh staring intently at the back of the head of the person sitting in front of you, trying with all your might to seem interested in what the person on the platform is saying, cannot be what Jesus meant by being part of His body. Since Constantine did his dirty work on the Church in the 4th century, the Church has slid down a slippery slope into a man-focused, pulpit-centric, money-focused business, building buildings and lining the pockets of the clergy class. What remains is a weak, ineffective self-possessed institution insignificant to its members and to the world at large.

Church advertises itself as the answer to all the problems issues and concerns of the people outside its walls, yet, once one enters and becomes a sheep, the reality of the impotent institution comes clear. This impotence ranges from doctrinal deception to man-centric worship. Everything the church does revolves around the comfort of the people rather than the worship, love and relationship with Father.

Therefore, what we are doing is not attacking the Church, but reporting on the destruction of the institutional, organized church structure. We are not destroying, but observing that Father is causing the collapse of the corrupt structure intending to present to His Son a Bride without spot or wrinkle.

Now, that is a gift to make the stuffiest deacon smile!

Check out Escaping Church by Tim Mather.