<< Denison Forum

Man Put a Black Santa Claus on His Lawn and Got a Racist Note: Responding to Hate with Love That Shapes Our Souls


Let’s begin with some good news on the pandemic: Santa Claus does not have COVID-19. In fact, he does not need to wait for a vaccine like the rest of us since he has “a lot of good innate immunity,” according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

In addition, the North American Aerospace Defense Command has announced that despite the pandemic, it will track Santa on December 24 just as it has done for sixty-five years. You can visit their website, noradsanta.org, for updates.

Unfortunately, not all the Christmas news about Santa Claus is good.

"Love your neighbors, Y’all"

Chris Kennedy of North Little Rock, Arkansas, puts up decorations for the holidays each year. They include a light-up sign that says “Joy” and a statue of a Black Santa Claus he hopes will set a good example for his four-year-old daughter.

Last week, he received a racist letter in the mail from someone claiming that Santa Claus is “a Caucasian (white man, to you)” and has been “for the past 600 years.” The coward who wrote the anonymous letter suggested that Mr. Kennedy and his family move out of their neighborhood.

Here’s the good news: when Mr. Kennedy showed the letter to his property owner’s association, they gave his family a complimentary membership. “The rest of the neighborhood has been awesome since hearing about the letter,” he told a reporter. “If we are outside, they often stop by and share kind words of encouragement. Some have brought us over cookies and other treats. One even brought us a yard sign that says, ‘Love your neighbors, Y’all.'”

While Mr. Kennedy appreciates all the gifts, he hopes people will donate instead to the Ronald McDonald House charities of Arkansas. “There are many families that are facing difficulties with long term illness and because of COVID-19 they aren’t able to be around each other like normal,” he said. “I want to give them a small bit of joy during the holidays and any donations will help with that goal.”

He added: “My real neighbors have been simply amazing and I’m very happy that we moved to our neighborhood. They have shown that we are truly better together than we are apart.”

Is Santa Claus white?

The racist who sent the cowardly letter to Mr. Kennedy has his history wrong. The person from whom the Santa Claus tradition descended was a pastor in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), not Caucasian or “white.” Nor has he been white “for the past 600 years”—the Turkish pastor was born in AD 280, while “Santa Claus” was first used in the American press in 1773. (For more, see my latest white paper, “What does the Bible say about Santa Claus?“).

However, the larger point here is not historical but spiritual. One reason Satan promotes racism is that racism keeps those whom God loves from loving each other. Such sin grieves our Father, hurts our neighbor, and impoverishes our souls.

Conversely, as Chris Kennedy noted so well, “We are truly better together than we are apart.”

This week, we’re discovering ways to experience the Christ of Christmas more powerfully than ever before. Today, let’s focus on the fact that those who know Jesus most intimately are those who share his love most passionately.

This is not true of all gifts. If you give me money or food, I can spend or consume them without offering them to others. I can wear clothes you donate or live in a house you provide without a care for those who are without clothes or shelter.

As St. Augustine noted, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” Now he wants us to love each other as he loves us.

When Jesus was asked to identify the “most important” commandment, he answered with two: love our Lord and love our neighbor (Mark 12:28-31). But the two are one. We cannot fully love God unless we love those he loves. And we cannot fully love those he loves unless we can share his love with them. (For more, see my latest video, “What does the Bible say about compassion?“)

Redeeming this "tipping point"

As with every other season of this year, the many tragedies and challenges of 2020 are affecting Christmas. But there is opportunity in the pain of these days.

In The Polymath: A Cultural History from Leonardo da Vinci to Susan Sontag, Peter Burke writes: “The term ‘crisis’ has been used about too many changes, devaluing the intellectual currency.” As a result, he uses the word “in a relatively precise sense, close to its origins in ancient Greek medicine, when a ‘crisis’ was the moment when a patient hovered between recovery and death.”

He suggests: “Let us think of a crisis as a moment of turbulence leading to a change of structure. In other words, it is a ‘tipping point’ or ‘critical threshold,’ often reached after a long period of gradual change.”

What if Christians were known for our compassion for those hovering “between recovery and death,” whatever their crisis might be? What if we submitted daily to the power of God’s Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and then offered God’s love wherever and however we can?

We would be known by what we are for, not just for what we’re against. We would be seen as the solution rather than the problem. We would redeem the “tipping point” of these days for God’s glory and the good of the world.

Hurting people would see the Christ of Christmas in our compassion and be drawn to his grace. And we would be shaped by the love we share.

Who do you know who needs such love today?

NOTE: Today is #GivingTuesday. If you’re led to donate to Denison Forum today, please know that your gift will be doubled by a generous matching grant of $25,000. And please know that your gift today ensures that timely, biblical, nonpartisan content will continue to reach two million people every month. Please consider donating today for #GivingTuesday.

Publication date: December 1, 2020

Photo courtesy: ©Osman Rana/Unsplash

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries. Denison Ministries includes DenisonForum.org, First15.org, ChristianParenting.org, and FoundationsWithJanet.org. Jim speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at Denison Forum. He is the chief author of The Daily Article and has written more than 30 books, including The Coming Tsunamithe Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series, and The Fifth Great Awakening.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

The Daily Article Podcast is Here!

Click to Listen

More Denison Forum Articles