That Nativity Play

Amusing as this constant stream of memes circulating on Social Media is, seeking as they do to compare Syrian refugees to the Christmas Nativity, I can’t help thinking people are getting their stories mixed up.

The Biblical narrative doesn’t describe Mary and Joseph as refugees: they’re simply registering for a census in their home town, taking a circuitous route from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

There certainly is an episode after the birth in which they flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous decree, where they remain until he passes away: an asylum tale of sorts.

Of course the Nativity tale in popular culture as it is enacted each year by primary schools the world over is subject to all sorts of embellishments not found in the Biblical tradition — so it could mean whatever you want it to.

The reality is that compassionate people do not need to be moved by a false retelling of their religious tradition in order to act on behalf of the poor and vulnerable: they will act anyway.

But more to the point: we each project ourselves — our political leanings, our prejudices, our worldview, our culture, our environment — onto our respective religious traditions. This applies to all people at all times. Simplistic, if amusing, soundbites aren’t going to change the world.

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