At least two U.S. churches are making a statement with their nativity scenes this year. One of them is the Claremont United Methodist Church in California and the other is St. Susanna Parish in Massachusetts. The Claremont church seems to be alluding to Trump’s immigration policies, while St. Susanna Parish is taking a stance on climate change.
In a tweet by American journalist, Anthony Breznican, you can see members of the holy family inside chain-link cages. Baby Jesus is in a cage of his own while Joseph and Mary stand on either side of him, also in cages.
The scene does not specifically include any mention of Trump, though many think that the message is implied.
The church has a congregation of about 300 members and there are mixed responses about the church taking a political stance. One Twitter user said, “This is sacrilegious and blasphemous. Politicizing a nativity scene for the of social justice should list high in a book ‘you just don’t do it.’ The priest that okayed this should be stripped of his title and disgraced.”
Rev. Karen Clark Ristine, of the church noted, “This is a sacred family to us. We hold this family dear. And part of our vision is that they’re standing in for all the nameless others. For us, this is theological, this is not political.”
St. Susanna Parish in Dedham, Massachusetts has also included a theme in their nativity scene. The theme they chose to touch on is climate change. The scene shows everybody standing knee-deep in trash-filled water while some surrounding animals are fully submerged. A baby Jesus can be seen floating amidst everyone. The scene is accompanied by a banner saying “God so loved the world… will we?”
Some controversy has arisen out of the nativity scene. Father Stephen Josoma, the church’s pastor, says he’s not sure adding the climate change theme is politicizing the scene.
Father Stephen told WCVB, “We’re just painting an accurate picture of what the world is like this day.”
He told Boston 25 News, “It’s not a future event that may or may not happen,” also noting, “I think we have to kind of gather people’s awareness to bring about a change of mind and heart.”
The response has been mixed for parishioners, including Pat Ferrone who said, “Jesus was born into the circumstances of his time,” he went on to say, “You can’t pick up the paper or magazine or whatever without learning something dire.”
Some people were for the statement, such as Maureen Adams who wrote in a Facebook post, “Good for them for taking an ethical stand for humanity and the state of the world. Isn’t that what Jesus would do?”
Another Facebook user disagreed posting, “Trying to make a point, each year, with the Nativity is horrible. Hopefully one day it will be realized that this is offensive to some. Trying to gain publicity over something so sacred is blasphemous.”
One woman who told WCVB that she has stopped attending the church due to the views held by the pastor. She said, “I think he’s a snowflake. There’s a lot of people that don’t want to go in that church anymore because they’re tired of hearing liberal views.”
This isn’t the first time Josoma has tried to send a message with his nativity scene. Last year the church-based their theme on the migrant crisis, showing Jesus and his family in cages. The year before, they displayed mass-shooting victims alongside the family.
Another community member, Mike Looby, told Boston 25 News, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to mix those two topics together. It’s in bad taste.”
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