A California church’s nativity scene has replaced Jesus with Trayvon Martin. The Claremont United Methodist Church display was created by artist John Zachary. The slain teen is depicted wearing a hoodie, white jeans, and grey basketball shoes.
The figure is seated on a chair. However, it is leaning forward as fake blood spills from the chest and covers the ground. The front of the nativity scene reads “A Child Is Born, A Son Is Given.” Although the scene has drawn stark criticism, Zachary said it contains an important message.
“He was, in my view, an innocent child like the innocent children killed by King Herod… I think the Nativity has to be relevant to our time. I think Jesus is a symbol of hope and I think he has to be seen in today’s context.”
Despite Zachary’s intentions, the display has is being criticized as sacrilegious. Reverend Dan Lewis fully supports the controversial scene. He said critics do not understand the “great thought, great depth, and great meaning,” behind the display. The reverend said he was hesitant to approve the nativity, but eventually decided it was “the right way to do it.”
Trayvon Martin was killed on February 26, 2012 while walking through an affluent Florida community. The 17-year-old was shot by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman. Authorities later determined the teen was unarmed, and Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder. However, he was eventually found not-guilty.
USA Today reports Zachary has been in charge of the church’s nativity scene for several years. He often uses the display to raise awareness about human rights. Previous scenes have promoted rights for gay families, the homeless, and immigrants.
This year’s Trayvon Martin nativity scene may be controversial, but it is getting a lot of attention. Zachary hopes the attention will lead to discussion about the impact of gun violence.