Is It Appropriate to Portray Baby Jesus in a Cage?

A Methodist church in California recently unveiled an unusual nativity scene on its grounds. The scene depicts baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in cages. It’s a statement against separating families at the border.

Here’s a link to an article about it.

The pastor of the church says the nativity is not a political statement. It’s simply raising awareness. I’m unclear what the difference is.

Apparently this is not the first “protest nativity.” The article says in 1969, a protest nativity was set up in New York’s Central Park as a statement against the Vietnam War. Other protest scenes have followed over the years related to various topics.

Many people will react to the cage nativity scene based on their position on the issue of refugees and border safety. I posted the news article on my Facebook page and read a variety of perspectives in response, many filled with passion.

Regardless of one’s viewpoint, the issues are complex. Border security and refugees alike need our prayers.

For the purpose of this blog post, my mind went in this direction: Is it respectful to Jesus to alter the nativity scene to make a point – any type of point?

I suppose that if anyone understands artistic expression, it’s God. He’s the ultimate artist, the Creator of all things. The universe is God’s work of art, making a statement about who He is.

I fear that the cage scene takes the focus off of Jesus being born as our Savior and directs it somewhere else, that the scene somehow steals the attention from Jesus and places it on an issue.

The delicate issue of refugees and border security is very important. The nativity scene certainly gets people thinking.

However, I feel the greatest good this particular nativity scene could do is to draw attention to the biggest issues of all: our sin, our need for a Savior, and God’s wonderful gift of His only Son born in Bethlehem for us.

I pray that through whatever attention this controversial artwork garners – good or bad – it stirs up interest in the Christmas story and improves biblical literacy even slightly. Many people may not know that Jesus’ family moved to Egypt temporarily to escape Herod’s massacre of babies. (See Matthew 2:13-23.) Improving biblical literacy may not have been the artist’s intent, but it could be a healthy byproduct of a provocative piece of art.

Should the cage scene remain on display? Someone will make that decision. But it’s already out there getting a lot of reaction.

If it grabs someone’s attention and causes them to investigate Christianity, leading to saving faith, that would be the most desirable result.

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Author: Christopher Kennedy

Senior Pastor at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, School, and Child Care in San Antonio, Texas. Husband to my beloved Ashley. Dad to the four most wonderful children in the world.

4 thoughts on “Is It Appropriate to Portray Baby Jesus in a Cage?”

  1. I’m personally appalled by the depiction of my Lord and Savior, the Son of God, the One through whom all things were made, through Whom my salvation was attained by His suffering, death, and resurrection – to be caged. To me, that tries to contain/limit His all-powerful Being and we know that can never be done. The secular world already tries its hardest to limit God in our lives – this display just helps their cause in my opinion.

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  2. I think you nailed it by saying it takes the attention away from Jesus and the nativity story. It is so sad that even displaying a nativity gets political.
    I am enjoying your blog, thank you for taking the time to post.

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  3. I haven’t seen the new art of sorts of Jesus in a manger in a cage. But I get it. It might actually be a master stroke. Some think Jesus being born in a barn is a sacrilege. But God humbled himself even to death on a cross. He came for those in prison.
    The fact that someone has to take a moment to consider the appropriateness of the Image is fantastic. They then have to ask why did Jesus come.

    Whoever did it might have had other motives but one thing for sure considering why Jesus came and thinking about it is more than a lot of people have done in a long time.

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