Baby Jesus in a caged nativity scene
A controversial nativity scene shows baby Jesus in a cage, wrapped in a foil blanket.

Joseph and Mary look longingly towards baby Jesus. Although his father's arms stretch out towards him, the three figures are separated by metal cages topped with barbed wire.

That’s the scene greeting visitors to California’s Claremont United Methodist Church this holiday season. The church’s display was posted online, and soon went viral. In a widely-shared Facebook post, Senior Minister Karen Clark Ristine explains the meaning behind her congregation's nativity scene:

“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.

What if this family sought refuge in our country today?

Imagine Joseph and Mary separated at the border and Jesus no older than two taken from his mother and placed behind the fences of a Border Patrol detention center as more than 5,500 children have been the past three years.

The stark nativity installation is a reference to the controversial White House immigration policy which saw thousands of children separated from their families at the southern border.
Minister Ristine suggests that Christian teachings should prohibit treating anyone in such a manner – citizen or not.

Debate Rages On

Unsurprisingly, the nativity display has provoked strong reactions from opponents of immigration – as well as from Christians who were furious to see a popular religious symbol being used to make a political statement.

“Karen, I am Methodist and your post is a clap in the face to me,” said one churchgoer. “What about the ILLEGALS coming into this country and killing someone?" reasoned another, "the parents and that child are separated forever in this life...Horrible display.”

On Twitter, conservative voices were quick to critique the display:

But many others commended the nativity scene as powerful and moving.  "Thank you for standing up for those who have no voice. This is not ‘using’ the nativity scene. This is a perfect artistic rendition of Jesus’s teachings. I’m truly grateful,” one supportive voice wrote.

Another pointed out that outrage from anti-immigration circles only highlights misplaced priorities.  

Using Faith for Activism

Interestingly, the Claremont church is no stranger to controversial nativity scenes, which in past years have featured displays including gay couples and Trayvon Martin. There is clearly a strong current of activism that runs through this congregation – a desire to harness faith and community to effect real change in the world.

Few critics of the display would disagree that this is a laudable goal, although they seem to take issue with the manner in which it’s being carried out. They argue that taking an iconic religious symbol like the nativity and manipulating it for political aims is offensive to Christians and a “cheap shot” designed to generate attention.

But the church’s supporters turn this argument on its head, insisting that if Christians are angrier about a statue of fake Jesus in a cage than they are about real children being separated from their parents, then perhaps they should re-examine their values.

Where do you stand?

31 comments

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    They ought to at least be put a couple of well armed G.I. Joe action figurines in there with baby Jesus to protect him from harm, until he's returned to his toy parents. They could even feed it some toy c-rations. Or throw in a Barbie doll to breast feed that little, toy Jesus. Well, they can't expect manna from heaven to fall down and land in his mouth, or angels to fly down to protect a toy. I bet it isn't even blessed.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    Its disgusting to try and use Christ for your political beliefs. If you cant elaborate your political beliefs in a sane rational matter, then you should not be allowed to say anything at all.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      You're right Danny, the whole fable of Christ and christianity is disgusting, and shouldn't be used at all, but totally forgotten about, like a bad dream.

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        Amazing a person who does not believe in a deity somehow thinks its ok to post his ignorance on a religious website.

        1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

          You're right, Dan,us Wiccans don't believe in a deity, but two of them, God and Goddess. However, there are even atheist ULC ministers, Mr. Smarty Pants, who according to ULC belong here just as much as the rest of us. According to ULC, we are all children of the same universe. You might know a lot about some kind of religion, but apparently not this one. You also must not have read very many of my comments, posted on this blog over the last couple of years, to assume I don't believe in a deity. I am interfaithinister who has been studying numerous religions for most of my life, and believe in parts of most of them. And even though I'm nothing like a Christian, I do believe in Jesus Christ.

          1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

            And do you hear me saying that your religion is a fake or fraud? Nope. So why are you doing it to mine? There is no more proof of your Gods then there is of My one, and as such you are doing a major disservice when you cast aspersions at another persons religion. You should know better. Does not your religion say something about doing no harm? So why are you doing it then?

    2. Asa William Sprague, II's Avatar Asa William Sprague, II

      Political beliefs? Perhaps they are practicing their religious beliefs by shining a light on this inhumane situation. Are you going to try and tell them what they should believe and how they should practice their faith?

  1. JakeTest Donotfill's Avatar JakeTest Donotfill
    Comment has been removed.
  1. Takaya Kovani Sweeney's Avatar Takaya Kovani Sweeney

    It’s accurate and the only people britching are racists. Carry on.

