In recent days, there has been much debate over whether popular depictions of Santa Claus are somehow racist. For many years now, American public discourse has become obsessed with trying to extract some inoffensive but universal meaning from Christmas. You would think that the salvation of humanity from the unquenchable fires of Hell would be something worth celebrating, but for the secular culture, this is apparently inadequate.
Two opposing forces are at work here. On the one hand, there is a desire by many on the left, especially militant atheists, to remove all traces of Christmas from public view entirely. On the other hand, there is an effort, especially in mass media and marketing, to make Christmas into a generic celebration of banal sentimentality and gluttonous consumerism wrapped in warm fuzzies and a sprinkled with snowflakes. The result is a whirlpool of emptiness. Without Christ, Christmas is just a bunch of cheap throw-away decorations imported from China that will end up in the trash on New Year’s Day.
Christmas is so much more than this though. For much of the world, the “jolly old elf” is a relatively minor figure if not completely unknown. In other countries, Nativity scenes and grand illuminations are more central to the Christmas celebration in the public square and presents are delivered by the Christ-child himself or by the three kings at Epiphany. Most traditions outside the United States re-enact parts of the Christmas story itself, with roving bagpiping shepherds, angels, festive processions, and actual carolers instead of piped-in Muzak with trite songs about glowing caribou snouts or anthropomorphic snowballs.
With so many rich and wonderful customs associated with Christmas, a “black Santa” or a “holiday penguin” would just be another superfluous distraction from the true joy of the Nativity. If children of African descent are looking for role models with similar facial features, there are hundreds of African saints who are remembered throughout the year. Instead of trying to project liberal grievance politics onto the celebration of Christmas, let’s celebrate it for what it is: the birth of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of all mankind.
Jesus commanded his disciples to, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” As a result, the Catholic Church is the most inclusive and culturally diverse organization on the planet. The body of Christ contains people from every nation, of every race, every background, every color, every ethnicity, every socioeconomic status, and every language. Jesus became man for all of us and his message is universal. Shouldn’t that be enough?