The Pastor Who Became the Grinch

Christmas is a time of celebration. It is a time set aside each December to celebrate the birth of Christ. Christmas is supposed to be a joyous occasion, filled with showing good will to one’s neighbor. However, such was not the case in a mall in Amarillo, Texas. Pastor Dave Grisham, originally from Panama City, Florida, took it upon himself to tell a group of kids, standing in line to see Santa Claus in an Amarillo, Texas mall, that Santa Claus does not exist. He was noted as saying, as quoted by the Drudge Report, “Parents, y’all need to stop lying to your children and telling them that Santa Claus is real, when in fact, he’s not.” Grisham went on to say, “When you substitute the lies of Santa Claus in heart of your child for the truth of Jesus Christ, you are bearing false witness against God.” Eventually, Grisham was silenced by a group of fathers who told him that he needed to stop and leave. Being in Texas, Grisham is lucky that is all he got from the angry dads.

Grisham at an Amarillo, Texas mall before his obnoxious stunt.

Grisham is known for his confrontational tactics with his style of evangelism. He operates a ministry called Last Frontier Ministries. In Grisham’s eyes, he thought he was doing something right. I am sure that in his mind, he thought, “Hey, I’m telling these kids about Jesus. What could be wrong with that?” However, Grisham did far more harm than good. Not only did he make national headlines (perhaps the intention of his tirade), he portrayed Christians as a bunch of nagging, obnoxious, party poopers, who cannot allow children enjoy some innocent fun. In essence, Grisham turned the Nativity (the reason for the Christmas season) into the proverbial Grinch.

Some readers will say, “Yeah, but he did tell the children about Jesus. That can’t be bad, can it?” Others will argue, “Christmas has become too commercialized. Isn’t that what Grisham confronted?” Point taken. However, it must be noted that it is not only important what is said, it is equally important how something is presented. Tactless, confrontational evangelism defeats the purpose it sets out to accomplish.

Aristotle noted that there are three important tasks in communication: logos (the logic behind what is presented), ethos (the ethical and authoritative nature of the speaker), and pathos (the emotional appeal meant to persuade the audience). Grisham arguably teetered around the logos aspect of his presentation. Yet, he completely missed the ethos and pathos aspects. That is why both the Christian and secular communities are frustrated with Grisham.

Simon Peter notes in 1 Peter 3:15, a text that notes the importance of apologetics, that one should “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV, emphasis mine). Gentleness and respect! Grisham failed to display gentleness and respect, especially to the little children.

Remember, we can be right about an issue and wrong in our presentation. When that occurs, we are not persuasive. Rather, we become obnoxious. That is what happened with Grisham. May we (and he) learn from his mistakes. Jesus is the focus of our Christmas celebration. Celebrate Him! But don’t turn Him into the Grinch. To our friends in Amarillo, Texas, on behalf of the majority of the Christian community, you have our apologies. Amarillo, have a wonderful Christmas!

Click here to see the video, courtesy of the Drudge Report.

(c) December 14, 2016. Brian Chilton.


Football Fights and the Fall

Today, I heard a news report that discussed the growing problems of violence among high school football players towards referees and officials. Those working in the realm of high school athletics said that there needed to be “zero-tolerance” for players who assaulted officials or other players on the field and for coaches who promoted such actions. I whole-heartedly agree. However, as it was noted on the newscast, it seems that such actions indicate a greater, growing problem in our culture. But what is the problem?

There is a growing tendency to dismiss authority which has led towards an attitude of anti-authoritarianism; that is, disrespecting all authority. Individuals seem to promote the mentality that a person needs to fight against what is often called “the man.” “The man” is used to reference authority. “The man” may refer to the leaders of the business that employs the individual. Perhaps “the man” references those who enforce laws. Perhaps “the man” are those who make laws. It could even be that “the man” are those in Christian leadership. It is agreed that corruption can, and in fact does, exist in such agencies. However, are aggressive acts such as those implemented by the high school football players the answer? Certainly not! Shouldn’t one find a way to make a difference while still respecting one’s governing authorities? Certainly!

Attitudes of anti-authoritarianism is a human problem that have its roots in the fall. In Genesis chapter 3, Satan tempted and led humanity into sin by the simple words “Did God actually say” (Genesis 3:1)?[1] Since that time, human beings have questioned the authority of God. Does God really want control over this area of my life? Do I really have to love my neighbor? Anti-authoritarianism finds its root in one’s rebellion against the Supreme Authority–God.

It is true that there are times that the believer must stand opposed to the works of a governing authority. But, those times should only occur when such agencies stand opposed to the principles given by God. For instance, Jesus stood opposed to the Sanhedrin by calling out the sins and discrepancies of the institution, while calling on a higher calling–loving God. But Jesus did not call for hurtful aggressive actions. Rather, he called for one to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Peter, Paul, and the early apostles did not accept the edicts given against them to cease their preaching, yet they did not strike such authorities with the sword. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego respectfully stood against the Babylonian commands which contradicted their obedience to God, but they did so while still respecting the authority of the king. All of them paid a price. However, their stand was not rooted in anti-authoritarianism. Their stand came by ultimate authoritarianism as they respected the ultimate authority of God.

Let us take care that we do not promote an anti-authoritarian mindset. The apostle Paul wrote that the Christian should “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7). If we as a society would teach respect and honor to our authorities…and ultimately to the Supreme Authority–God…then it is certain that we would not have a culture where high school football players would think that it is acceptable to assault the authorities over the game.

Copyright September 18, 2015. Brian Chilton

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).