Nativity scene shows Jesus, Mary and Joseph in cages

CLAREMONT, Calif. (KCAL/KCBS/CNN) - A nativity scene at a church depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph as refugees in cages.

Rev. Karen Clark Ristine is the new pastor at Claremont United Methodist Church, where they’re known for their topical, non-traditional nativity scenes with a provocative message.

“I knew about that before I was assigned to come here, and I was excited about it.” Ristine said. “What would happen today if the holy family showed up at our borders seeking asylum?”

Thousands of families seeking asylum in the U.S. were separated at the border.

Separating Jesus, Mary and Joseph is certainly getting the desired reaction among those drawn to the display by social media posts.

“I’ve seen a nativity scene like this. It’s making a very bold statement,” Judi Rivera said.

“I can totally see it being controversial,” Lars Schmitz said. “It really makes me think. In a way, it puts a mirror in front of us right now, and so that bothers me.”

The Maung family, who recently emigrated from Burma, said this brings back some sad memories of their homeland,

“People are separated and arrested,” Chowa Maung said. “Yeah, we saw some families like this.”

But what about separation of church and state? Is this crossing a line?

Ristine doesn’t see it as a political statement. Yet many who posted on her Facebook page disagree.

One wrote “inappropriate and incredibly false analogy ... Using the nativity scene for political agendas is wrong. Ridiculous.”

Inside the church was no statement at all, simply the traditional nativity scene.

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