This California Church Re-Imagined Jesus, Mary & Joseph as Refugees Separated at the Border

Lead Photo: Photo by Suriyawut Suriya / iStock
Photo by Suriyawut Suriya / iStock
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If Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus sought refuge in the United States, would they be treated with dignity and respect? A new nativity scene at Claremont United Methodist Church in California suggests that they – just as many refugees today – would be separated at the border and caged.

The nativity scene, which was unveiled Saturday night, features each of the figures in their own cages.

“We see this as, in some ways, the Holy Family standing in for the nameless families,” said the Rev. Karen Clark Ristine, the lead pastor at Claremont United Methodist Church, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve heard of their plight; we’ve seen how these asylum seekers have been greeted and treated. We wanted the Holy Family to stand in for those nameless people because they also were refugees.”

The setup has sparked a lot of discussion on Ristine’s Facebook page. And while this has been a conversation starter, this isn’t the first time the church has made a strong statement. One time, it used the display to weigh in on the homelessness crisis in Southern California.

But the church doesn’t see it as something political; instead, it sees the scene as theological. “I’m getting responses from people I don’t know … I am having people tell me that it moved them to tears,” she added. “So if the Holy Family and the imagery of the Holy Family and the imagery of a Nativity is something you hold dear, and you see them separated, then that’s going to spark compassion in many people.”