Outside the Claremont United Methodist Church is a nativity scene with a bleeding Trayvon Martin. The California Church has turned their nativity scene “into a piece of art that comments on our times” for the last seven years.
John Zachary, the artist, told me the acquittal in July of George Zimmerman, who fatally shot the 17-year-old African-American in 2012, struck him as a worthy subject for Christmas comment.
For one thing, the backdrop to the Christmas story is the slaughter by King Herod of all infants in Bethlehem, a barbarous attempt to kill the Messiah.
Zachary described that when looking for pictures of Trayvon “one of the teenager lying dead on the pavement particularly tore at him. ‘What if Jesus was lying there bleeding to death? I was kind of thinking of that,’ Zachary said.”
The title of the nativity “art” is called ” ‘A Child is Born, a Son is Given,’ the wording outlined in red formed from a pool of blood at Trayvon’s feet.”
The Church’s pastor, Sharon Rhodes-Wickett, said the scene was hard to to look at.
“I found this year’s hard to look at. It’s hard to look at a young man who’s shot and bleeding to death. But even though I’m uncomfortable with it, that’s the point,” Rhodes-Wickett said. “We have to take a look at the violence.”
Response to the display has been “muted.”
“I thought this would be more controversial, but I come to find out people don’t really like people gettin’ shot,” Zachary said with a chuckle. “They may not agree what to do about it, but they agree it’s a bad thing.”
Rhodes-Wickett described her congregation and explained, “Some people think it’s too edgy. I understand that point of view,” she added. “I don’t know what the future will bring, but at this point it’s an annual thing.”