Baby Jesus, with a GPS device

1661lgBefore the day is done and I start the bedtime reading rituals for the night, let me share one last tale for this day one of the 2007 Christmas season.

You just have to admit that this Miami Herald story is both sad and fun, at the same time.

But first, some context. There are conservatives out there who are convinced that the destruction of Nativity scenes is a rising social phenomenon in our age, a kind of symbolic hate crime for the Christmas wars. How many vandalism cases were there this year? How would one establish that this is some kind of anti-Christian crime wave?

That’s the frame around this Herald story by reporter Rodolfo R. Roman (what a byline!), which offers a technological miracle for our age. Enjoy!

In Bal Harbour, the baby Jesus statue is back where it belongs. And just to make sure the statue doesn’t go missing again, Jesus, Mary and Joseph will be equipped with GPS tracking devices.

For six years, Dina Cellini has put up a Nativity display in Bal Harbour’s Founders Circle. But earlier this month, someone took off with the statue of Jesus. Cincinnati resident Jeffrey Harris read a story about the crime online.

“I felt bad. How could someone steal a baby Jesus?” said Harris, who celebrates Hanukkah, not Christmas.

“Even though I am Jewish, I like the Christmas spirit,” said Harris, a civil attorney. So he offered to replace the figurine.

“He’s a wonderful human being,” Cellini said. “It’s so fitting that this negative act ended generously.”

But now, Cellini is taking no more chances. In perhaps the ultimate merger of old and new, she plans to add GPS tracking devices to the statues.

A kind, but rather cynical, form of techological salvation. What a world we live in.

Photo: Not the Nativity Scene in question.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • dpulliam

    In Wabash, Ind., the pieces from the Nativity scene in front of the local Kroger grocery store were gone on Christmas Eve. But the Santa in the “fireplace scene” remained un-touched.

  • Jeff Miller

    I wrote a parody last year about a Baby Jesus and GPS.

    Parody just gets harder to write every year.

    But check out this beautiful story of a Jewish man who bought a replacement baby Jesus for one that was stolen.

  • Jeff Miller

    Check out this beautiful story of a Jewish man who bought a replacement baby Jesus for one that was stolen.

  • Palladio

    So how would one measure the crime against nativity scenes?

    Not an idle question.

    Did reporters of another age simply fail to report them?

    It is a kind of crime all but unthinkable in another age, is it not?

    Would it not fall under the category of desecration or, if not occurring at a church, be much like it?

    Is that crime on the rise?

  • astorian

    Palladio asks a fair question.

    Any vandalism against a Nativity scene is a crime and a shame, but are such incidents really common? if so, are they a symptom of anti-Catholic and/or Anti-Christian sentiment, or just the work of ordinary, garden-variety jerks?

    I ask in the same spirit that I used to ask if there was REALLY an epidemic of arson aimed at African-American churches.

    Just how big a problem is this?

  • Jerry

    If you google vandalism alone, you find many, many more hits than the link Terry provided (115 to 5039) so this is a very rough indicator of what is going on. I’m sure a few are religiously motived and some are not.

  • Paddy Pearse

    The associat pastor in our church said that she has contemplated taking the baby jesus from all the nativities in town and then returning them on Christmas Eve to make a point.

  • Palladio

    To what extent, if any, is the crime copy cat crime, which would not exist as widely as it appears to exist without the media broadcasting it as sensationalistic?

    What if a paper or other medium were to explore what, property apart, the crime is–desecration: I imagine the nativity scene outside a Catholic church would be blessed.

    The sort of people who desecrate cemeteries seem to be drunk teens and deeply troubled people.

    What sort of a person desecrates a creche? What goes on in his mind? Is he a believer? If not, what is he?

    The media appeal to the insult we feel at the crime when it could address–and potentially embarrass–the criminal in his crime.