If Jesus was Jewish . . .

Now that we’re deep into the ridiculous, annual War on Christmas – you know, the one where we’re supposed to believe that America is waging a duel to the death with roughly three out of four members of its own population – a new wrinkle has been added:

What color is Santa Claus? Is he white? Is he black? Paisley?

And, for that matter, what about Jesus?

This kerfuffle got kerfuffling when a “culture blogger” named Aisha Harris, who is black, wrote a compelling piece in Slate about how, as a child, she “knew two different Santa Clauses.”

The first had a fat belly, rosy cheeks, a long white beard, and skin as pink as bubble gum. He was omnipresent, visiting my pre-school and the local mall, visible in all of my favorite Christmas specials.

Then there was the Santa in my family’s household, in the form of ornaments, cards, and holiday figurines. A near-carbon copy of the first one—big belly, rosy cheeks, long white beard: check, check, check. But his skin was as dark as mine.

Harris goes on to write:

Two decades later, America is less and less white, but a melanin-deficient Santa remains the default in commercials, mall casting calls, and movies. Isn’t it time that our image of Santa better serve all the children he delights each Christmas?

Yes, it is. And so I propose that America abandon Santa-as-fat-old-white-man and create a new symbol of Christmas cheer. From here on out, Santa Claus should be a penguin.

That’s right: a penguin.

Cue the outrage.

Which leads us straight to Megyn Kelly, who, in a conversation with three panelists on her nightly show on Fox News, didn’t quite get the whole penguin thing and wanted all the children who were tuned in to know for sure that Santa is, indeed, white. And so, for that matter, was Jesus. Them’s the facts, kids. Deal with it. You can watch the video for yourself on Mediaite.

Cue the outrage about the outrage. Harris replies here. Jamelle Bouie replies here.

As for me, frankly, I couldn’t care less. Fact is, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. (There, I said it. Shoot the messenger.)

And if you’re a follower of Jesus – a true follower of Jesus – does it really matter what color his skin was? Would the color of his skin heighten or diminish his message?

Chew on that for a while, kids, as you pull up a chair and hear a story that would have had Santa ho-ho-ho-ing at his jolliest.

Let’s go back to the summer of 1988, back when Linda and I rented a house in Shelter Harbor, Rhode Island, something we would do every summer so we could spend a week or two with our friends Jan and Roger. Even better, our kids – Josh, 9, and Ben, 3, loved being around Jan and Roger’s kids, Nate, 9, and Jon, 6.

We’d spend every day at the beach. The boys loved it, and so did their parents.

One day, for whatever reason, Roger and Jan took off somewhere and Linda and I had all four kids.

The six of us were tooling along in our minivan, coming back from the beach, when Josh, for some reason, brought up the subject of his bar mitzvah, which would not occur for four more years if, in fact, it would occur at all, and I have no idea why he would even be thinking about such a thing at the age of 9. But out comes the word bar mitzvah, and Nate, who is also 9, says:

“What’s that?”

Which made perfect sense, seeing as how Nate and Jon’s dad, Roger, was an Episcopal priest, and they were being brought up very appropriately in their parents’ religion and attended an Episcopal school

So I explained to Nate that a bar mitzvah is a coming-of-age moment for Jewish children, when they turn 13. They put on a prayer shawl and lead the synagogue in prayer, and from that moment on they are considered “men” in their religion.

Nate – remember now, he’s 9 years old – takes this all in and says . . .

“I have a picture of that in my Jesus book!”

Now I didn’t know a whole lot about Nate’s Jesus book, but it made sense. I explained to Nate that his Jesus book probably showed a picture of Jesus’ bar mitzvah, since – drumroll, please – Jesus was a Jew.

Whereupon Jon, sitting with Ben in the way back, all 6 years old of him, proclaimed loudly and very forcefully . . .


Roger that.

— 30 —


2 thoughts on “If Jesus was Jewish . . .

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