This Nativity Scene Image Is Going Viral

December 20th 2016

Laura Donovan

Most people recognize the holiday season as the time of year where nativity scene decorations can be found in homes, in front of churches and in community centers. But one nativity scene illustration has gone viral on Imgur for leaving out the people most commonly associated with the nativity scene: baby Jesus, his mother and other onlookers.

A nativity scene without Jews, Arabs, Africans or refugees

While the Imgur illustration was posted in December 2015, it has received a second wind during the 2016 holiday season. At first look, it appears to be a classic religious nativity scene that's centered on baby Jesus, but it becomes apparent that this particular depiction has a few key figures absent - excluding, Jewish people, Arabs, unwed mothers or refugees leaving only the animals in the drawing.

A traditional nativity scene, as shown below, shows Jesus, his mother and other surrounding townspeople. 

Nativity scene

Jesus was a Jewish Middle Eastern refugee, which is perhaps why there were no people in the Imgur nativity scene photo. 

"Many Christian ministers and educators have no training in what early Judaism was like," Amy-Jill Levine, a university professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University, told CNN in 2012. "Not to take seriously first-century Judaism seems to dismiss part of the message of the New Testament."

This new take on the nativity scene has quite a bit of cultural relevance during this unsettling time for both refugees and Jewish individuals.

Some have argued that the 2016 election cycle was and continues to be a vulnerable time for the Jewish community. An October report from the Anti-Defamation League found that there were 2.6 million anti-Semitic tweets posted from August 2015 to July 2016. It also found that the people behind those tweets were "disproportionately likely to self-identify as Donald Trump supporters, conservatives, or part of the 'alt-right.'" The words "Trump,” “nationalist,” “conservative,” and “white” were the most commonly used words in the Twitter descriptions of the attackers. Pepe the frog, which became a popular meme for the alt-right, also had a presence in social media conversations about the election.

The nativity scene image also brings to mind the refugee crisis in Aleppo. According to the organization I Am Syria, at least 450,000 people have died during the unrest in Syria. Some U.S. politicians, including President-elect Donald Trump, have voiced opposition to letting refugees into the U.S. out of fear of terrorism and political extremism entering the country. A refugee who asked to only be identified by his first name Mohammed told NPR in November that he fears Trump may kick refugees out of the country.

Ultimately, this viral nativity scene photo is a perfect example of challenging an easily identifiable holiday staple so that it reflects the current social and political climate. 

[H/T Mic]