In Claremont, CA, just outside of Los Angeles, forward-thinking Christians at Claremont United Methodist Chruch celebrated the arrival of Christmas with a thoroughly modern nativity scene. It was an art installation — three lightboxes surrounding something that could, by some stretch of the imagination, be said to represent a manger. Upon each of the lightboxes was the silhouette of a human couple: One male, one female, one mixed. Each couple held hands. It was quite lovely.
Then, early on Christmas morning, some unknown Claremontians knocked over the gay and lesbian lightboxes, breaking them.
Said John Zachary, the artist who created the nativity scene:
I wanted it to be clear, beyond a doubt, that the gay and lesbian — the homosexual community is just as included in this process as anyone … It is a serious thing. This is an attack on a group of people that is innocent and harmless.
Zachary has designed the church's nativity scenes for years. One year, the nativity pictured a homeless couple, which "prompted an impromptu outpouring of giving, with congregation members leaving donations of food, clothing and money," according to The Los Angeles Times. On other occasions, the nativity pictured "a scene of war in the Middle East; a mother and baby in prison and an installation representing the U.S./Mexico border fence with 'No Room at the Inn?' spray-painted above a depiction of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus." None of these were defaced.
Claremont police have decided to treat the Christmas defacement as a hate crime. Claremont United Methodist has decided to leave the battered display in place, as an "evolving art piece." The church will soon host an "interfaith vigil" to support Claremont's LGBT community.
Watch KTLV's coverage of the defacement here.