A Georgia church has posted a Christmas message on a marquee outside of its doors that is stirring a fair bit of debate. It reads: "Santa is Satan."
The sign has been on display outside Born Again Independent Baptist Church in Harlem, Georgia, since earlier this month, with Pastor Edward Carothers claiming that it was the congregation as a whole that made the decision to post it, the Christian Post reported.
Describing Santa Claus as a "false deity," the preacher charged that the character has overtaken the true meaning of Christmas; he said that the controversial billboard message was posted in an effort to counter that phenomenon.
"We as born again believers traditionally set aside December 25th to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," Carothers told the Post. "For several years now I noticed less and less nativity scenes and more Santa."
The church later added additional words to the billboard. Under "Santa is Satan" it now also reads, "Find out why at Av1611.org. Santa great imposter."
Carothers told WRDW that he believes "Santa Claus is robbing Christ of his glory."
The pastor also cited concerns over how discovering that Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny are fictitious could lead some children to also doubt Jesus Christ's existence.
The message has caused some debate in the community, with critics claiming that the message is divisive and does little to bring outsiders into the church's fold.
"I don't know the church in itself, but just as far as a church putting that on the sign I think that tends to create a bigger wedge between the church and the community," Carrel Davis, youth director at Harlem United Methodist Church, told WJBF-TV. "You're not going to find scripture in the Bible saying that is a sin to believe. I don't think it does harm to kids, tell kids what Santa does, he is a giver."
Dr. Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, has covered this issue in-depth, claiming that telling kids Santa is real can have damaging effects. Read what she had to say last year about this very subject here.
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(H/T: Christian Post)