One church in California has decided to forgo the classic nativity scene this holiday season and turned it into a controversial piece of art instead.
Claremont United Methodist Church tapped artist John Zachary to turn the manger scene we’re all familiar with into something topical in order to get people talking, and it worked. For several years now, Zachary has created pieces of installation art at Christmas to illustrate the story for today, and this December he took it even further, replacing Jesus with a hoodie-wearing figure representing Trayvon Martin. A bright red stream of blood flows from his chest to the floor of the nativity scene, representing the bullet wound Martin succumbed to last year.
“I found this year’s hard to look at. It’s hard to look at a young man who’s shot and bleeding to death. But even though I’m uncomfortable with it, that’s the point,” Sharon Rhodes-Wickett, lead pastor for the church, said. “We have to take a look at the violence.”
Zachary says the point of the installation is to draw attention to the similarities between the dark times we face and those faced in Biblical times.
“He was, in my view, an innocent child like the innocent children killed by King Herod,” Zachary said of Martin. “I think the Nativity has to be relevant to our time. I think Jesus is a symbol of hope and I think he has to be seen in today’s context.”
The scene has garnered quite a bit of attention since it was set up earlier this month, and social media users have taken to Facebook to complain about the installation on the church’s page, calling it disrespectful. The artist himself says he had reservations about setting it up–more so than in previous years, when the subjects told stories of homelessness and gay rights–but felt that in itself was a reason to do it.
“I have had reservations, although I have come to think that it’s the right way to do it,” he said. “I feel a little sad that some people are so outraged about it.”
Image via Wikimedia Commons