In an effort to draw attention to gun violence, a United Methodist Church in Claremont, Calif., replaced Jesus in their nativity scene with a bloodied creation of Trayvon Martin, complete with hoodie and all. But despite the tragic accident that ended a young teenager's life, Martin's depiction won't end gun violence or remind us of the gift Jesus gave to us through his birth and ultimate death for our sins.
Gun violence and the needless deaths caused by their irresponsible use have been with us since the invention of the gun around the 14th century. And unfortunately, these needless deaths caused by accident, stupidity or pure meanness will be with us until our planet's demise.
Artist John Zachary, who is a member of the church, said he wanted to draw a parallel between Martin's death and the dire time in which Jesus was born.
"He was, in my view, an innocent child like the innocent children killed by King Herod," Zachary, 57, said of Martin in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "I think the Nativity has to be relevant to our time. I think Jesus is a symbol of hope and I think he has to be seen in today's context."
There is a lot to cover in Zachary's comments and, unfortunately, this isn't the first time Martin has been compared to Jesus. But before we dive too far into the weeds, it should go without saying no comparison whatsoever exists between Jesus and Martin - none at all.
Jesus, a perfect man in human form for the three decades he walked in our midst was sent by God to save mankind from their sins. Advancing any one human to the level of God is senseless and irresponsible. It also does nothing to show those who don't have a personal relationship with Christ that inner peace and an eternal life are found only through Him and not through anyone else who ever lived or died on earth.
Since gun violence was the premise for the display, the artist might have made a stronger statement if he would have shown how impressionable teenagers develop twisted ideas on how to draw attention to themselves by copying an endless stream of violent acts seen on television, movies or video games. Maybe a painting or sculpture depicting a teenager glued to a television or video game console would have had an impact on a writer, producer or studio executive responsible for creating such violence. But that would have been politically incorrect in Southern California's entertainment mecca.
With only hours before 2013 ends, it is estimated that more than 11,000 people have been killed by guns in the U.S., although an exact number is almost impossible for experts to agree on.
Many people, myself included, believe banning or restricting guns and gun sales will do nothing to curtail gun deaths. And neither will replacing Jesus with a likeness of Trayvon Martin.
Unfortunately, our society continues to focus on ways to prohibit responsible people from owning guns while ignoring prohibitions that would keep those with emotional or mental illness away from these same weapons. More importantly, we glorify the storyline told in the Hunger Games saga (and yes, I agree it is a well written book) and then wonder why our pre-teens are becoming numb to the senseless killing of people, including the teenagers depicted in the movie.
There is lots of work ahead of us if we are serious about reducing crime and untimely deaths from firearms. Enacting tougher sentences for those who are convicted of crimes involving firearms is only one strategy, but any strategy should also hold Hollywood and Silicon Valley responsible for their actions. If only President Obama and Vice President Biden agreed.
While those in our society may want to remember Martin's death as unfortunate and untimely, viewing his sculpture in a nativity scene offers no replacement for having Christ in our hearts and at the forefront of our thoughts as we enter 2014. Zachary is right about one thing: Jesus is and should be our only hope.