Nativity scene uses drowning animals, plastic bottles to send message on climate change

“‘God so loved the world…’ Will we?” reads a sign above the scene.

DEDHAM, Mass. (WFXT/CNN) - A Massachusetts church surrounded its Nativity figures with plastic bottles and an encroaching sea of blue in hopes of starting a conversation on climate change.

At St. Susanna’s Parish in Dedham, Massachusetts, baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and other quintessential Bible figures are depicted amid a blue sea. Drowned animals and plastic bottles float alongside the manger.

“‘God so loved the world…’ Will we?” reads a sign above the scene.

Pastor Stephen Josoma says the congregation wants to send a message about climate change.

"It's happening as we speak. It's not a future event that may or may not happen,” he said. "I think we have to kind of gather people's awareness to bring about a change of mind and heart to begin to do what we're able to do to take care of this world of ours.”

The church parishioners agree.

"Jesus was born into the circumstances of his time. You can't pick up the paper or magazine or whatever without learning something dire,” said parishioner Pat Ferrone.

But some Dedham residents find the politicization of the Nativity troubling.

"I don't think it's a good idea to mix those two topics together. It's in bad taste,” resident Mike Looby said.

Creating political conversations has become part of the Nativity tradition at St. Susanna’s. In 2017, the church called to mind some of the country’s deadliest mass shootings, and last year, the Nativity scene was surrounded by a cage to draw attention to the crisis at the border.

Josoma hopes the scenes at least motivate people to start thinking.

"The Gospel calls us to action. It calls us to see life in a different way. It calls us to bring a different set of values into our world,” he said.

In recent days, the Claremont United Methodist Church in California has also drawn national attention for its nativity scene, in which Jesus, Mary and Joseph are depicted as refugees in cages. The scene was designed to send a message about family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

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