Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bacon Jesus?

I've seen this link about nativity scenes in poor taste floating around Facebook for a few days now. 

I collect nativity scenes when I travel.  I have about half a dozen of them from various parts of the world.  I try to get ones that reflect the culture I'm visiting.  None of them are very fancy since I don't have the disposable income to get fine art when I'm out in the world.  But I love getting them out each year and setting them up on our mantel.  Each one is different and reminds me of the places I've been.  My kids like them, too, these very physical, tactile representations of this story they keep hearing.  These scenes capture their imaginations just as they capture mine and help me to reflect on not just the story and its theology, but the hands that carved this Mary or painted this baby Jesus.

Which brings me to the website above.  I fully respect what this guy is saying: that representations should have respectful boundaries, even if they are wide and that perhaps the Holy Family should not be made of bacon.  To some degree, I get that.  And I am kind of appalled at some of the photographs on his list (zombie nativity?  guh!).


Who am I to judge?  If a penguin nativity makes you reflect deeply on the sacrifice of Mary upon her acceptance of this holy burden, so be it.  If the Veggie Tales help your kids connect with this complex and sometimes mystifying story, carrot Christ it is.  These are not my choices and will not make my own mantel, but I wonder: if the motivation is pure, does it really matter how we envision the scene?

Christ has been represented in thousands of ways across cultures and times.  These many visions and faces are ways that God helps us connect with these ancient stories and, like with my collection, with other cultures and their own ways of envisioning that holy face.  God inspires creativity and we, made in God's image, can act on it to inspire others.  We don't all agree on what is beautiful or motivating, thank God.

There is a boundary, I think.  And I think that boundary has to do with respect for what is being represented and the artist's or owner's relationship to the media.  I don't like the idea of a nativity-- or any biblical scene-- that is made as a joke, for shock value or to be gawked at.  Chances are pretty good that many of these presented are done with such intentions (again, I give you the Meat Nativity) and I do not think that is an appropriate or helpful or Christian way of understanding the story or our own parts in it.

I guess for myself, the only ones I really have a problem with are the edible nativities (really, Butter Nativity? will you spread Jesus on your toast?) and the zombie nativity.  But that's just personal.  Otherwise, these are strange and disconcerting to me but not horrible or offensive or hilarious, as they seem to be for others.       

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