Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Unopened Bottles of Coca-Cola

I’d like to share an event from my childhood. In the late 70s my family had just moved into a new house. Mom decided to throw a little house warming party. So she invited several friends. We had only been in Georgia a few years and most of the family friends were from church. Mom set out a few drink options on the table. Basically it was about six 2-liter bottles of Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite. Well the party had been going for about half an hour and the Sprite was completely gone already and none of the caffeinated drinks had even been opened. Mom preceded to publicly pour herself a tall Coke. She took a drink and then looked at the other guests and said, “I’ve seen every one of you drink Coke before, just not in front of each other. Now I expect you to help me finish these.” Coke has never been explicitly forbidden by Mormon teachings but some people interpret it that way. Fine. If you want to stay away from caffeine, you’ll get no objection from me. What mom was calling out was the false piety. Doing one thing in private and putting on a different face in public. In the past year I have gotten several private emails and messages about stuff I have posted on my blog and on Facebook. Emails saying that many of my readers are having quite similar struggles in their lives. I’m glad my rabblings have been able to help you. Now I’d never think of publicly calling anybody out the way my mom did. These are much more important issues than how you interpret Doctrine & Covenants section 89. But I would like you all to know that you are not alone. Although publicly you may not feel able to comment on my blog or Facebook posts, there are quite a few of you who feel the same. So if you wanna sit down and have a Coke sometime feel free to contact me. Don’t let the unopened bottles on the table make you feel like you are the only Coke drinker in the crowd. And your secret is safe with me.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

"...we urge you to reconsider..."

If you are not open to questioning the evidence supporting the idea of a bearded arctic elf dispensing toys then you probably shouldn’t read any further.

Several years ago I stopped believing in Santa Claus. I think I was seven. I don’t remember the exact order of any of the events but I do remember a few of the details that caused me to begin doubting the tradition that was handed down to me from my parents.

An inquisitive child, I always looked for the explanation of how things worked. I liked looking at cutaway views of cars, machines and even people in my dad’s textbooks. It was kind of a puzzle for me. When I couldn’t figure something out I didn’t have any problem asking questions. And in most areas of study my parents were plenty open to answer my questions.

Here are a few of the questions that I had about the favorite Christmas tradition.

If Santa supposedly judged people who were naughty or nice why were so many nice kids getting crappy presents while so many naughty kids would rake in the goods? Santa sure didn’t seem to be taking quite as accurate and accounting as I would have expected. I began to notice that the disparity seemed to have little to do with being naughty or nice and more to do with where your parents worked and how many siblings you had.

Why are charities necessary? I remember asking my mom once when I saw a Marine at a grocery store, “Who is he?” “He’s one of Santa’s helpers. He’s collecting money to help by toys for poor kids.” “Doesn’t Santa visit poor kids?” “Here help me with these groceries”. This caused me to start wondering which presents came for Santa directly and which came from one of his “helpers”.

How in the world could he do all of that in one night? It was clear that there had to be multiple Santa’s or the typical image of Santa as a fat old man was flawed. Those reindeer would have to travel so fast from house to house that they travelled back in time exactly the length it took Santa to set up the last house.

How did he fit all that stuff in one sleigh? My mom would completely fill the truck of our Mustang on a trip to the grocery store. Santa clearly would have to make multiple trips back to the North Pole to restock. This just compounds the whole, “how does it get it all done in one day?” question.

Was he really reading all of those letters? If so why did good kids still not get what they asked for? This was the early 70’s. I know several kids who asked for World Peace. Santa still hasn’t delivered that one. Santa seemed like he either wasn’t reading the letters, wasn’t as powerful as we thought, or he just didn’t care. All of these possibilities are troubling.

It also became clear that adults knew something was up but didn’t want to tell the kids. There was some kind of cover-up. There were details about Christmas that I overheard adults talking about that were never discussed openly around children. Perhaps they knew how to solve my time-traveling reindeer puzzle. But they weren’t telling.

I could go on and on for a while, but I think you get the point. Eventually my mom broke the news to me that Santa Claus was a fun little fiction. I responded almost immediately, “You’re Santa Claus.” She nodded her head and confirmed it. I was no longer puzzled by the little inconsistencies in the stories. I no longer had to try to make sense of them. It was fun to just pretend and realize that nothing was real.

The best thing Santa Claus ever did for me was to cease to be real. Mom explained that it was people who were making Christmas real. It was just people. I no longer felt the need to suck up for the approval of an all knowing bearded dude. The people who were really important and who ultimately made Christmas what it is were much closer to home. Santa is my parents. Santa is my brothers and sisters. Santa is the Marine collecting toys. Santa is the people on the street being nice to each other. Santa is the neighbor sewing pajamas and leaving them anonymously on our doorstep.

Now that I know the truth I wouldn’t dream of trying to go back to believing anything else. It all makes sense now and it’s much more beautiful. I don’t want to spoil that.

Since I have left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I have had numerous well-meaning people attempt to persuade me back into the church. I respect that they think they are doing a good thing. A few insinuated that I really haven’t tried to believe as hard as I should have. So let me ask you few readers this question. 

“What would it take for you to believe in Santa Claus again?”

Could you do it? Could you ignore the massive amount of evidence that it was the parents doing it? Could you just go back to dropping a letter in the mailbox and honestly expecting a response? Could you start ignoring the needs of people around you with the attitude that Santa would take care of them? Could you go back to not giving credit to the amazing people around you who help make your life easier, instead giving credit to Santa? Why in the world would you even want to go back to that belief?

I got a letter in the mail today from the First Presidency of the Church. The letter urged me to reconsider and come back to the church. I typed up this little analogy to express how unlikely that would be. I don’t even want it to be true anymore. What I have found is so much better. I’m not bothered by the inconsistencies in the story, the unanswered prayers, the logical impossibilities, the complete contradictions, and all the cover-up to keep people believing.

It would be just as difficult for me to go back to believing in Santa Claus.