Boycott Nativity Plays!

by Kim on December 11, 2007

Recently the Catholic League in the US idiotically called for a boycott on the film version of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass (it turns out there is nothing to boycott - all the scathing offence of the novel, its prophetic critique against idols and ecclesiastical corruption, has been removed). Well, now I am calling for a boycott on Nativity Plays, and I will be picketing Richard’s church this Sunday morning. Or is it the following Sunday morning? What the hell, I’ll picket both Sunday mornings!

Why? Because the children in Nativity Plays are corrupting our grown-ups. Parents and relatives watch little Johnny with a towel over his head, and little Billy in his dressing gown carrying a shoe box - the traditional sartorial iconography for shepherds and kings - and little Mary playing, er, Mary, cuddling a dumb doll, and they go, “Ah, isn’t it sweet!”, as they take their photographs for the family album.

But the Christmas story isn’t sweet! It is bitter - very bitter. The crib and the cross are cut from the same wood. The Nativity Play is a Passion Play. The message of Christmas is the same message as Good Friday: when God appears, church and state try to kill him, though Pilate and Caiaphas succeed where Herod fails. And those who recognise the Messiah are the least likely ones: at his birth, shepherds (despised by Israel’s Religious Right for working on the sabbath and travelling through Gentile regions), Iraqi astrologer-priests (not only leaders of another faith but representatives of Israel’s Babylonian conquerors); and during his ministry, apostates (like the woman of Samaria), quislings (like Zacchaeus), the filthy (like the woman with chronic menstrual bleeding), and those (supposedly) bearing divine judgement (the blind, lame, leprous = HIV-positive).

Is this the message grown-ups take away with them from Nativity Plays? Is it heck! For Christian parents too Nativity Plays send soporific signals that Christianity is a “nice” religion, turning out obedient children (Jesus ran away from home when he was twelve) and loyal citizens (Jesus was condemned as a dissident) rather than non-violent revolutionaries. The church rants and complains year after year, with boring self-righteous regularity, that our awful secular society has forgotten “the reason for the season”, as if a cheap marketing rhyme will lead to repentance, when it should well know that judgement begins in the household of God.

So boycott Nativity Plays! Unless they are scripted by Quentin Tarantino and the ending is changed to reflect the reality of what Mother Church has done: Mary takes the child and hands him over to Herod.

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The Crib and the Cross « Christ the Truth
12.24.12 at 8:40 am

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1

DH 12.11.07 at 8:33 pm

Well Jesus in the manger IS sweet just like Jesus dying on the cross and being resurrected on the third day is sweet as well. I also believe that all those who recognized the Messiah I’m sure repented of their sins and realized that Jesus was God. Also Jesus didn’t run away from home the parents couldn’t find Him in the crowd after the Sabbath serive because He was still there. Remember He didn’t sin and thus didn’t disobey His parents or dishonored His parents. What is truly self-righteous is for people to think that The Golden Compass is something that should be watched and that it portrays Christianity in a postitive light. Why can’t people be free to protest films which present Christianity in an inaccurate and unecessarily negative light? I see no purpose in this. Lately we see more and more films like this. Do you see films bad mouthing Buddah, Hinduism, etc.? I think not. That is where poltical correctness is a double, triple or more standard.

To me if one wants to picket then picket correctly. The fact is Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection were both sweet and bitter. When one focuses on the bitter and fails to look at the sweet you do a disservice to the Gospel and the Truth of Scripture. THe fact remains is that it is more sweet for all of those in that it was God’s Love and Jesus being God that allowed Him to do all of those things. So I see no point in protesting something that in fact the reaction to is truth. However, I don’t see anything wrong with protesting films that show untruthful content of what Christianity actually is. We can’t let more and more films go out there that misrepresent Christianity. I wouldn’t want that for any religion. It seems unfair to do that or for the film to include that as part of the film. What is the point of the writer to do that or the director to do that? One could remove it andstill have the film be successful and good. God forbid if we have any more Tarentino films. That is another set of garbage films I believe us has humans let alone Christians can do without.

Man, how I long for the day when films, etc. were of redemming value. Man, how wonderful is it that we have nativity plays that are actually redeeming. Redeeming in the fact that people are drawn to the Love of God to accept Him as their Savior.

2

Ben Myers 12.11.07 at 8:58 pm

Terrific post, Kim!

3

Richard 12.12.07 at 12:15 am

Great post, Kim. Very well put. Almost thou persuadest me. Almost.

As it happens, I’ve had a discussion on this very subject at Bible Study tonight. Yes, there is a sweetness about a children’s nativity play. And I’m a sucker for the dressing gowns, tea towels and tinsel. But the play can be a means by which the children enter into this story. They understand that in the real world, stables stink. They’ll now, some of them, young girls who have become pregnant and seen something of the stigma that it still carries despite all the social changes that have gone on. They can recognize the wickedness of an authority determined to cling to power. They might even glimpse the strangeness of a bunch of pagan foreigners turning up to pay homage to the infant Jesus. But Sunday School is just the first rung on the ladder., and it would be wrong to deny some the first rung just because others refuse to climb any higher.

