Flooded nativity scene depicts Jesus born in an era of climate change

A Christmas nativity scene depicts Jesus, Mary, Joseph and their visitors in knee-deep water at St. Susanna Parish in Dedham, Mass. Via Boston 25 News

What would Jesus do if he were born into an era of runaway climate change?

A Massachusetts church is hoping to spark conversation with a new climate change-themed nativity scene, which depicts baby Jesus floating on plastic-choked water while those around him stand in a knee-deep flood. The scene also shows several animals drowning under an overhead banner that reads: “God so loved the world … will we?”

Baby Jesus is shown holding a globe to represent the world.

The nativity scene has sparked controversy since it was revealed this week at St. Susanna Parish in Dedham, Mass.

“I’m not sure if we’re politicizing it,” Father Stephen Josoma told local station WCVB on Monday. “We’re just painting an accurate picture of what the world is like this day.”

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He added that climate change is “happening as we speak.”

“It’s not a future event that may or may not happen,” Josoma told Boston 25 News. “I think we have to kind of gather people’s awareness to bring about a change of mind and heart.”

Climate change remains a hotly debated issue on social media and in the political realm, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that humans are responsible for warming the planet.

The battle has already started playing out among Josoma’s parishioners, who have taken sides in response to his nativity scene.

“Jesus was born into the circumstances of his time,” parishioner Pat Ferrone told Boston 25 News. “You can’t pick up the paper or magazine or whatever without learning something dire.”

Facebook user Maureen Adams applauded the church for its actions in an online review.

“Good for them for taking an ethical stand for humanity and the state of the world,” she wrote. “Isn’t that what Jesus would do?”

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User Donna Perron Mulvey condemned the church in a separate Facebook review.

“Trying to make a point, each year, with the Nativity is horrible,” she wrote. “Hopefully one day it will be realized that this is offensive to some. Trying to gain publicity over something so sacred is blasphemous.”

A woman who claimed to be an ex-parishioner told WCVB that she stopped going to the church because of the pastor’s “liberal values.”

“I think he’s a snowflake,” the unnamed woman said. “There’s a lot of people that don’t want to go in that church anymore because they’re tired of hearing liberal views.”

It’s the third year in a row that Josoma has put a controversial spin on the traditional Christmas scene. The church showed Jesus, Mary and Joseph in cages to highlight the migrant crisis last year, and depicted the family amidst the number of mass-shooting victims in the U.S. in 2017.

Dedham resident Mike Looby frowned on the church’s blend of politics and religion.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to mix those two topics together,” he told Boston 25 News. “It’s in bad taste.”

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A California Methodist church appeared to follow in Josoma’s footsteps last weekend. The church unveiled a nativity scene depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph as caged refugees.

The church referred to them as the “most well-known refugee family in the world.”

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