CLAREMONT (CBSLA.com) — A Southland church continues its tradition of thought provoking nativity scenes this year, with a display featuring Trayvon Martin.
The controversial nativity at Claremont United Methodist Church is in its seventh year and has previously featured Mary and Joseph as a homeless couple and war refugees, according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
“In the past, we’ve had a scene of a homeless family. A desert war scene. A single mother with a child in prison,” said Rev. Dan Lewis of Claremont United Methodist Church. “It’s meant to be thought provoking. It is not meant to be a substitution for the nativity.”
This year’s scene show a young African-American male wearing a black hoodie which became synonymous with Martin, an unarmed Florida teenager who was fatally shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in February 2012.
Zimmerman was acquitted earlier this year.
The scene was designed by parishioner John Zachary who hopes it shines a spotlight on gun violence.
“I saw a picture on the Internet of Trayvon Martin laying there right after he’d been shot. Uncovered. I was just heartbroken. And I thought, ‘God, this is terrible. Nobody should see that,'” Zachary said. “And then I started thinking about it and I said, ‘Well, I think everybody should see that.'”
A plaque displayed in front of the scene reads “Jesus was born into a state of vulnerability as an innocent, unarmed child during a time of great violence much like Trayvon Martin.”
The church told CBS2/KCAL9’s Tom Wait that reaction to the display has been largely positive, however, they have gotten several negative comments on their Facebook page.
“I cannot believe the horrible thing your church did with a Nativity scene. When I came to this FB page I began to understand. You are not about Jesus Christ…you are all about being modern and politically correct. You should all be ashamed of yourselves!,” one comment read.
“Shameful way to treat The Nativity Of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” another user posted.
The display will be up in front of the church, 211 W. Foothill Boulevard, until Jan. 5.