Picket my church on Sunday by all means. But we’ll be having our Nativity Play loud and proud!

4

Kim 12.12.07 at 3:56 am

I am sure that Richard doth pulleth my leg and knoweth the irony amidst the gravity of my post: it’s not the kids who worry me (blessed be the little cotton socks they wear beneath their sandals). .

5

Richard 12.12.07 at 8:58 am

Pulling your leg? As if!

6

Paul Martin 12.12.07 at 8:36 pm

Goodness me Fabricius! You are bang on. I’d join you at Sketty Methodist if it weren’t that I am going to have to keep an eye on our Carol Service in case of um er a Nativity!

I have this year delayed a holiday break to preach on Herod and so to break the stranglehold of sweetness.

7

tortoise 12.12.07 at 8:58 pm

This morning I went to speak to the children at our (tenant) Pre-School about the Christmas story, as they’ll be doing their Nativity in the church later in the week. Just as I was leaving the Leader asked me if, looking ahead a bit, I might be able to come up with something child-friendly for Easter “because all that hammering nails into the hands is a bit gruesome really”.

Well, yes…

8

Paul Martin 12.12.07 at 9:00 pm

News flash - no Nativity in Bideford this year! So I’m ready to hold your placards Kim!

9

Eugene McKinnon 12.14.07 at 3:21 am

I agree. I’m tired of sentimental treacle and I would rather have the bitterness that Kim is speaking about. Growing up on a farm I know how a barn could be the worst place for a baby to be born, it’s not even clean enough for an animal to be born in let alone a human child.

So Kim, for reasons that I’m surprised at. I’m outside with you and my placard.

Eugene

10

shane 12.15.07 at 1:46 pm

“turning out obedient children (Jesus ran away from home when he was twelve) and loyal citizens (Jesus was condemned as a dissident) rather than non-violent revolutionaries.”

Since when was the purpose of Xtianity was to produce revolutionaries? Jesus != Che Guevara.

11

Patrick McManus 12.15.07 at 2:13 pm

Kim,

fantastic! Have you seen the movie Driving Lessons? If not, rent it and look for the last scene, when the cantata gets a jolt out of its sentimentality. I’m reminded of Sufjan Stevens’ claim that Christmas (especially Christmas music) poses a “cosmological conundrum” because it asks us to sing so sentimentally and merrily about something so terrifying and tragic.

Patrick

12

Paul Martin 12.15.07 at 2:21 pm

Then let us march on Sketty Methodist church! I’ll be the one with a towel on my head.

13

Peter Owen 12.16.07 at 4:50 pm

“a barn could be the worst place for a baby to be born”

Isn’t there just a reference to a ‘manger’ i.e a trough. It doesn’t even seem to have been a barn. Just a trough outdoors.

14

Kim 12.16.07 at 10:18 pm

Hi Shane,

I could be cheeky and reply “QED!” if I didn’t know that you are winding me up. But - for the sake of other readers - I do not define Jesus in terms of revolutionaries (like Che!) but revolutionaries in terms of Jesus (so Che doesn’t measure up). Jesus IS the revolution, the kingdom come - Origen’s autobasileia; the Sermon on the Mount is (if you like) his manifesto; and Christians, of course, don’t start a revolution, we bear witness to him, and live as revolutionaries by imitatio Christi.

15

John Hartley 12.17.07 at 1:59 pm

Although I agree with Kim, I wonder why he didn’t pick a slightly different target? The “nativity play” that one tends to see nowadays is one which focusses on some peripheral or non-existent character, and relegates the actual birth of Jesus to the sidelines - a bit like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. So we get “Babushka”, the story of a lady who follows the three kings days behind and so misses seeing the baby Jesus. Or the tale of the donkey of Nazareth and how he came to have his greatest journey. Or the “three trees” (the first gets cut to make the manger Jesus is laid in, the second gets cut to make the boat Jesus preaches from, and the third gets cut to make the cross Jesus is crucified on). Or “Whoops-a-daisy Angel” who can’t hold down any job because of incompetence, but finally gets to announce the birth of the baby Jesus to his mother, father, and the shepherds. Or the Bethlehem Bandits who waylay various travellers: a young couple, a group of shepherds, a flock of kings. Or Bill and Ted’s Most Excellent Spiritual Adventure, when they go back in time to visit a stable. Or … need I go on?

