Tis the Season to be whimsical, tacky, irreverent, obnoxiously pious or just plain stupid.
Especially when it comes to Nativity scenes.
Blame it on the holier-than-thou crowd: they took a scene from the Bible and, in insisting that it be given the utmost reverence, opened it up to be represented in the cheapest art forms. For after the creche was molded into light-weight plastic figures with almost undistinguishable features for everyday families to display on their front lawns (ala plastic flamingos) piety was bound to come in different expressions.
Who's To Blame?
Commercialization and (gasp!) secularism have always taken the blame for tacky (mis)representations of religious figures and holy days: from Santa Claus to the Easter Bunny, from cupids on St. Valentine's Day to leprechauns on St. Patrick's Day, Madison Avenue has always been fingered as the prime culprit. But what about religion itself? Has anyone thought that perhaps religion and the stress for demonstrations of piety was the source of all the inflatable nativity scenes?
It may seem ironic that the very people who impose morals and dictums for holiness always cry "we're not responsible" when their dictates are taken too far. Moralizing, for example, has led to countless suicides throughout history, but when asked about accountability (as in the recent spate of gay teen suicides), people like Tony Perkins (Family Research Council) discount such questioning as irrelevant simply because to question the Church is akin to questioning God. The possibility that the bastardization of Nativity scenes was set in motion by elements of Christianity itself is anathema to them, but there you have it: they lauded the plastic Nativity for the common man, then reeled in horror at the consequences.
OK, there is a certain amount of irreverence that, admittedly, goes too far:
...but taken at face value, irreverence is simply a poke at hypocrisy.* Shaking pedestals is what humans have always done to put life into perspective. The righteous arrogance of many of today's Christian Right fairly begs people to poke fun at anything it deems sacred. The CR itself has taken Native American artifacts and smashed them as idols and mocked the Statue of Liberty, America's icon of freedom, as a pagan idol given to us by a decadent France. But a nativity made of bacon may not be quite the same as burning a totem pole: one may be intended to parody (albeit it weirdly) while the other's intent is to destroy.
The TRUE Christmas Spirit
When I first set out on this article, I wanted to point out how tacky and frivolous our country's Nativity scenes have become, belying the uber-piousness so promoted by elements of Christianity. But looking back at the photos, and upon further thought, I realized that they were all expressions of various aspects of the Christmas Spirit: some were light-hearted (like the nativity made of beer, wine and Jim Beam) some were sincere albeit inept attempts (like the SPAM ones), some were completely over-the-top ("Christmas Puked") and some were disturbingly inane (Jesus, Mary Joseph made out of shotguns shells), but most embodied the concept that the Christmas Spirit (as told in the Nativity) was ... pervasive.
All the photos were gotten through free Google images. There were thousands to choose from. So laugh, cry, be horrified at a few of America's images of the Nativity:
The Food Group:
Plastics and Inflatables
*I'm still working on my book, Sacred Cows Make The Best Hamburger