Just when we thought the Vatican would take home the prize for 2020’s worst Nativity scene, along comes the perennially-offensive Claremont United Methodist Church to prove us wrong once again. Claremont, which seems to view the Christmas Nativity scene as little more than a hanger to be adorned with the social justice message of the year, outdid themselves this time around by surrounding the Holy Family with Black Lives Matter protesters (who are, of course, wearing face masks).
The L.A. Times, which generously called Claremont’s annual displays “eye-catching” instead of, say, “nauseating,” reports that the scene depicts protesters surrounding Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus while holding signs like “I Can’t Breathe!”
“We couldn’t think of any other issue that we wanted to keep under the light of the Bethlehem star than the need to address racism,” Rev. Karen Clark Ristine, the church’s senior minister, told the paper.
Certainly, the call to eternal salvation is a subject of little importance when compared to the plight of George Floyd. That’s a given!
“Against the mural backdrop, a statue of Joseph kneels beside the babe in a manger,” reports the L.A. Times. “Mary stands, her arms lifted with the protesters in the painting, alluding to the protests that erupted this summer after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd. Above their heads, a banner lists the names of more than 30 Black people who have been killed, including Emmett Till, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.”
The paper spoke to churchmember Genaro Cordova, who said that racism is more important to highlight than the ongoing struggle of the pandemic.
“We thought that racism was really worse, the worst epidemic that maybe we had around the world,” he said. “COVID is going to pass, but the struggle of our brothers and sisters, Black Americans, is going to continue for a long time. Even our Nativity scene, like Mary and Joseph and Jesus, they are not really white, but we tried to make it like brown, between all the races.”
We’re not even going to try and parse that last sentence; make of it what you will.
As the Times notes, this is not the first time the church has used the Nativity to MAKE A STATEMENT.
“A few years ago, Mary was huddled in a sleeping bag, sitting at a bus stop beside her shopping cart and holding a baby – a modern depiction of Jesus’ family as homeless,” they report. “Another year, a hooded and bloody re-creation of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old shot and killed by George Zimmerman in 2012, knelt beside a silhouette of the virgin mother. Last year, the church placed each member of the Holy Family in cages, to represent families separated and detained behind fences at the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Frankly, we’re not even offended. It’s just embarrassing for everyone involved, even if they don’t have the sense to be ashamed of it themselves.