Archives For Karl Marx

Santa Claus has been with us for many generations, but still there are those who deny his existence. More than 100 years ago, sweet little Virginia O’Hanlon, eight years old at the time, encountered some of these nonbelievers, which prompted her to write these famous words to the editor of the New York Sun:

Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia O’Hanlon

Dear Editor: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, “If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

The brilliant response from newspaper writer Francis Church has reportedly become the most frequently reprinted editorial of all time. He explains:

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little…

Francis Church

Francis Church

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world…Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy…Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus…There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

Francis Church is rightly condemning the modern notion that we should only believe in those things which can be verified through the five senses. Indeed, the lack of legitimate “Santa sightings” is no reason to disbelieve in his existence. Church maintains a sense of wonder in our increasingly technologized world. Where would we be if our worldview left no room for mystery?

But we need to be careful about equating the kind of faith that can be directed toward Santa Claus and the kind of faith that Christians direct towards Jesus. Some would say that faith is faith—believing in Jesus is no different than believing in Santa. When Karl Marx referred to religion as “the opiate of the masses,” he had in mind the kind of faith that Francis Church has in Santa Claus: We can’t explain everything in this world, and none of us want to give up the joy of poetry, romance, and wonder, so why not believe in Santa if it makes life more bearable?

Santa ChimneyI am all for celebrating the magic and mystery of the world in fun ways (which is how I see Santa Claus). But we “believe” in Santa despite what we know, rather than because of it. No one ever looked at the night before Christmas and decided the best way to explain the gifts in the stockings and under the tree is a garish, overweight man in a red velvet suit flying in a sleigh and descending through every chimney in the world.

On the contrary, faith in Jesus is not despite the evidence. It is not blind faith. It is a faith that rests on the authority of what God has said, and then steps out into the real world and finds God’s words confirmed in every aspect of the world and the human experience. Faith in Jesus is more than a sense of romance and magic (though it is not less).

So celebrate Christmas with or without reference to Santa Claus, and never lose your sense of wonder in this unbelievable world. But don’t believe those who tell you that faith in Jesus is nothing more than a lie you tell yourself to make life a little happier, or to make your Christmas celebrations a little more religiously charged. God’s truth runs deeper than our five senses, but it is consistently confirmed by all of them.

I bet you weren’t expecting that title. Here’s the thing: I’ve always “enjoyed” hardcore/screamo/rapcore/metal music, but it’s always been a guilty pleasure. You’re not likely to finish a Tool album feeling uplifted.

More recently, however, I have done some reflecting on why I resonate with hardcore music, and I’m convinced that there’s something to it. My goal is not to convince you to start listening to Metallica, but everything is worthy of theological reflection, so this should be beneficial for you Yanni fans as well.

I’m not a very angry person. Most things slide off my back. Plus I don’t have a very difficult life. So why is it that when I listen to Rage Against the Machine shouting out the injustices of working on “Maggie’s Farm,” I’m ready track down Maggie and take her farm by storm? I mean, really. Something about the pent up aggression in the music of Tool, Deftones, Rage, and other bands gets me riled up.

So here’s the question: is that necessarily bad?

There are a few things to consider here. First of all, if anger is always evil, then we can rule out most hardcore music right away. But here’s the thing: anger isn’t always bad. Paul tells us: “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Now, I think it’s very difficult for us to be angry without sinning, and that’s why Paul follows this with a warning to not let the sun go down on our anger. But he is not condemning all anger. As a matter of fact, God himself is described as angry. When his people sin and reject him, God gets angry.

If we live in a world that has been twisted by sin (and we do), then we will find plenty of injustices to be angry about. Anger is the appropriate response to many of the things that happen in the world. Of course, we need to be careful about how we respond to that anger, but the anger itself is a right response to injustice (coupled with things like sadness and longing).

Let’s take Rage Against the Machine as an example. They were definitely angry. And their form of anger aligned closely with Marxism. Karl Marx was angry because he looked at the fruit of the Industrial Revolution and saw injustice. Here were people taking good means of production and perverting them by pursuing obscene profits at any cost. The cost was overworked men, women, and children who were being treated as less than human. Marx’s solution was overly optimistic about mankind’s ability to govern himself, but he was right to be angry at these injustices.

So with Rage Against the Machine. Much of their yelling stems from anger over exploitation and a misuse of power. So we can yell along with them. I’m not saying that everything they yell about is right on, or that yelling is necessarily the right response (it certainly can’t be the sum total of our response), but I think we can safely affirm the outcry over injustice.

Not every hardcore band is legitimately concerned with injustice. Even Rage Against the Machine yelled about a lot of things besides injustice, including how amazing they were. So it’s not that yelling in itself is a good thing. But I think this type of music taps into a side of the world that we all experience. Something is horribly wrong, and the proper response is to cry out. I think that Edvard Munch’s famous painting “The Scream” captures this well. The world is not what it ought to be. Screaming is appropriate.

So let’s affirm the yelling, at least in some respects. But let’s not pretend that everything in every hardcore song is worth affirming. Let’s still stand against those aspects of hardcore music that represent idolatry. But when we find ourselves resonating with the outrage in hardcore music, let’s remember that there is indeed something wrong with the world, this “something wrong” must be opposed, and the solution is found in Jesus Christ alone.