Dec 17, 2015

Baby Jesus theft

An $80 Baby Jesus figurine has been stolen from a front yard nativity in New Jersey.

According to police, "witnesses reported a black vehicle driven by a male." That isn't much of a lead. The Christmastime crime will likely go unsolved.

Across American, there is a rash of these thefts. Christ child figurines are being stolen from nativity scenes in residential neighborhoods, public parks and church lawns. It's that time of year again.

Peace on earth. Joy to the world. Baby Jesuses getting jacked.

In Pennsylvania, a life-sized papier-mâché baby Jesus was stolen out of a park. That Jesus has been stolen multiple times over the years. The town is looking into new security measures. The council of churches -- the owners of the display -- might pay to have a security camera installed. They have ruled out a padlock and chain, however.

According to the police chief, "Jesus in restraints isn't good."

Washington state has had a lot of baby Jesus thefts. One town, Port Angeles, Wash., had five in a year. A Presbyterian church in Seattle hasn't replaced it's Christ child from 2014, so they can't have the nativity scene this year.

"We can't put out Mary and Joseph," the pastor said, "cause that just looks kind of sad."

On the other side of the state, a man was arrested in Walla Walla, Wash. swiping a sheep from a nativity. He posted video of his own crime on Facebook. The 20-year-old claims he was on meth at the time. He has been charged with theft and he also broke a flower pot and was charged for that too. His bail was set at $5,500.

In California, a Christmas stable was stolen from a Congregationalist church before the church even had the chance to put Jesus in the manger. The pastor speculates someone might use the structure for firewood.

"It is just a sign of the times," he told the Modesto Bee. "It seems there are so many people that feel that it's all about them and they have a right to anything and everything and have no sense of moral or ethics."

A couple in Indiana were not so clear on the motives of the baby Jesus thieves. Their Christ was heisted from in front of their home, apparently while they were away. They put up the nativity because they "believe in the real meaning of Christmas." So do the thieves steal because they don't?

"You know we heard stories about people taking Jesus out of the yard," the Indiana man said. "We wonder does that mean you just don't believe and you don't want us to have it or what?"

My own theory is that it isn't unbelief that underlies this act. It's just a prank. But what makes the prank interesting is what it reveals:
Baby Jesus thieves literally take the Christ out of Christmas. When they do, it becomes apparent that the sacred object is also a piece of property, protected by the law that protects property and this whole apparatus that defends Christmas: fences and lights, tracking devices and private security companies, patrolling police and the courts. The commercialization of Christmas is visible here in a way it might not be, otherwise. That’s the power of the joke. 
Stealing the baby Jesus can seen as a protest against the commercialization of Christmas, which is to say against Christmas, since the theft, as a theft, shows how indistinguishable the commercial and religious aspects of this American holiday really are.