William Branham's Santa Claus:
When people contact us for support after leaving the "Message" cult following of William Branham, the holidays are especially difficult. Many ex-members, now shunned by their friends and families, find themselves starting a new tradition: Just them, their spouse, and their children. Sadly, every single aspect of their lives has changed. And not because they have forsaken God or their family. Many still remain Christian. The ex-members whose families have chosen Branham over Christ have refused them.
And Christmas, for many ex-members, is a new experience. Christmas was a holiday that was strongly condemned by William Branham. Many cult families did not have Christmas trees; they were condemned and frequently the subject matter of sermons each December. Some took the teaching so far as to refuse gifts for their children. Most, if not all, refused to let their children see, hear of, or even think of Santa Claus!
I remember the former pastor of the Branham Tabernacle telling the same story each December. He had his daughter so trained to condemn Santa Claus that even as a child, she was trained to think ill of any who enjoyed the tradition. While standing in line at a grocery store, an elderly lady had asked her, "Are you excited for what Santa Claus is going to bring you?" To which the young girl shook her head, put her hands on her hips, and said, "YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT SOMEONE AS BIG AS YOU, AND AS OLD AS YOU, DO NOT KNOW THAT SANTA CLAUS IS A LIE?"
Often when the former pastor told this story, the congregation would clap their hands in support. Each year, the former pastor would grin as though he had accomplished a great thing by teaching his daughter to rebuke the elderly lady.
Now, having left the cult, I feel sorry for the woman. At a time of year when she had an opportunity to have conversation with a young child, the child rebuked her. And while she was harmlessly expressing her love, the child had been trained to express hatred in return. Even in a world where Christmas tradition has been over-commercialized, I have to ask myself, which is the more evil? The one showing love in a world filled with greed? Or the child trained to repay kindness with rebuke? Maybe the pastor teaching others to do the same?
"Message" cult followers in the United States have no problem allowing their children to role play their childhood heroes. It's very common to see children with Batman or Superman capes. Some, living in a world "stuck" in the 40's, 50's, and 60's, still play Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone. Even the adults seem to enjoy role playing -- many like to pretend that they have some of William Branham's own traits. The "Message" cult seems to impart an unnatural affection for the wildness to those who would never have chosen to be lovers of the wild on their own. But to enjoy the Christmas Tradition of Santa, for a "Message" follower, is the supreme sin of the holiday.
I know that we people here do not teach our children of such a myth as Santa Claus. We do not believe in telling anybody a lie, so you're not going to lie to your children. Such stuff as that, that's mythology to its heights, of such a thing as taking the place of Christ at Christmas.
Branham, 61-1217 - Christianity Versus Idolatry
But to an ex-cult member who has studied William Branham's life story, this statement now puts a very bad taste in their mouth. Most of William Branham's life story does not match actual history, and William Branham did, in fact, struggle telling the truth. And his life, over time, became a mythology. Many followers worship the man outright, while the group as a whole respects William Branham far above "normal" men like themselves.
So each year, we get the question, "Is it wrong to let our children see Santa Claus?" "Does that make the holiday celebrate Santa instead of Christ?"
To which I reply, are you going to tell them that Santa Claus was God's Son who saved the world from sin? Will you tell them that you are celebrating Santa's birthday instead of Christ?
To those freshly out of the "Message," they find it very shocking to learn that William Branham himself enjoyed Santa as a child, and that he referred back to that time as a very fond memory.
Around Christmastime, we had a Christmas tree. And the kids down at school would take and cut little white strips of paper, and blue ones, and green ones, and made little chains, you know how they used to do in school. And we'd took ours home. So Mama thoughtâ€¦ She went back out in the field, we did, and cut a little Christmas tree about like that. And Papa went down, and he'd got some popcorn that they'd raised. And they—they popped the corn and made strings, and Mom strung it up with a—a needle and thread to put around the—the Christmas tree, where we was going to have a Christmas tree. We'd hang up our stockings on Christmas night. And next morning, maybe have a orange, and three pieces of candy laying out in a little piece of paper laying to one side, maybe little bitty pieces of candy. And if we had an orange, and a piece of candy, and a apple, oh, what a great fellow Santa Claus was to come bring that to us. How happy we was.
- Branham, 52-0720A - Life Story
When you consider the the tone and voice patterns that William Branham takes with each aspect of his sermons, it is obvious that this fond memory was something that William Branham truly held dear. When Branham was telling a story that we've learned not to be true, he often stuttered, slowed his speech, and gave far more details than was needed. When he was telling a story from the Bible that he invented and added to the passage, he seems to transform from fire-and-brimstone preaching to that of a father telling a nighttime story to his child. When he is telling a story about himself, he often uses adjectives that make himself sound bigger than life. But when he is telling fond memories, you can really tell that those memories are what held him together.
After having analyzed his sermons, I have to ask myself, what would this man be like if his father did NOT help him make fond memories? What many now believe to be pure evil was somewhat contained until around 1964 when he started teaching his "My Message Is The Son of Man" theology. Could the Santa Claus memory have actually been part of what held him together for so long?
To those who ask the question, "Can we let our children see Santa Claus," my response is this: Go back to the Bible. What does the Apostle Paul say? And I refer them to Colossians 2.
Paul tells us that we are to let NO man judge us for what we eat or drink. And I let that part sink in, because it was quite common for those in the Bible to drink wine, which Branham forbade until he broke his own rule during communion. And Paul says not to let others judge you for a festival, New Moon Celebration (a pagan observance) or a Sabbath. He says, "These things are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Christmas celebration -- Santa or no -- is a "shadow" of the act of giving gifts. But the reality, however, is the Gift that God gave the world when He gave His Son. Do not lose focus of that.
The Apostle Paul says it best:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings."
- Colossians 2 https://youtu.be/HN7j1Mkb8GY