  1. Iutisone Tiliaia's Avatar Iutisone Tiliaia

    Spend too much time with these negativity comments. Please spend your time wisely, or mostly start reading the Bible. This will mellow your mind and reset it to a right path

  1. Rod Gesner's Avatar Rod Gesner

    Not Refugees?? were They not avoiding the Search and Execution of All Newborn - 2yr old male Children at that time? Much Like the Refugees of Mexico and Central America; That Flee The Deadly Gangs and abusive Corrupt police and Military Junta's. However, In our "Modern Nanny Protectionist" USA today; Child protective services would Take the Child away; just for Birthing in a manger; without proper medical authorities; and would insist on Proof a JOB a Home with a Separate bedroom for the Child w a Legal Crib; and have Both Parents, Pee tested for Traces of Healing herbs; before he could be returned to them..

    1. James C Riggle's Avatar James C Riggle

      Thank you... AMEN brother. The best post I've read on this so far.

  1. Gilbert Mason's Avatar Gilbert Mason

    A guy illegally crosses the US-Mexican border, whose name is "Jesus" and get's locked in a cage. Hmm... makes sense.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    Hmmm, lets see. I hope all the ones who are complaining about us not accepting this or seeing nothing wrong with it understands that it was President Obama who started this back in 2014.

    1. Asa William Sprague, II's Avatar Asa William Sprague, II

      The "he started it" defense is childish. Just because Jimmy brought matches to school doesn't mean it's okay for someone else to bring a flamethrower to school.

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        No sorry its historical fact. Whats wrong child, you have a problem with the truth?

        1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

          Lets see calling someone else child as if that puts you above them, very common of bigots and racists who like to call people child boy and girl.

          Also there is a world of difference as what you cite under previous admins is that the only children taken away were from actual criminals, not asylum seekers, nor did previous admins basically make coming here legally impossible by reducing asylum limits to pitiful limits designed to force the desperate people into crossing illegally just to avoid rape gangs and cartel human traffickers.

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    Would God support was the question in the link in the email. I'd say, yeah, he would. Face it, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (that's the christian god for those of you who don't know it) ordered the murder of all the men, women, and children in entire cities, so, yeah, he'd go along with it.

    On the other hand, Jesus is purported to have said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me."

    All in all, it's another tempest in a tiny, tiny teapot.

    1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      And yet you have any proof of this at all? Nope you dont. All you have is the Bible and you claim that its nonsense so you cant use that. There is no historical records anywhere that make this claim so thats strike 2 for you. And strike 3 is when you try and use parts of the scripture that you think somehow backs you up in your fantasy and lies.

      Hit the shower Atheist, you are done.

    2. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      Strike 1 and 2, you cannot use scripture when you claim that it does not exist or is false. And strike three the only think you have left is your opinion and that does not amount to much.

      Again how exactly does a person who admits to not believing in a deity, somehow think that they have a right to speak on religious matters?

      1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

        Because one can study and understand text without being brainwashed by them. For example the typical practicing christian doesnt have a lick of actual understanding about their faith. For example a great many cite the ten commandments not understanding those are judaic not christian and are part of that old covenant Jesus specifically said was to be left behind along with sacrifice and blood rituals.

  1. Amber M. Castleman's Avatar Amber M. Castleman

    God would never separate a child from their child the only separation between a child and their parents that is allowed is a passing if God was here on Earth with us he would make sure they stay together if one family member had to go back he would make sure that they went together.

    1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      And you somehow think you have the right to speak as to what God would and would not do? I see that you seemingly ignored the simple fact that the children that came here illegally with someone that was not their legal parent, how exactly are we suppose to send them back to a country when we have no way to make sure they would go back to their family as we dot know who their family is? Are you really now saying that we need to just load them up in a plane and drop them off into a country that they came from with no means of support or family assistance? Is that what you are saying?

  1. Rod Gesner's Avatar Rod Gesner

    Any that would Say these children are better off separated from their parents or whoever brought them.as They are criminals.. Be Christ Like not Xtian!! Step Up and Pass a Child protective background and Drug Test/Search; and FOSTER these Children So that They Will not be Caged Like animals and criminals..

  1. Rod Gesner's Avatar Rod Gesner

    can't get a Short one by anymore? tried to break it into 2 first being "Step up and Foster the Kids".. so here is second part.. any that will Turn my words on me.. Sorry I believe they are in most cases best kept with family and the Family best given a Fair chance at amnesty and Non Punishing housing.. anyway i'm 64 yrs old Somewhat disabled living on $488. SS retirement; and I already raised 3 kids; cared for another for 9 yrs till the hospitals mistakes Etc.. Killed my Gf; and then Family Lied and Took him.. So I Quit.. ;)

    1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      Ok lets take your post point for point Mr Gesner.

      1. If they wanted a fair chance at amnesty then they could have applied in the country they came from BEFORE just coming here and expecting us to accept them and give them an easy life. And remember they walked for over 2000 miles in some cases so you cant say that it would have been a big imposition for them to walk to the closest US Embassy.

      2. And when you get close to 40,000 people exactly WHERE are you going to put them all? There is not enough housing in the whole southern part of texas to place this many people and impose such a burden on the taxpayers that live there.

      3. The vast majority of these either kidnapped kids or were friends of the family and took them with them, meaning that they were not the biological parent. And you want us to keep them together?

