A progressive Methodist church in California is making waves for its Black Lives Matter-themed nativity scene.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Claremont United Methodist Church has erected a nativity scene with figures of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in front of a mural of BLM protesters wearing masks and holding signs with various slogans such as “I Can’t Breathe!”, “Jesus Wept” and “Black Lives Matter.”
#Claremont United Methodist Church used their nativity scene to highlight families separated at the border last year. This year the church is using their nativity scene to honor the #BlackLivesMatter protests. #NBCLA pic.twitter.com/sGukyOMmIg
— AlexVnews (@alexvnews) December 12, 2020
“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, said.
The L.A. Times continues:
Against the mural backdrop, a statue of Joseph kneels beside the babe in a manger. 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.
Genaro Cordova, the church’s facilities engineer, said that the church’s “Creative Peacemaking” committee decided the theme for this year’s scene, which took two months to construct.
The nativity scene at Claremont United Methodist Church this year. pic.twitter.com/8u7ET5aEeZ
— 🌲Future Ghost🌲 (@juliamordaunt) December 9, 2020
“We thought that racism was really worse, the worst epidemic that maybe we had around the world,” Cordova 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,” he added.
A “nativity theological statement” issued by the church declares that “unjustified killings of unarmed Black Americans…galvanized a wide coalition of Americans to seek equal justice under the law and equal treatment in our society for people of color” this year. The statement also says that Mary, the mother of Jesus, “was powerless in the face of those who ruled” the Roman Empire. “Still, in this beloved passage from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Mary claims a power that comes, not from the emperor or from other earthly authori3es, but from God. Mary claims the power of God’s love and grace that would be born into the world in her son, Jesus. This is a force stronger than earth’s armies, a force Mary claims for the well-being of the poor and oppressed.”
“Our faith in Christ challenges us to stand with Mary in her call for justice for the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed,” the statement adds.
As we reported last year, the church made waves with another social justice-themed nativity scene in which Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were held in cages.
The Times adds that the church has a long-standing tradition of dragging progressive hot topics into the scene of Jesus’ birth:
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.
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.
This is the Nativity display outside the Claremont United Methodist Church in California.
It's making some people very upset. And it should.
— Anthony Breznican (@Breznican) December 8, 2019
“We don’t want the need for continuing conversation of racism and white supremacy to get lost in news cycles,” Ristine told the Times. “This is a centuries-old issue that we need to keep wrestling with.”
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