ELIJAH (5 yrs. old): Bumpa, now that Santa Claus is in Congress, will he still come next Christmas?
BUMPA: Santa Claus isn’t in Congress.
Uh-hu! He’s all over the news. He’s very conventional. Don’t you watch the News Hour or listen to NPR?
I do. Grandma and I watch the News Hour every night. I think maybe you meant ‘controversial’.
Then you saw him with your own two eyes. He looks different ‘cause he shaved his beard and his hair’s not white, but it’s definitely Santa. You forgot to put your ears in again, didn’t ya.
You mean my hearing aids.
Yeah. your ears. Maybe you need to change the batteries.
Elijah, there must be a misunderstanding. Santa isn’t real.
Whoah! You don’t believe in Santa and Rudolph? I’m going to tell Mommy! You’re an atheist!
I think you’re confusing religion and politics. I have a lot in common with Atheists and a lot of differences. I go to church. They don’t. I worship God. They don’t. But we both believe Santa is a fantasy. He’s an illusion. Congress is different. Congress is no illusion. Congress is real.
You went to school, right, Bumpa?
Mommy says you used to say the Pledge of Illusion every morning.
We did, Elijah. But it’s the Pledge of Allegiance, not the pledge of illusion. It’s important to get that straight.
What’s a pledge?
Well, it’s pretty simple, Elijah. A pledge is a promise.
Like when I promise Santa every Christmas that I’ll be good next year.
Right. Now you’re getting the hang of it. If you’re bad, Santa won’t bring any presents. You’ll get coal in your stocking. The Pledge of Allegiance is sort of like that. It’s a promise to do the right thing for your country.
Yeah, and it’s not an illusion, right?
What’s an illusion?
It’s something that isn’t real. Like Santa Claus. An illusion is something that isn’t there. You can’t make a promise to an illusion ‘cause it’s not real.
Our country’s real, right, Bumpa?
And so is Congress, right?
But Santa isn’t?
He is too, Bumbpa! Santa’s real! He’s a member of Congress who pledges allegiance. He was just put on two committees.
Okay, it’s taken me a long time to get what you’re talking about. The new Congressman isn’t Santa. His name is Santos.
And Santos is real, right?
Well, yes and no, Elijah. Yes, Santos really is in Congress, and, No, he lied to get there. None of what he said about himself is true. It was all an illusion, and everyone knows it.
So, Santos will get coal in his stocking next Christmas?
Gordon C. Stewart, Public Theologian, Author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (2017, Wipf and Stock), Brooklyn Park, MN, January 19, 2023.