What do baby Jesus and Trayvon Martin have in common? Violence. “Jesus was born into a state of total vulnerability as an innocent unarmed child during a time of great violence much like Trayvon Martin… As a result, the original Christmas was a time of great grief and agony for many children and parents,” reads the sign posted near the artist John Zachary’s nativity scene.
Claremont United Methodist Church in Claremont, California has decided to put the issue of gun violence on display along with the birth of Jesus Christ reports the Huffington Post in a recent article. Apparently, Advent ’tis the season as “there is no better time to reflect on gun violence.” Using a depiction of a bleeding Trayvon Martin, an American son given to the idol of gun violence, the church hopes to attack the myth of redemptive violence, remind Christians that they should identify with the victims of violence and challenge them to commit to peace on earth.
When I first posted this story on December 27, 2013, I did not provide my position. I feel it necessary to do so now (January 2, 2014) as it has been assumed that I endorse the scene. I do not.
While Trayvon’s death was tragic, he does not represent the life, ministry or atoning sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on behalf of humanity. I do not support any image of Christ being depicted in a nativity scene or otherwise. Trayvon’s blood did not do for me what Christ’s did and the racialized reasons for which some believe he died do not reflect the reason for which Christ died for humanity. Jesus died out of love (John 3.16). He died once for all (Romans 6.10; First Peter 3.18; Hebrews 9.28). Christ’s blood covered our sins as our substitute and our sacrificial lamb (First Corinthians 5.7). Trayvon’s blood sadly only covered the sidewalk.
And no one took Jesus’ life but he gave it. He laid it down and has the power to take it up again (John 10.18). He was not gunned down but crucified. He was not profiled; he came to die (First Timothy 1.15). Those he came to save did not believe that he was the Messiah; his own disciples were uncertain as to his identity (Matthew 16.13).
Our culture often attempts to demote Jesus in music, on movie screens and magazine covers, to humanize Jesus to the point where his divinity is unrecognizable. Yes, Jesus walked among us. Yes, Jesus is acquainted with our suffering and grief. But, Jesus is also God. Trayvon was not. Again and again, we are guilty of worshipping in life and in death the creature and not the Creator (Romans 1.25).
God, help us all. Amen.