St. Susanna Parish in Dedham, MA has displayed a rather unusual Nativity scene. In an effort to call attention to the current immigration debate, they have placed Baby Jesus in a metal cage and the Wise Men behind a border fence which bears a “Deportation” sign pointing to the men. Overhead hangs a banner which reads “Peace on Earth?”
Father Stephen Josoma told The Boston Globe “We thought we would kind of put a mirror image of what it would look like if this happened 2,000 years ago. It’s kind of a mirror image of where we are at today.”
“We try to take a picture of the world as it is and to put it together with a Christmas message. Jesus was about taking care of one another. This is not the way to take care of one another.”
One parishioner, who is a member of the committee that came up with this idea said “We’re not trying to scandalize anyone. We’re trying to reflect back a reality that has to be looked at.”
Another said “Christ was political. He was hung on a cross for making political statements and bucking the authority, and that’s exactly why he died.”
Not all parishioners are happy with the display. One woman told CBS News “This is where you come to pray. This is not where you come to be preached at about what you should think about politics.”
I don’t support their effort, but more importantly, the plight of today’s immigrants is not even remotely the same as the situation faced by Mary and Joseph. The church’s Nativity display is in no way a mirror image of what Father Josoma believes it would have looked like 2,000 years ago.
Mary and Joseph were not immigrants, let alone illegal immigrants. Nor were they homeless or destitute. They were not trying to enter a foreign country.
The couple traveled 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem so they could register to pay their taxes, not to sign up for welfare. Joseph’s family was from Bethlehem, so that was where they were required to register for the census.
Father Josoma told CBS News “the scene is not necessarily a dig at the Trump administration. Instead of political activism, he prefers to call it gospel activism.” His comment is clearly disingenuous. Calling this “gospel activism” instead of “political activism” or making statements with a clerical smile on one’s face doesn’t make it any less political.
But it seems the folks at St. Susanna Parish, located in deep blue Massachusetts, can’t seem to stay away from political debate. CBS News reported that last year, the backdrop of the church’s Nativity display listed the locations and the death counts from several of the worst mass shootings in history.