Santa Claus and the Necessity of Magic

Tony Woodlief had a wonderful reflection in the Wall Street Journal a few days back on Chesterton, Santa Claus and why believing in the “deeper magic” is necessary for Christian faith:

I suspect that fairy tales and Santa Claus do prepare us to embrace the ultimate Fairy Tale, the one Lewis believed was ingrained in our being. New research from the Université de Montréal and the University of Ottawa indicates that children aren’t overly troubled upon learning that Santa is a myth. But the researchers remained puzzled because while children eventually abandon Santa, they keep believing in God. Lewis would say this is because God is real, but Mr. Dawkins fears it is the lasting damage of fairy tales. While Mr. Dawkins stands ironically alongside Puritans in his readiness to ban fairy tales, Christian apologists like Lewis and Chesterton embraced them, precisely because to embrace Christian dogma is to embrace the extrarational.

Today’s Christian apologists, by contrast, seek to reason their way to God by means of archaeological finds, anthropological examinations and scientific argumentation. That’s all well and good, but it seems to miss a fundamental point illuminated by Chesterton, which is that, ultimately, belief in God is belief in mystery.

As an unabashed fan of Lewis, Tolkien and Rowling I heartily concur. When we seek to banish fantasy literature from our children’s reading we do them a grave disservice — ultimately, by inoculating them against that sense of mystery, awe and wonder that is necessary to accept the gift of faith in the first place.

Santa Claus may not be a substitute for the divine, but he is certainly cut from the same cloth as Aslan, Gandalf and Dumbledore. That children embrace him should not cause us scandal; he is a doorway to the “deeper magic.”