Could You Repeat That Please? - Culture or Faith
Ever question the sanity of someone of significant importance after hearing something antithetical to reason leave his or her lips? Years ago, my mother-in-law as a child was a true believer in Santa Claus like most children her age. Each year she waited for the gifts that Santa would bring on her best behavior until the day she discovered that the White man in the red suit was an invention of the Coca-cola company, a figurehead for the true Santa: her mother and father!
Reeling in disappointment, Mom declared, "Adults ain't nothing but a bunch of damn liars!" She determined to question everything they told her from that moment on.
Reasoning as a child, Mom did not have the understanding that Santa was an idea that helped children behave better. She did not comprehend that one day that she would grow to adulthood with the privilege to pass on this cultural phenomenon to her children. Honesty as her shield to inoculate her children from disappointment, Mom never taught them to believe in Santa.
My mother, also disappointed in not receiving the things she asked of Santa in her youth taught her kids, "I'm yo Santa Claus. I wish a White man would come down my chimney talking about bringing me some presents now, hmph!"
For these two women, being deceived into believing one way while the truth was another caused a break in cultural continuity. Their children felt left out growing up as the other children believed in Santa and even deified them secretly hoping their mothers were wrong. (I know. I was one of them.)
In the story below, see if logic with limited understanding is the way to go.
Mother with Santa
Frantically, the theologian rushed through the city streets to greet the famous philosopher noised about throughout the city and surrounding territory. Transcendent described the teachings of this new bend of this master of thought on an old way of living. The theologian spent his life in the study of religion and philosophy now with the opportunity to meet the one man who seems to have made his life come alive in meaning.
In the crowd of people on the noisy street, he glimpsed the entourage of the philosophical revolutionary he so dearly wanted to meet. As he hurried closer begging his pardon along the way from those whom he brushed with his body, he saw him!
Giddy child he became, he giggled aloud as he drew near, somehow finding himself standing in front of the man pleasantly smiling towards him with an inquisitive gaze about the theologian's presence and excited face.
"What a pleasure it is to meet you," raced from the theologian's lips. The revolutionary nodded his head of acceptance.
"Sir, it would be my honor to join your school of thought and learn the new application of reasoning and faith that you espouse. Like these people," he pointed to the entourage of supporters, "I offer my support financially to help."
Looking deeply into the theologian's eyes for a few moments, the revolutionary philosopher smiled as he said, "Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the man you seek to follow has nowhere to lay.".
Immediately the theologian took to preparations to remedy the situation, however, another in the entourage who also sought to pledge his fortune in the cause earnestly desiring the revolutionary's leave stating, "I am with you. Let me attend to my fathers funeral arrangements and I will be fully focused."
"This commitment waits for no person" the revolutionary informed. "Let the dead bury their dead."
"Did he just say for that man not to bury his father and follow him," a few murmured in the crowd.
"Could you repeat that. I don't think I heard correctly," said the supporter of the revolutionary.
"Jesus said unto him, follow me; and let the dead bury their dead." 1
Matthew chapter 8 details an incident where Jesus is confronted with a Scribe who wants to devote himself to following Him. After the Scribe pledged his life to Him, another of Jesus' disciples let Jesus know that he wanted to take care of the burial of his father before making such a commitment to which Jesus responds, "Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead." 1
This is one of those Santa-is-not-real statements!
The commandment to honor our parents has strands that run through the entire fabric of the gospel. It is inherent in our relationship to God our Father. It embraces the divine destiny of the children of God. This commandment relates to the government of the family, which is patterned after the government of heaven. 2
Not attending to the entombing of a parent is dishonoring that parent, right? It alarmed me that Jesus said such a thing to a grieving disciple. With a certain moral brush have I painted the Savior into a box of perfection of my own making based in the cultural prejudices and rules of my time. How could Jesus, the most peaceful and loving, be so selfish and callous? Let the man bury his dad! Had he not pledged his life to Him?
Jesus taught that we are to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. 3 Did not this man stand in need of those things?
Throwing me into a smidge of dissonance for a moment, I reflected on my faith in Jesus Christ and my characterization of His personality. Instead of allowing my thoughts to create doubt, focusing on my faith let me see past what appeared to be a discrepancy in the scriptures. In truth, there was no incongruity in the Scriptures, but in my perception in application.
Your Mission if You Chose to Accept It
This man to whom Jesus spoke was already a disciple of Jesus Christ on a mission to spread to the world salvation through love and devotion to God.
To help with the Santa-is-not-real feelings regarding the words in the Scriptures came inspiration from above about my own ministry in South Africa, two years I devoted specifically to the Lord to teach His gospel as a special witness of Jesus without pause for important things of life or the death of loved ones.
One of my companions' mother died as he served and as many of us would have, he remained faithfully on his mission for the Lord and stopped to mourn when his mission was completed.
Understanding came when the words in the Scriptures were put into perspective for the situation that merited the response. Jesus did not ask a man to leave off mourning for his deceased father. He informed his disciple that he should finish his mission first.
Burying his father did not mean his father was deceased in that culture, but that his father was dying, or that his father was in an entombing process after his death that could take up to a year as the family waited for the body to decay so the bones could be moved to the family tomb. That perspective changes the meaning of the situation from what was my initial perception to an excuse to shirk at responsibility, commitment. Understanding the cultural context of the statements made in Scripture helps avoid faith crisis and better apply them to modern equations.
Santa-is-not-real feeling goes away!
Though both mother and mother-in-law felt justified for being miffed finding out Santa was not real, the same as I felt it harsh that Jesus would tell a person to let the dead bury the dead, the ends provided parents with a tool to help kids behave without forces with an idea--not that I agree with lying to kids about Santa--just like Christ taught to put your affairs in order. Is it more important to follow culture or to follow Christ? It is a question we must all figure out in our walk with God.
Holy Bible - Matthew 8:22 1
Dallin H. Oaks - “Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother” 2
Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ - Mosiah 18:9 3
© 2019 Rodric Anthony