Last week I visited the Church of the Nativity with students. Then the pope visited.
Now it seems that there has been a minor fire there, which started when a candle tipped over and ignited a curtain.
I mention this for a number of reasons, one of which is that I have seen some photos circulating which (given the date on them) may be from the past and not connected with this recent fire (see the end of this post for one example).
There are many who simply accept certain things that they are told about this church. I was delighted that the students I traveled with recently asked appropriately skeptical but inquisitive questions. Do they know that? if so, how?
If there is a need to discern between reality, hype, distortion, and falsehood even in the present day, it will be no surprise that the same is true when it comes to the distant past.
Of course, such skepticism can be taken too far. We can insist that every photo we are shown is photoshopped. We can ask “How do you know that?” in a way that assumes unswervingly that no one could ever possibly know that.The Church of the Nativity still has lessons to teach us even today.
UPDATE: in an unrelated incident, an arsonist set fire to a church in East Jerusalem, Dormition Abbey. See also Kathy Schiffer's post here at Patheos.