What's his message?
John Zachary likes to shake things up, and he does that every year with a, shall we say, unusual Nativity scene outside the Claremont United Methodist Church. He tries to make a statement about an important issue that Zachary cares about, and that he thinks we should all care about.
In the past it's been gay rights, homelessness and the Iraq war. This year the Nativity he designed features the traditional Mary, Joseph, sheep, wise men, and in the middle a seated figure representing Trayvon Martin, in a gray hoodie leaning forward, dripping a stream of blood onto a huge pool of blood on the straw floor, with the ‘‘blood'' dripping off the front of the platform.
Martin of course is the Florida teenager shot and killed by George Zimmerman back in 2012. Zimmerman was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter in a racially polarizing trial . Zachary told me "What I've tried to do with church consent is point the focus on gun violence... and the unreasonable amount of guns we own in this country... and the fact that we're killing our children. Although this nativity scene doesn't have Jesus in the manger, I think the thing is really about Jesus. It is the continuation of his work, his narrative of love and tolerance."
If you're wondering, guns are responsible for about 30,000 deaths annually in this country, including homicides, suicides and accidents. And how many guns do ‘'we'' own? About 300 million, almost one for every person in the United States. Add your own editorial comment here.
As you might imagine, and as John expected, there's been a lot of reaction, as people drive by Foothill Blvd to take a look. One woman told me "My objection is (that) it's kind of inappropriate. This is Christmas, festive, happy stuff. This is a tragedy, what happened, but this is not the time.'‘ Another said, '' It's a good statement... people need to be aware, people need to put away the guns. People need to be aware guns are dangerous."
Zachary, a set designer for TV and film, wrapped it up this way. "Well I think the deeper meaning is that Jesus's life was about working with love and compassion to solve problems in the world. That's what he did and that's what we should all continue to try to do."