Politicized nativity scene stirs controversy in Venezuela
A controversial nativity scene features Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
December 20th, 2011
02:53 PM ET

Politicized nativity scene stirs controversy in Venezuela

From Osmary Hernandez, for CNN

(CNN) - As far as Christmas traditions go, nativity scenes are generally quite similar, though local customs often find their way into such montages.

But one nativity scene in Venezuela has sparked controversy for what critics say overstepped the lines of taste, religion and politics.

The display in question is located inside the concourse of a group of residential and business towers in Caracas, placed there by employees of the country's ministry for women.

The manger where Jesus will sleep is featured, of course, and Joseph stands next to it, in traditional Venezuelan garb. But nearby stand the additions that critics find disconcerting: small figurines depicting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, South American liberator Simon Bolivar and Ali Primera, a political activist and Venezuelan songwriter.

The manger scene is small in comparison to the surrounding models of houses representing all the social programs that Chavez has put in place since coming to office in 1999.

A nativity scene features Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

"No one ordered us to put up the figure (of Chavez)," said Yazmina Hereu of the women's ministry. "No one ordered us to do it, it was born in our hearts."

To Chavez supporters, the nativity scene is an innocent combination of the historic and the contemporary.

Celso Pallares, another employee of the women's ministry, explained that he was the one who hand-crafted the figures and that others painted them and placed them on the nativity scene.

The controversial montage includes a number of traditional Venezuelan touches, including Angel Falls, the national bird and tree, and a representation of indigenous communities.

The inclusion of Chavez, whose followers are ardent, is probably not that rare, said Margarita Gomez, a spokeswoman for the women's ministry.

"In the hills, in our slums, these nativity scenes are common. What happens is that the media does not go there, but this is our reality, this is what we live day-to-day," she said.

In addition to representations of the social programs, the montage includes figures of mass transportation systems created by Chavez's government and the rail system, which has been expanded.

Still, mixing the political with the religious is too much for some.

"The important thing is baby Jesus - that is the tradition of every year," said Caracas resident Carmen Reyes. "Leave the politics aside."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christmas • Politics • Venezuela

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Tim

    was = what sorry

    January 3, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  2. Tim

    Atheists and Commies was a stupid bunch of people filled with hate towards those whom hold faith dear and those lacking any sort of patriotism. Both should be sent to live with Chavez to see how often they could spew their toxic viewpoints with out being lined up and shot. Come too think of it that might be a good idea for here.........

    January 3, 2012 at 1:19 am |
  3. David Johnson

    I see nothing wrong with this. Jesus isn't good for anything else.


    December 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  4. tallulah13

    I really like the nativity scene done with yellow labs (and one black). I'm not much of a dog person, but labs are so darned good-natured. I couldn't tell if Baby Jesus was a puppy or a smaller breed of dog. Either way, it was incredibly cute.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  5. Joyeux Noël


    December 20, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  6. Ungodly Discipline

    I wan't to see the scene 9 months earlier when Mary was banging the Milk Man.

    December 20, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  7. hippypoet

    OH GOD HELP US.... oh wait, thats right, ideas are only given strength by those who believe in them... so lets whole scene is pointless, all but the part where they display chavez, he has a point... and his actions should be shown to inspire pride!

    December 20, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  8. Reality

    So after thorough analyses of the NT Christmas passages, what are a few of the conclusions of some of the top contemporary NT scholars?

    Matt 1:18-25: From Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 123-124, "The fathering of Jesus from the Holy Spirit and his birth from the virgin Mary are unhistorical". Ludemann gives a very detailed analysis to support his conclusions. One part being the lack of attestations to these events and the late time strata of said story.

    "Lüdemann [Jesus], (pp. 261-63) discounts Luke's account as a legend deriving from Jewish Hellenistic circles that were concerned to hold together the procreation of the Spirit, the authentic sonship of the Messiah and the virginal conception. "

    Then there are these additional conclusions:

    Bruce Chilton

    "In [Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography] (2000), Chilton develops the idea of Jesus as a mamzer; someone whose irregular birth circu-mstances result in their exclusion from full participation in the life of the community. He argues for the natural pa-ternity of Joseph and finds no need for a miraculous conception. In his subsequent reconstruction of Jesus' life, Chilton suggests that this sustained personal experience of exclusion played a major role in Jesus' self-ident-ity, his concept of God and his spiritual quest.

    John Dominic Crossan

    "In [Historical Jesus] (p. 371) Crossan treats this cluster, like 007 Of Davids Lineage, as an example of the interplay of prophecy and history in the development of the Jesus traditions.

    "In [Birth of Christianity] (pp. 26-29) Crossan uses Luke's account of Jesus' conception and birth to explore ethical issues concerning the public interpretation of the past. He notes the tendency of Christian scholars to disregard "pagan" birth legends while investing great effort in the defence of biblical birth narratives. He concludes:

    I do not accept the divine conception of either Jesus or Augustus as factual history, but I believe that God is incarnate in the Jewish peasant poverty of Jesus and not in the Roman imperial power of Augustus. "

    "The following ancient parallels to Jesus' miraculous conception should be noted:

    Birth of Moses (Exod 2:1-10)
    Birth of Plato (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 3.45) [see Acts of Jesus, p. 507]
    Birth of Alexander the Great (Plutarch, Parallel Lives, 2.1-3.5) [see Acts of Jesus, p. 502f]
    Birth of Apollonius (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, I.4) [see Acts of Jesus, p. 505]"

    And some final words from Thomas Jefferson, not a contemporary NT scholar, but indeed a very learned man:

    "And the day will come,
    when the mystical generation of Jesus, (Chavez?)
    by the Supreme Being as His Father,
    in the womb of a virgin,
    will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva
    in the brain of Jupiter.

    - Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
    Letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823.

    December 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • o.k.

      Are you capable of an original thought? You post the same dribble every day.

      December 20, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • o.k.

      Sorry–that was supposed to be drivel, not dribble.

      December 20, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Colin

      Keep posting it, Reality. It is no less true today than it was yesterday.

      December 20, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • .........

      best solution is to hit report abuse on reality bull sh it
      colin too for that matter

      December 20, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Reality

      As a good student, you have read the reiterations of the "fems" (flaws, errors, muck and stench) of religion. Therefore the seeds have been planted in rich soil. Go therefore and preach the truth to all nations, reiterating as you go amongst the lost, bred, born and brainwashed souls of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism as Rational Thinking makes its triumphant return !!!!

      December 20, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  9. Answer

    The end of this article states - >>said Caracas resident Carmen Reyes. "Leave the politics aside."

    The heading of the previous article –> "My Take: Reclaiming the politics of Christmas."

    –Absolutely great. CNN doing a mix – pretty cool.

    December 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Old Man Winter

      You noticed that too? They've done this before. They like the scattershot approach to trolling I guess.

      December 20, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  10. Louisa Ferre


    December 20, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  11. OMG~!


    December 20, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Mack

      That yellow and brown shirt is easily the ugliest thing I have ever seen in my life.

      December 20, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.