John Zachary, a 57 year-old artist, does the Nativity installation for Claremont United Methodist Church every year (he’s a parishioner). This year, the scene features a slumped-over, bleeding Trayvon Martin. Here’s what Zachary had to say, via The Los Angeles Times:
“He was, in my view, an innocent child like the innocent children killed by King Herod,” Zachary, 57, said of Martin. “I think the Nativity has to be relevant to our time. I think Jesus is a symbol of hope and I think he has to be seen in today’s context.”
Zachary has done this before — for example, he’s portrayed Joseph and Mary as a homeless couple in a ghetto neighborhood. He’s also depicted them as Mexican migrants, etc. In this Trayvon example, the motif underneath reads, “A Child Is Born, A Son Is Given” and Trayvon seems to have completely replaced Jesus in the work. That might be where this goes a bit too far.
Here’s the essential gamut of reactions.
Wondering about society:
Trying to be funny:
I’m not going to get into the deeper politics of everything here — although it does kind of seem like George Zimmerman’s life has not gone according to plan since the incident with Trayvon Martin — except to say that while I completely believe in the idea of free speech, and I think it’s good the artist is allowed to do what he wants, this may be a bit far for a church. I’m not saying take it down, but it seems a little more like a PR grab than an attempt to make a message about our world. How about design something where the Three Wise Men are bringing AK-47s? That’s edgy, gets you some references, and … doesn’t replace Jesus in the art itself.