Silly season: Fox News airhead says Santa and Jesus were white guys
How did Megyn Kelly (above, left) of Fox News Channel ever get through law school?
On second thought, that’s a dumb question. Brainless lawyers are not really all that rare, are they?
But the question inevitably arises in light of THIS:
The Slate blogger whose piece “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” was trashed by Megyn Kelly responded Thursday with a reality check for the Fox News host.
Aisha Harris’ message to Kelly: “Santa isn’t real.”
The Fox News host went off on Harris’ article Wednesday, insisting it was a “verifiable fact” that Santa was white. Kelly argued if the image of a white Santa made Harris “uncomfortable,” that didn’t mean the image “has to change.”
In her response, Harris agreed with one of Kelly’s panelists who noted that Santa is historically based on a Greek bishop. But as Harris pointed out, “Santa hardly resembles his supposed inspiration, who was depicted as tall and thin and, you know, Greek. He did not have a workshop in the North Pole nor eight faithful reindeer.”
Kelly also equated Santa with Jesus, who she said was “a white man, too.” Harris countered that in general, historians agree Jesus was a Jewish man who grew up in Galilee — so he was “probably not” white.
“I’ll be fine if no one else jumps on board the penguin train and Santa remains a white man,” she concluded. “But if you’re seriously emphatic that he is white and must remain white, there’s a good chance that your view of the rest of the world is just as limited and unimaginative. I mean, we are talking about a magical man who slides down your chimney every Christmas Eve. Just so we’re clear.”
Meanwhile, it was entirely predictable that Kelly’s nonsense would become GRIST for political satirist Jon Stewart’s mill:
Stewart mocked Fox’s “manger danger warnings” before getting to the “crazy” stuff Kelly said about why Santa is white, period. Stewart explained the historical person Santa is based on actually had a darker skin pigmentation. And on the follow-up point that Jesus was white, Stewart said, “You do know Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, right?”
HERE‘s another worthy response:
Where to begin? We could start with the fact that there isn’t actually a good historical case for either Jesus or Santa Claus’ whiteness, at least as Kelly seems to conceive of it. Jesus’ family was from Galilee, which is the Northern part of the modern state of Israel. That’s a set of origins that doesn’t exactly suggest that Jesus was born with the milky-white skin tone he’s been given by so many artists since his life and death. But if Kelly wants to claim him as white, that says something about the extent to which Jews, who have historically been considered ethnically distinct from people of European origins (we’ll save the distinctions between Ashkenazim and Sephardim for History Of Ethnicity 200), have been assimilated into the constructed collective identity known as whiteness.
Similarly, Saint Nicholas, the Christian saint who is the earliest figure in the Santa Claus myth, was born in the city of Patara, now known as Arsinoe, in Turkey. He’s sometimes referred to as a Greek, because Turkey was under Greek rule at the time of his birth, but the shifting boundaries of empires don’t change the fact that Saint Nicholas’ skin tone might well have such that it would have gotten him stopped and frisked while trying to enter homes in certain neighborhoods in New York City late at night.
That said, Santa Claus is frequently depicted as a white guy today precisely because of what Kelly said we absolutely must not do: “revise it in the middle of the legacy of the story.” As part of the long process of formalizing a celebration of the birth of Christ–which includes shifting the purported date of Jesus’ arrival in the world to midwinter to coopt pagan observances and then suppressing said observances–Saint Nicholas gets mashed up with other figures. These include Sinterklass, who may be a variation of the Norse god Odin, and who’s part of holiday observances in places as varied as the Netherlands and Greece.
Father Christmas, the British character, has analogues in South America, most European countries, and the Caucuses. And this isn’t even including characters like Zwarte Piet, who’s part of Christmas folklore in Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium, who is, wait for it, of African origin. In the United States, many people and organizations have contributed to our modern conception of Santa Claus’ physical appearance, including the the political cartoonist and muckracker Thomas Nast, the White Rock Beverage company which used him to sell mineral water, and Haddon Sundblom, who drew Santa Claus for Coca-Cola’s famous 1930s advertising campaign.
The Santa Claus that Kelly wants so badly to preserve is so powerful precisely because he’s an amalgam of traditions, a concept flexible enough to incorporate and accommodate the emotional, spiritual, and frankly material needs of people of many cultures and organizations. There is no stable and unchanging tradition of Santa Claus available to be defended.
UPDATE: And then there’s THIS from Religion News Service:
As some historians and theologians have posited, the silence of the Scriptures on the issue of Jesus’ skin color is critical to Christianity’s broad appeal with people of various ethnicities. In a world where race often divides communities and even churches, the Biblical depictions of God’s son positions him as one who can bridge those divides.
For this reason, one American Presbyterian minister in the 1880s warned his flock not to trust popular images of Christ:
If He were particularised and localised—if, for example, He were made a man with a pale face—then the man of the ebony face would feel that there was a greater distance between Christ and him than between Christ and his white brother.’ Instead, because the Bible refused to describe Jesus in terms of racial features, his gospel could appeal to all. Only in this way could the Church be a place where the ‘Caucasian and Mongolian and African sit together at the Lord’s table, and we all think alike of Jesus, and we all feel that He is alike our brother’.
In Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Advice for Living” column for Ebony in 1957, the civil-rights leader was asked, “Why did God make Jesus white, when the majority of peoples in the world are non-white?” King replied, “The color of Jesus’ skin is of little or no consequence” because what made Jesus exceptional “His willingness to surrender His will to God’s will.” His point, as historian Edward Blum has noted, is that Jesus transcends race.
Those warnings hold just as true for believers today. Within the church, eschewing a Jesus who looks more like a Scandinavian supermodel than the sinless Son of God in the scriptures is critical to maintaining a faith in which all can give praise to one who became like them in an effort to save them from sins like racism and prejudice. It’s important for Christians who want to expand the church, too, in allowing the creation of communities that are able to worship a Jesus who builds bridges rather than barriers. And it is essential to enabling those who bear the name of Christ to look forward to that day when, according to the book of Revelation, those “from every nation, tribe, people and language” can worship God together.
Until that day arrives, though, can someone please tell Megyn Kelly that Jesus is not white?