Christian churches across the country are using the traditional nativity scene as an opportunity to make a political statement, USA Today reports. That’s not sitting well with some, particularly those on the opposite side of the issue being raised.
Churches across Christendom this time of year put out displays meant to depict some aspects of the Biblical narrative of the birth of Jesus. That is to say, the Baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Joseph — and in some cases, barn animals and even the Three Wise Men or a shepherd or two — are a common feature around Christian churches all across the country and the world.
Some churches are using that scene as an opportunity to make a political statement.
For example, as previously reported by The Inquisitr, Claremont, California’s United Methodist Church hosted a scene that calls to mind the news that dominated the headlines for a few weeks earlier this year, that of immigrant families being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border and held in different detention facilities. The scene depicts the Holy Family held in separate cages. In one, Jesus, wrapped in a foil blanket, rests in a makeshift crib. In another cage is Mary, her arms outstretched towards her newborn son. Joseph is held in another.
Thought-provoking nativity scene outside the Claremont United Methodist Church in California. pic.twitter.com/sALqoDRto4— ty stiklorius (@tystiklorius) December 8, 2019
It’s not just in California. St. Susanna, a Catholic Parish in Dedham, Massachusetts, down the road from Boston, put up a similar display last Christmas. The year before that, the church’s nativity scene was more traditional but for the fact that it was displayed in front of large signs listing mass shootings in the U.S., beneath a banner that read, “Peace on Earth?” Another church had a nativity scene that depicted rising floodwaters threatening to overtake the Holy Family, seemingly in reference to climate change.
It’s a fine line that churches must walk: propagating their message while at the same time avoiding venturing into politics and risking the loss of their tax-exempt status.
But some pastors insist that the message of the Gospel is itself political.
“In a time in our country when refugee families seek asylum at the borders and are unwillingly separated from one another, we consider the most well-known refugee family in the world,” said Claremont’s pastor, the Rev. Karen Clark Ristine.
These messages aren’t sitting well with everybody, however. In Claremont, for example, one internet user wrote that the church’s pastor needs to go.
“Breaking the laws is… not biblical — stop being an activist and let someone else preach truth in that church,” they wrote.
And in Dedham, the church’s pastor says that his phones blew up when his nativity display caught the ire of Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
“It was a disaster. Anyone who’s [sic] name was associated with the parish in some way, they got trolled by the MAGA people. It was just awful,” he said.