Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.
A cable television anchor named Megyn Kelly told viewers last week that Jesus and Santa Claus are both white men. At issue was a Slate article written by a black writer titled “Santa Claus Should Not Be A White Man Anymore.” The context of the piece was the tendency of cultures to view important figures in the most familiar and comfortable light. On her Fox News program, Kelly took issue with the writer.
“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?”
Both sides pounced. Liberal web sites and late-night comics lampooned her. Conservative web sites defended her. Saturday Night Live did a skit featuring a black Santa. The debate went viral on the Internet. Kelly subsequently suggested she was joking and cast herself as a victim of identity politics. Clearly, her facts were flawed. Jesus was a 1st Century Jew who was likely dark skinned and Santa Claus is a mythological figure whose historical antecedent was from Turkey.
People believe what they are prepared to believe. What’s interesting was the passionate reaction to the remarks. Why the fierce dustup? Why did the idea that a white Christmas means Santa’s white cause so much consternation? What did this episode say about the way we see the world and our willingness — or reluctance – to see things in different ways?
Our Faith Panel weighs in thoughtfully (and with a few fireworks) on history, ethnic identity, political correctness and the virtues of faith and the holidays:
NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas
This is example of the disease of the bodily conception of life, a case of mistaken identity. Our body is always changing in this life. The body we had as child is no longer around and the current body that we have is composed of completely different cells and molecules. It is a vehicle and we are the passenger. As a passenger we have existed before the vehicle and shall exist after the vehicle's destruction. Yet by the deluding power of avidya we ignorantly see the body as the self. In this illusion we try to fulfill the needs of the self by placating the desires of the external vehicle, the subtle mind and physical body. We may give the body comforts and give the mind profit, adoration, and prestige. Yet despite such attempts towards satisfaction one remains not satisfied. Only by loving connection to the Supreme does the self experience fulfillment.
Change directed towards the factual self is of value. Ideologies for or against change based of the temporary bodily conception of life are of no real consequence.