Toronto church jumps on trend of putting baby Jesus in a cage
A United Church in east Toronto is making waves online today with a freshly-installed nativity scene that features baby Jesus wrapped in a mylar blanket, trapped inside a tiny cage away from his mom and dad.
The display is unusual, thought provoking, and highly impactful given the context in which it was created: As a nod to the plight of thousands of migrant children who've been detained at the U.S. border in recent years, locked behind bars without proper nutrition, supervision or physical care.
It is not, however, very original.
Church causes controversy by locking up baby Jesus in a cage https://t.co/5gjZnBlA1Y— Shamindan (@Shamindan1) December 23, 2018
Eastminster United Church on The Danforth between Pape and Broadview Avenues unveiled its attention-grabbing "baby Jesus in a cage" creche to the outdoor world on Tuesday, according to The Star.
Rev. Michiko Brown-Kai of Eastminster United, who uses the pronoun they, told The Star in a piece published Wednesday that they and their colleague, Jane Sanden, "came up with the idea when considering issues that require parishioners' urgent attention."
The scene is meant to "inspire Canadians to take a stand against the U.S. treatment of migrants and refugees," and to draw paralells between migrant families in America and the holy Christian family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, who are said to have fled Bethlehem for Egypt shortly after Christmas in search of safety from a murderous King Herod.
Toronto church puts baby Jesus in a cage to draw attention to plight of refugees https://t.co/rpyvTfUW9c— A Little Shell-Shocked Lately (@Luber905) December 11, 2019
"I was very interested in this idea of, how can we disrupt the idea that we should just sort of sit around and wait?" said Brown-Kai to CBC News on Wednesday of the nativity scene. "And what does our faith actually call us to right now in the present?"
"I wanted us to have a visual art piece to engage in these questions because I think that justice work is spiritual and it's important that we gather as a community to wrestle with the heartbreak of the injustices in the world."
A noble idea, indeed — one that the Claremont United Methodist Church near Los Angeles has been attracting widespread praise (and criticism) for all week.
The nativity scene at Claremont United Methodist church.— Matt Rindge (@mattrindge) December 8, 2019
HT Rev. Karen Clark Ristine. pic.twitter.com/YRIl8me63y
And they're not the only ones.
Last Christmas season, the Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis similarly surrounded the holy family with a barb wire-topped chainlink fence to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy.
The St. Susanna Roman Catholic Church in Dedham, Massacheusetts, not only put the infant Jesus in a cage, separated from Mary and Joseph, they set the three wise men off to the side under another fence marked with the word "deportation."
That display got so much attention it was featured on The View.
DID CHURCH POLITICIZE BABY JESUS? A Massachusetts church made a political statement about immigration with the nativity scene by putting baby Jesus in a cage and a wall in front of the three Wise Men. The co-hosts discuss and give their take on churches' involvement in politics. pic.twitter.com/Dk4W2P6fAA— The View (@TheView) December 7, 2018
Private citizens have installed ICE-themed nativity scenes on their front lawns in recent years as well, and hundreds on Twitter have pointed out that Mary, Jesus and Joseph would likely be detained if they were to seek asylum in America today as well.
"This is a beautiful and moving gesture," said one of the Claremont church's 2019 creche. "For accuracy's sake, it needed to have included violent ICE agents and evangelical families about to adopt the caged and separated baby Jesus."
You can view Toronto's own version of the political nativity scene at 310 Danforth Avenue between now and Christmas, when Jesus will be released from his cage and likely go right back into church storage.
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