(CNN) — A church in Oklahoma put a fence around its Nativity scene to send a message: “The Holy Family Was A Migrant Family.”
Chris Moore, pastor of the Fellowship Congregational Church in Tulsa, said there’s a parallel between migrants who come to the US-Mexico border seeking asylum and the Christmas story. He specifically mentioned the Gospel of St. Matthew, which details how Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus fled to Egypt to escape persecution from Herod.
“Though it is not a direct comparison, the details in Matthew’s Gospel … can be used to consider the people fleeing to our country seeking shelter from oppression and violence,” Moore told CNN.
The display was set up outside the church the first Sunday of December. It is over 20 years old and shows Mary holding baby Jesus, with Joseph by their side, as well as stable animals. A chain link fence was arranged around the traditional Christmas scene.
Moore said the fence created some confusion, with some thinking the church was trying to protect the display from theft. As a result, the church changed its marquee earlier this week to read “The Holy Family Was A Migrant Family.”
The church shared photos of the nativity and the marquee on Facebook, drawing both praise and disapproval in the message of inclusion it intended to portray with the display.
Other houses of worship have taken a similar stance to protest some of the Trump administration’s policies on immigration. In July, Christ Church Cathedral, in Indianapolis, put the statues of Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus in a cage as the White House “zero tolerance” policy resulted in the detention and separation of families caught crossing illegally at the border.
Pastor Moore said that although there’s not one opinion about immigration at Fellowship, “at the very least I believe that everyone in my congregation, and others, believe that we can do better than we are now.”
Moore added that he opposes partisanship from the pulpit, but he believes in the church’s role to be the “moral voice in our society” in this issue.
“We are a nation of immigrants, to be sure, and also the Christian faith, and our roots in Judaism, remind us of the moral obligation to welcome the stranger and to protect the vulnerable,” Moore said.