The controversial Nativity that has turned Joseph, Mary and Jesus into a separated migrant family
The protest from a California Methodist church locked the three Christmas figures in separate cages and without a star to guide them.
"What if this family were to seek refuge in our country today?" asked Rev. Karen Clark Ristine in a Facebook post, referring to the biblical story of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
The minister of the United Methodist Church of Claremont, California, was thus in-step with the criticism received by her "shocking" –and some think "opportunist"– Nativity: The Separated and Caged Holy Family exhibit; a metaphor for the asylum seekers on the border between Mexico and the United States. And it's not hard to imagine... at least as Ristine explains:
The Baby behind the fence of a Border Patrol detention center, like the more than 5,500 minors who have already been separated from their parents; Joseph and Mary also isolated. They may never see each other again.
"Jesus grew up to teach us goodness and mercy and a radical welcome to all people," she says.
The tragedy at the border is one of the most controversial and saddest issues of the year. According to the United Nations, the number of children imprisoned in U.S. detention centers by Trump's anti-immigrant policy could rise to over 100,000, violating Human and Children's Rights.
And it reminds us of that other wall in Cisjordania, which today separates Bethlehem from its neighboring Jerusalem, 9 km away, and Israelis from Palestinians.
It is not the first time that this Methodist church has been criticized for its social cribs, all made by the artist John Zachary. They have even suffered acts of vandalism:
In 2011, it depicted a homosexual and a heterosexual couple. Two years later, in 2013, it honored Trayvon Martin, and a year after that, showed a homeless Virgin Mary with a baby Jesus wrapped in sackcloth.
Just once, the Claremont congregation had to stop Zachary, when in 2015 he planned to recreate a steel manger with eight guns pointing at the Child.
"Obviously," said the artist at the time, "it was too provocative a departure, and people were frightened. They were afraid of what might happen to them, a protest from the NRA or a madman entering the church."
This year, they dared. And while criticism continues even among the Hispanic community, Christmas is approaching without major incidents. Except, of course, in the case of thousands of Central Americans who go into the desert without a Star to guide them on their way to the United States.