Rev. Addresses Nativity Scene in Claremont Church That is Causing Controversy

Ameera Butt
December 09, 2019 - 3:24 pm
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A caged nativity scene in Claremont is causing a sensation Monday morning.

The scene depicts Joseph, Mary and their baby Jesus in a manger not standing around -- but in cages, a direct aim at asylum refugees who were fleeing South America and were being held in cages along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of President Trump's border separation policies since he took office.

The scene was unveiled over the weekend.

Rev. Karen Clark Ristine, who is the lead pastor of the Claremont United Methodist Church,  says the church typically uses the Nativity scene to tackle an issue in society.

In the past, the church has shown a homeless Mary with Jesus at a bus stop, with Jesus swaddled in burlap, according to a CBS story.

"It was just apparent to everyone, even in July, that the theme this year should be family separation," she said.

But she also felt they needed to show the family reunified.

"Same Joseph, Mary and Jesus figures are inside the church, gathered together in what would be a more traditional nativity," Ristine said.

Ristine addressed the nativity scene on KNX In-Depth Monday afternoon:

KNX 1070/Jon Baird
KNX 1070/Jon Baird

The display seems to be illustrating The Holy Family's flight to Egypt with the plight of refugees fleeing their countries today.  

In a Facebook post on Dec. 7, Ristine wrote "The theological statement posted with the nativity: In a time in our country when refugee families seek asylum at our borders and are unwillingly separated from one another, we consider the most well-known refugee family in the world. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the Holy Family. Shortly after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary were forced to flee with their young son from Nazareth to Egypt to escape King Herod, a tyrant. They feared persecution and death. What if this family sought refuge in our country today?"

Celebrities and others have used the photo on their social media including 'Top Chef' star Padma Lakhsmi, who featured it in their Instagram stories.

Ristine said the response about the nativity scene, from emails and phone calls, are split.

About three-fourths of the response from the public was grateful while others have been angry.