CLAREMONT, Calif. (CNN) — Depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph as refugees in cages, a nativity scene at a California church is getting a strong reaction.
The nativity scene is located outside Claremont United Methodist Church, which is known for its topical non-traditional nativity scenes with a provocative message.
“I can totally see it being controversial,” said Reverend Karen Clark Ristine, who is the new pastor at Claremont United Methodist. “I knew about that before I was assigned to come here and I was excited about it.”
The family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph separated and caged.
“Never have I seen a nativity scene like this,” said Judi Rivera. “But it’s making a very bold statement.”
Currently, thousands of families seeking asylum in the U.S. have separated at the border.
“What would happen today if the holy family showed up at our borders seeking asylum?” Ristine asked.
Among those drawn here by social media posts, the separating of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is certainly getting the desired reaction.
“It really makes me think,” said Lars Schmitz, another neighbor. “In a way, it puts a mirror in front of us right now, and so that bothers me.”
The Maung family also dropped by the church. They recently emigrated from Burma and this brings back some sad memories of their homeland.
“People are separated and arrested,” Chowa Maung said.
“Yeah, we saw some families like this,” another member of the Maung family said.
Many people question whether the nativity scene crosses the line between the separation of church and state.
Ristine doesn’t see it as a political statement, but many who posted on her Facebook page disagree.
One wrote: “Inappropriate and incredibly false analogy. Using the nativity scene for political agendas is wrong. … Ridiculous.”
Inside the church, however, there is no statement at all. Simply the traditional nativity scene.