Apr 19, 2014 Last Updated: 12:31 PM EDT

Southern California Church Replaces Baby Jesus With A Bloody Trayvon Martin (PHOTO)

Dec 31, 2013 02:34 PM EST | By Dina Exil

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Trayvon Martin
The Nativity at Claremont United Methodist Church in Claremont, Calif., shows Trayvon Martin in his signature black hoodie slumping over and bleeding. (Photo : Facebook)

A Southern California church nativity scene now features a bloody Trayvon Martin in place of baby Jesus and the new change is stirring up a debate on gun violence.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Nativity at Claremont United Methodist Church in Claremont, Calif., shows the slain teen, in his signature black hoodie slumping over and bleeding. The piece of work was created by John Zachary, congregant and local artist.

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Zachary told the Times he chose Martin, to be placed in the center, as a way to stay relevant to the times and make everyone aware that gun violence still exist. The artist said he wanted to draw a comparison between current gun violence and dark times when Jesus was born.  

"[Trayvon] was, in my view, an innocent child like the innocent children killed by King Herod," Zachary said. "I think the Nativity has to be relevant to our time. I think Jesus is a symbol of hope and I think he has to be seen in today's context."

In Feb, Martin was shot during an altercation with suspect George Zimmerman. The case sparked national actions and developed arguments on gun control and racism.

Church's Rev. Dan Lewis told the Times the scene was meant to be provoking and admitted that members of his congregation disagree with the Nativity. Lead pastor Rev. Sharon Rhodes-Wickett said he understands why critics on Facebook, have blasted the piece of work.

"It's hard to look at a young man who's shot and bleeding to death. But even though I'm uncomfortable with it, that's the point," Wickett told the Daily Bulletin. "We have to take a look at the violence."

Times reported that the church has been receiving many phone calls, emails and Facebook messages blasting the scene as "sacrilege" and an "abomination."

"How sad to replace the Savior in the nativity scene," one person posted on Facebook. "What kind of church is this??? I pray that you will understand the real reason for the season..."

"No Christian I know would ever disparage Jesus Christ with such a repulsive image," wrote another. "I would never attend your church as a fellow Methodist and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves."

The scene will remain at the church through Jan. 5.

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