Is polarizing 'Modern Nativity' an act of sacrilege evoking threats to 'burn in hell' or just plain fun?

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Modern Nativity

NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – A mockery of Christmas or modern culture? That is the question surrounding a new "Modern Nativity" set available for order online this Christmas season.

The $130 set depicts what the birth of Jesus might look like if the Savior was born in 2016, complete with parents in "selfie mode" and 100% organically raised, free-range barnyard animals.

"A lot has changed in the last 2,000 years. For starters, I don't even think they had iPhones back then, which explains why Joseph didn't add the birth of Jesus to his Snapchat story. If you love Amazon Prime, and have no idea what frankincense and myrrh (sp?) are, this is the Nativity set for you," the website advertising the product claims.

Each of the polyresin characters – polyresin is biodegradable, of course – has a story to tell on its own. Joseph is said to be "fresh off a Whole Foods shopping spree" and "rocking his man bun and finest denim shirt." Mary is giving the peace sign as she pauses from sipping her $5 coffee and leans in for a "duck face" selfie.

Then, there are the "Wisemen" holding Amazon boxes beneath their arms.

"It's crazy to think that the Wisemen followed a star in the sky to find Jesus, rather than using Google Maps, but who are we to judge? These Wisemen arrive to the birth of Jesus in style, rocking their favorite hipster outfits, and tricked out Segways," the product description reads.

Every modern detail is taken into consideration, from the shepherd using his iPad to spread the news via "#babyjesus," to the 100% organic cow eating from Gluten-Free trough. The sheep is even wearing a sweater, standing next to a barn with solar panels on the roof to stave off global warming.

Paula Bolyard, supervising editor of PJ Media and a conservative Christian, wrote that the scene was "nightmarish" and a "Christmas stable wreck."

"At least they had the decency to leave Baby Jesus relatively unscathed," she wrote.

Bolyard admitted, however, that the scene made her contemplate the centrality of Jesus at Christmastime – something missing in modern society.

"The most notable thing about this scene? No one – and I mean no one, not even the cow – is looking at Jesus," she wrote.

"If for no other reason, we ought to stop and pause at this snapshot of the nativity and consider whether it's a picture of our own hectic lives in 21st century America. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, this is actually a great visual reminder that we should spend time in the presence of Christ, 'in whom God was reconciling the world to himself.' But more, we need to be present and in the moment when we're singing the hymns, reading the stories of the birth of Christ, and thanking God for the precious gift of his Son."

Bolyard concluded her commentary by saying that she needed that reminder.

That wasn't exactly what the makers of the set were going for when they came up with the idea. Casey Wright, the man behind the modern nativity, said he and his friends dreamed up the product with his friends during a "happy hour."

"After a few beers, we started joking about how religions would be different if their sacred texts were set in modern times," Wright said. "We have quickly found out that this product is very polarizing."

"It's usually, 'This is hilarious, I need one,' or 'This is sacrilegious, I hope you burn in hell,' and almost nothing in between those two extremes," Wright said.