A Nativity for Our Time

A Nativity for Our Time November 29, 2018

Via Hemant Mehta. I’ve shared in the past a nativity scene with the migrants removed. This new one explains how that one came about.

Fred Clark blogged about parallels between ICE and those who caught slaves in an earlier period in American history.

In a post at the start of the “Christmas shopping season” (that marks the real “war on Christmas” if there is such a thing at all) Vance Morgan wrote:

What sorts of things should Christians really be upset by at Christmas? We might start by remembering that the Holy Family was a refugee family, impoverished, homeless, in need of help. Sort of like the families that this “Christian” country’s President—the thrice-married and multiply-accused sexual predator embraced enthusiastically by many “Christians”—is seeking to bar from emigrating to our great land unless they can prove their worthiness with an appropriate achievement score. Mary, Joseph, and their newborn infant child would have flunked that test. That upsets me—failing to hear enough “Merry Christmases” does not.

Christianity is difficult and challenging, because it supposed to be. It is contrary to our crudest instincts and runs counter to our basest inclinations. Marilynne Robinson points out that “Christian ethics go steadfastly against the grain of what we consider human nature. The first will be last; to him who asks give; turn the other cheek; judge not.” In response to the current tendency of many American Christians to go tribal in their litmus tests for who is Christian enough, she continues “However sound our credentials seem, we have it on good authority that the prostitutes and sinners might well enter heaven before us.” That’s fine, because such folks will probably be a great deal more fun to hang out with for eternity than people whose Christian faith is strengthened by how many times they hear “Merry Christmas” at the mall as they worship the divine infant while running up their credit card bills. Happy holidays to all!

I also want to quote Fred Clark, who directly rebuked Christians who bear false witness against their migrant neighbors (and would-be neighbors):

The willingness of so many white American Christians to bear false witness against these neighbors — to seek out, to desire, and to accept such false witness, and then to eagerly pass it on — says a great deal about the substance and quality and meaning of their purported faith. Is it possible to love God while hating these neighbors? The Bible repeatedly says it is not.

The same Bible also relentlessly commands us to be generous, hospitable, and just to strangers and aliens and refugees. This is stated as a direct commandment more than three dozen times. More than that, justice for oppressed aliens is repeatedly presented as the basis for every other commandment — for we were strangers in Egypt. The nature and identity of God is explicitly based on this same thing: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” That’s who God is. That’s what God is. That’s what God does.

And finally, from Sojourners:

If we take Christ’s own words seriously, we must grapple with the fact that, last weekend, we tear-gassed Jesus. We put razor wire on a fence to keep Jesus from finding safety. This summer, we tore Jesus from Mary and Joseph and locked him in a cage. But, again, if we look to scripture, we find that this “War on Christmas” isn’t new. Herod began the inaugural War on Christmas when he recognized the threat that Christ posed to his own unjust rule. Authoritarian leaders have always sought to demonstrate strength through enacting violence against the vulnerable.

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  • John MacDonald

    James quoted:

    Robinson points out that “Christian ethics go steadfastly against the grain of what we consider human nature.

    I would say Christianity represents the best of what’s in us, but also that we find similar sentiments cross culturally/temporally. For instance, we find the golden rule attested to across many ancient traditions

    Carrier has an interesting blog post pointing out Christians Did Not Invent Charity and Philanthropy. See https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12453

    • Ivan T. Errible

      So why bother with religion?

  • “We might start by remembering that the Holy Family was a refugee family, impoverished, homeless, in need of help.”


    Yes, Israel was under Roman rule, but they were Jews in Israel going to their ancestral home town to register and pay taxes. Jesus was born in the stable, not because Joseph could not afford accommodations, but because the inn was full. There is no record of them being homeless. They were not looking to emigrate, legally or illegally, they were on a trip and planing on returning home. As a carpenter, Joseph would have made a decent living and been well regarded in his home town.

    • Jonathan M

      You took the words right out of my mouth. That’s exactly what I was thinking too.

    • The story in Matthew may well be fictional (and there is no inn in Luke, and no stable, as Kenneth Bailey has hopefully made clear). But in that story, Jesus and his family are most certainly refugees fleeing political persecution. That they would prefer to return to their own land when the political climate changed is true of today’s refugees as well. And Galilee, to which they relocated according to Matthew, was under a completely different political jurisdiction in the time in which the story is set.

      • Fictional? Oh my!

        I am afraid we have different ways of approaching the Word of God.

        • I am not sure what you mean. Perhaps you are highlighting the fact that I do not pretend that human words are God’s words, the way some do? But not committing idolatry is a positive thing from a biblical perspective, yet your words sounded like they were intended to be a criticism of something.

    • Ivan T. Errible

      There is no record, anywhere, of people being forced/told to go back to their ancestral places to be registered, for taxes or any other reason.
      This is manipulative nonsense.

  • Jonathan M

    My question is why didn’t we have this nativity scene when President Obama was doing the same thing??? Oh I forgot. The majority of the blogs on this site suffer from a sever case of “selective outrage.” Basically you only get outraged if it makes the president, white people and or conservatives look bad and evil. Once again it’s a bird. No it’s a plane. It’s SUPER HYPOCRITE!! You know if you had mentioned Asia Bibi I might have given this article a little more credence.

    • I assume you aren’t pretending that Obama was not the object of criticism (including from Patheos blogs) during his time in office, since that would be so counter to evidence and experience as to make your stance seem ludicrous and insane. So is your point simply that the problems are not exclusively related to the current president and so are somehow excusable? That seems ridiculous, too. I am trying to find a charitable interpretation of your comment and yet you seem to have excluded most of the plausible avenues open to me. Perhaps the best thing will be to simply ask you for clarification?

  • Ivan T. Errible

    Why is church so boring?