      4. It was the left wing judges that told us we could not keep the adults with the kids, so what else were we suppose to do with them? just turn them lose on the streets of the US with no money or support?

      5. And Killed your GF? This shows you are somewhat delusional as if you had done this then you would be in prison and you would not be receiving any social security as you cant get it while doing time. And if it was the child that you claim to have cared for then they would have been in prison or in a mental hospital, either way their family would not have "taken" him.

      My apologies but your whole post seems to be a fantasy

      1. Rod Gesner's Avatar Rod Gesner

        From OP "till the hospitals mistakes Etc.. Killed my Gf;" the use of Etc.. is Common to signify more than one cause/action; Whatever... To Be more complete and Specific: after surgery to remove Broken Rods and Wires in her back that had been there Broken for Years; Due originally to her having Spina Bifida at birth.. The breakage was caused by past abuse from Psychotic Boyfriends and Police(as she could not walk She was often thrown to the ground from cars; when she refused to get out on her own) after surgery she was put on an antibiotic that caused a Heart Dangerous Potassium Spike; That caused her to be returned to the hospital; Where They forced her to get a stomach tube for ease of feeding her(against her wishes) but she requested a semipermanent IV Port so they would Stop torturing her with repeated incompetent Needle Sticks; in the process of those 2 simple procedures; They gave her a double dose of Same Heart damaging antibiotic; did not notice any reaction till that night when I was there and the Duty nurse noticed problems(but did not tell me What/Why.. The Next Day a Doctor came to me and explained the mistake and Said her Heart function Was only %30; %50 percent being Survivable... He Then Said due to the stomach tube and the Type of Bed She was in ( a Liquid Sand solution for bedsore prevention) she was having Reflux problems from the stomach tube when fed and it was causing breathing problems They were discussing rigging a hammock of some sort to stabilize her and keep her from Sinking and suffocating on her own Bile.. Then He Disappeared and They Did nothing to solve those problems.. Finally after I threatened to Call a Lawyer if they did not at least return her to a normal Bed.. They Moved her, But Gave her an OD of Pain meds as her kidneys were not Clearing out the old ones fast enough; and had to Revive her... Then They Cut her Cold turkey from ANY Pain meds;continued to give her the heart dangerous antibiotic.. Her Kidney function was such that they Planned Dialysis;But Would Not put her on a Transplant list; but when asked the Renal Specialist said he would not put his loved one thru it; at that Point She Went AWAY.. and they would do no Dialysis till she was conscious but still wanted to prepare her for it When Pressed I asked for a second opinion then Same Doc Pushed me again and I called him a Heartless FIC (Slang for Bureaucratic Functionary) He Asked What did You Say I explained it; then he Claimed I used The Fu Ahole words; and refused us ANY further care from his whole Team.. She was Transfer'd to another hospital; where I learned She Never should have been kept by the first one in the first place as They were New, understaffed, and Did not have the Care rating for her Issues..Then at the New hospital They again started pushing to prep her for Dialysis ;But even if she had woken up it would have likely Killed her to do it; as she was So Frail that the Doc in charge at the last one told me that any attempt to resuscitate her would just damage her not Save her. Then They did a SPINAL TAP (Without pain relief) and Said she had bacteria in her spinal fluid and blood in her intestines (from the Failed stomach tube) The Nurse that Gave me That info said; "They will Continue to Experiment on her (ie.. Torture her) as long as they can keep her alive" at that point I realized She was NEVER coming Back and even if She Did They would Just torture her further at that point.. So I used my Medical Power of Attorney to Say "Take her of the Breathing Tube and Put her back on Morphine and Let her Go". So if You Read this Far and Want to Still Accuse Me?? Yeah, I guess you Could Say; "I Killed Her" But then, That is Why She Gave me Medical Power of Attorney; To Make That Call When All else I could Do for her was Not Enough.... So If You Could Sir; Please Learn to read in context; not just to support your Attack agenda; and Self Righteous Judgments.

        1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

          YOU were the one who posted "killed my GF" and now you get mad because we took you at your word? Maybe you should have been a little more clear in your statement?

      2. Rod Gesner's Avatar Rod Gesner

        To D G your first points were the Same BLAaa BLAaaa Repug myths you have been REgurgitating on others.. So I chose not to Engage; except to point out that you do not touch the issue of Why you don't foster these children???

        However the last one "And Killed your GF? " is a Self Serving Misquote and that and the Accusation of Delusion and Fantasy that borders on Slander and Libel Deserved and Extensive answer to Clarify; OP: ( till the hospitals mistakes Etc.. Killed my Gf; ) So It will Show up when admin has time to read it.. untill then all I have to Say is if you read and interperate your Bible; as well as you Cherry pick and deny meaning in Our posts; You will always serve your Agendas; but No one's God...

        1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

          My points are based in fact, and easily validated. Yours...not so much. But nice try oh egotistical one

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    The Bible makes good rolling papers.

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