A Methodist Church in Claremont, California has unveiled a Nativity scene that depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph as refugees in cages and it's garnering quite a bit of attention and stoking debate over the Trump administration's separation policies at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The not-so-traditional Nativity scene shows the classic figures of Jesus, shortly after His birth, with Mary and Joseph standing nearby. However, as a twist, each figurine is contained within a cage, which is meant to bring to mind the criticism of President Donald Trump's immigration and border separation policies.
"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," Rev. Karen Clark Ristine wrote in a Facebook post that featured a photo of the scene. "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," she added.
Rev. Ristine, said she was "stirred to tears" by the depiction.
"What if this family sought refuge in our country today?" Rev. Ristine wrote "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."
"Jesus grew up to teach us kindness and mercy and a radical welcome of all people," she continued.
Ristine cited several bible verses in her post on how Christians are expected to treat refugees.
"He said: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:35
"In the Claremont United Methodist Church nativity scene this Christmas, the Holy Family takes the place of the thousands of nameless families separated at our borders.
Inside the church, you will see this same family reunited, the Holy Family together, in a nativity that joins the angels in singing “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will to all.” Luke 2:14
Inside the church, a more traditional Nativity scene can be found, with the family reunited.
"We don’t see it as political; we see it as theological. I’m getting responses from people I don’t know … I am having people tell me that it moved them to tears,” Ristine told the L.A. Times. “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."
The Trump administration drew heavy criticism for its immigration policies, including the practice of separating children from their parents while they are detained at the southern U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump ordered an end to the child separation policy in 2018
Ristine who has served as the church's pastor since July, said the church has used its Nativity scene in the past to highlight issues in society, including the homeless crisis in Southern California.
Photo: Rev. Karen Clark Ristine/Claremont United Methodist Church in California