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California Church Creates Black Lives Matter-Themed Nativity Scene To Encourage Conversations About White Supremacy
Beautiful stained glass window created by F. Zettler (1878-1911) at the German Church (St. Gertrude's church) in Gamla Stan in Stockholm.
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A house of worship in California has created a Black Lives Matter-themed Nativity scene that its senior minister says is meant to spark constructive dialogue about racial discrimination and white supremacy.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Claremont United Methodist Church has an annual tradition of setting up “eye-catching” outdoor Nativity displays that bring attention to the day’s hot social justice movements.

“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, told the outlet.

This year’s exhibit features the Holy Family in front of a large painting of a diverse group of protesters who are wearing face coverings and holding signs with slogans like “I Can’t Breathe!”, “Jesus Wept” and “Black Lives Matter.”

The L.A. Times reports:

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, told The Times it took two months to construct the set after the “Creative Peacemaking” committee had agreed on this year’s theme.

“We thought that racism was really worse, the worst epidemic that maybe we had around the world,” he 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.”

A theological statement issued by the church explains 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” during 2020. It says that Mary, the mother of Jesus, “was powerless in the face of those who ruled” the Roman Empire, and that those who follow her Holy Child are called upon to support underprivileged and disadvantaged people.

“We affirm and join the call for justice and equity by the Black Lives Matter movement to ensure that Black lives matter as much as any other life,” it continues. “Our faith in Christ challenges us to stand with Mary in her call for justice for the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed.”

Rev. Ristine said the congregation “kind of leads with justice,” adding, “this is a very important art statement for them every year.” She told The Times that the public’s reaction to this year’s BLM theme had been split “50/50” and more subdued than the response to some previous artistic expressions.

As The Times reported:

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.

“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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