The problem I have with the elf on your shelf is that it is a blatant attempt to teach children to be good, when I think the central message of Christianity, and therefore presumably the message of Christmas, is to be kind. Be kind. That’s the message of love that Christianity proclaims it instills, and not the idea of being beholden to the Law.
The Old Testament and the Judaic tradition of living under the law, was supposedly altered permanently with the birth and death of Jesus Christ, the Messiah that the Jews had been promised, and had spent thousands of years waiting for. Forget the fact that they’re still waiting, or that today’s so-called Christians have never really believed that they’ve been relieved of their duties under the law. Neither camp believes what they’ve been told. It hasn’t happened yet or it’s too good to be true.
The Elf on the Shelf is a uniquely ironic perversion of the Christmas story, from the birth of a savior, to a spy sent by his secular understudy. The fact that so many Christians feel that their faith tradition is in danger of being diluted by liberalism, completely ignores the fact that they have been complicit in the commercialization of their own salvation story. The miracle of Jesus was the idea that you were no longer subject to the law but saved by grace. Unconditionally loved, as you were, despite the fact that you’d done nothing to deserve it. You couldn’t earn it, you just had to accept it. We humans find this extremely difficult, which is pretty ironic.
The Elf teaches kids to be good, not that they are loved. It teaches them to follow the rules, not to practice kindness, because the reward is for the individual. Santa doesn’t bring gifts for kids who are kind, but for kids who are good, and each child answers for their own good works. And so when they grow up, they learn that if you are the one who makes the rules, you will always be on the side of good. Also that kindness is for suckers.
What happened to kindness? Republicans convinced everyone we couldn’t afford kindness because it was so expensive punishing everyone for not following their rules.
Be good for goodness sake, goes the song, because Santa Claus is coming to town. Kindness would have been a better gift, but it cost too much.