The real problem with modern Nativity plays is not that they sanitize Jesus. It is that they aren’t about Jesus. They’re about the fact that the modern audience has got bored and moved on. They testify to our modern inability to focus on the one who is at the centre of the story … , for in truth he is too big for mortal minds to grasp. Yep, I agree we should boycott them.

Yours in Christ - JOHN HARTLEY.

16

DH 12.17.07 at 6:24 pm

Well Che shouldn’t even be compared with Jesus. Jesus while He cared for the poor loved ALL people and desired as many that will to receive Him as Savior. He didn’t support hurting inocent people who happened to be wealthy like Che does not did Jesus condone that all people make the same amount of money for ones work like Che does. Heck, even Jesus said “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Che would never say something like that because he would suggest rendering nothing to Caesar. Just some thoughts.

17

James F 12.18.07 at 7:10 am

Very interesting post (which I know means a lot coming from some random web tourist).

I’ve been thinking over sermons I’ve heard in the past complaining that nativity scenes have been replaced by Santa and his elves in local shopping centres. On reflection, what’s disturbing is not this displacement but that anyone would so hypocritical or so willing to co-opt a faith as to put scenes and songs about the pauper-king in the midst of the crass consumeristic orgy of Christmas shopping.

Your angle is different again but perhaps helps explain how it can seem at all appropriate: some ‘twee no-crying-he-makes Jesus who’s given expensive gifts of gold, perfume and *COUGH*burial*COUGH* spices almost seems to fit in… absent slaughter of innocents, bloodthirsty puppet monarch and social exclusion.

18

James F 12.18.07 at 7:33 am

DH,

Your defence of the status quo is spirited, if not particularly open to dialogue with others.

In contrast with you I would argue that Jesus is perhaps closer to Che than the status quo is. Che was a militant, Jesus a pacifist; Che sought to coerce people into a utopia in his lifetime, Jesus sought to invite people into heaven in an eternal timeline. But aside from those crucial differences they have a lot in common.

“Che does not did Jesus condone that all people make the same amount of money for ones work” - read Acts 2, the Jerusalem church shortly after Pentecost ’share everything in common’. Apparently the earliest witnesses to the life and teaching of Jesus thought this fit with what he taught.

“He didn’t support hurting inocent people who happened to be wealthy like Che”. Jesus didn’t support hurting anyone, in this life. He did however envision God punishing the rich man after death, see the rich man and Lazarus parable. He also pronounced woes on those who were wealthy and comfortable “for you have had your consolation” - see Luke 6.

“even Jesus said “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”” Does this really mean what you think it means? The coins had Caesar’s head on them, so one could say they belonged to Caesar, but doesn’t everything belong to God? I don’t think this breaks down into the neatly secularized view of the world you imply. If your whole self belongs to God then surely that means he gets your money too.

Blessings,

james f

19

Steve Hayes 12.18.07 at 9:59 am

Last week a group of us had a Synchroblog on “Redeeming the season”, and your post would have made a worthy addition to it.

I think I’ll link to it in a comment!

20

Beth 12.18.07 at 2:03 pm

I agree with you, dh. I also believe that no-one should be compared to Jesus. I’ve heard sermons comparing all kinds of people with Jesus - soldiers, homeless people - and in each case it’s been an intellectually lazy way of evoking the congregation’s sympathy. To compare people to Jesus may be a convenient way of making them seem noble, but it’s also a surefire way of making Jesus seem less than He is.

21

Beth 12.19.07 at 2:33 am

And N.B. that there are plenty of people who would say that Jesus was no revolutionary, but rather a conformist lackey upholding the status quo. See Leon Rosselson’s “Stand up for Judas”as a fine example of this.

22

DH 12.19.07 at 3:17 pm

Jesus was NOT closer to CHE in anyway. Jesus didn’t support the “utopis” of Chr He supported people being all they can be. How about the parable of the talents where investment is supported? A talent was a unit of money. Also, it was the church that held all things in common for their own survival. The church was being persecuted and for their survival they had to do this. This wasn’t the ideal but necessary. No where in Scripture did it say God told them to do this. They did this because they had to for the churches natural survival. Also parable of Lazarus and the rich man was not a focus on the wealth but on the lack of Faith in God the rich man had. The woe to those who are comfortable was a pronouncement that it is wrong to have ones riches come before Faith in God. Remember Jesus said it is HARD but not impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven for rich people. On the last one my answer is yes. The passage is saying in the natural sense render to Caesar and to God God’s. Everything belongs to God but God doesn’t want us to put aside our responsibilities to our leaders just as long as they don’t violate Scripture or goes against ones Faith in God.

23

DH 12.19.07 at 3:18 pm

On Stand up for Judas? Well Scripture did say Satan entered Him. So it appears he wasn’t a Believer and did not have Faith in Christ for Salvation otherwise he wouldn’t have done what he did. So I’m not a supporter in anyway to this reevaluation of Judas.

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