Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Anti-Abortion Nativity Scene

We are back from our great Southeast, Thanksgiving driving tour.  We've seen a variety of landscapes, which is always a treat for me.  We usually spend the Sunday of Thanksgiving week-end at the home of an old college friend.  It's great to see him and his wife, and it keep us off of I95, which turns into a parking lot for most of the week-end.

On Sunday, we drove out to Ponte Vedro Beach, just south of Jacksonville.  On our way back from our lunch on the Intracoastal, I spotted an odd Nativity scene.  The large-size scene itself was fairly standard:  a small shed, to represent the stable, Joseph, Mary, and a manger.

But over this Nativity scene was a huge sign that read "What if THEY had believed in abortion?"

It just seemed wrong on so many levels.  There's the faulty theology, for one thing.  If Mary hadn't wanted to have a baby, she could have said no to God.  She didn't find herself with an accidental pregnancy, after all.

Was the Nativity scene suggesting the divinity of all children?  Doubtful, although that might have been an interesting approach.

I wondered about the passion of the creator of this creche.  There are very few issues that would move me to create such a project.  Part of me feels like a passionless stick to realize this.

Part of me wants to believe in installation art as agent of social change.  Part of me believes that very few people's minds will be changed that way.

And yet . . . and yet.  I think of friends of mine in college, friends who created shantytowns on the lawns of their universities to protest investment in South Africa.  I didn't do that myself, for a variety of reasons.  My own little liberal arts college was almost bankrupt, so no need to demand divestment; they had no investments of any kind that hadn't already been liquidated.

I've heard Archbishop Desmond Tutu give college kids of my generation credit for bringing apartheid to an end--not all by ourselves, of course, but he mentions those protests.  I protested, but I didn't build a shantytown.  I wrote letters, but I didn't create art.  I supported other artists' efforts when I bought Sun City, the anti-apartheid record album.

It's an interesting question, what activities do the most to bring social justice to the beleaguered world, and the range of activities is as varied as humans themselves.  I wouldn't create a creche or a shantytown, but that doesn't mean they're not valid.

I want to believe in the power of the pen, my medium of choice.  I want to believe in non-violence, although I grow weary all too often of the patience that non-violence takes. 

Above all, I want to cling to the vision of the better world that God offers us.  I want to be part of that vision.

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