A stranger manger: Williamsburg man designs apocalyptic crèche starring President Trump

A stranger manger: Williamsburg man designs apocalyptic crèche starring President Trump
Ruler of the not-so free world: A platinum-wigged zombie that recalls President Trump is front and center in Williamsburg resident Joseph Sciorra’s nativity scene, “Trump’s AmeriKKKa.”
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

It’s a nativity obscene.

A Williamsburg man skewered our polarizing Commander in Chief and his controversial policies in a self-made nativity scene that swaps the traditional manger and holy-family likenesses for an apocalyptic display centered around President Trump. Author and professor Joseph Sciorra said this past year was so awful, it inspired him to create his crèche — or presepio in Italian — to showcase the administration’s drastic effects on the American people.

“It’s been a disastrous year. Trump’s racist, sexist, and xenophobic policies have driven me, as they’ve driven others, crazy,” said Sciorra, who works at Queens College and said he was raised Catholic but is now atheist. “The presepio was a creative way to kind of work through some of the angst and the tension that this — I can barely bring myself to say — president brought to bear on us all.”

Sciorra, who said he’s put his own spin on the biblical story of birth of Christ for the last 18 years, designed “Trump’s AmeriKKKa,” which sits on a kitchen table in his Devoe Street apartment, in three parts.

President Trump — a zombie figurine topped with the Donald’s infamous blonde combover — stands front and center in the forsaken landscape, with a devil floating above him and a skeleton stationed behind him. Further back, armed soldiers guard male newborns slain during the Massacre of the Innocents — a mass infanticide ordered by a Roman king, according to the bible.

The president’s proposed wall dividing the American–Mexican border stands on the left side of the display, blocking St. Joseph and the three Magi, who were deported, from entering the portion occupied by the Trump figurine.

And on the right side of the crèche, barbed wire traps the Virgin Mary and her child in an internment camp that is also filled with people from marginalized communities the Commander in Chief is persecuting, Sciorra said.

“There are various figures: Muslim, Arab, Latino, and two figurines from gay wedding cakes — two men and two women — just to talk about the ways in which the Trump Administration is increasing this police state where people are rounded up in,” he said.

The nativity scene’s background is a collage comprised of newspaper clippings about Trump, Black Lives Matter posters, and images of an atomic bomb exploding, Ku Klux Klan members and white nationalists from last year’s Charlottesville rallies, and protestors at the 2017 Women’s March.

Sciorra — who studied crèches across the city for 35 years before writing about them in his book “Built with Faith: Italian American Imagination and Catholic Material Culture in New York City” — said he started creating the display just after Thanksgiving.

And not all of the scholar’s presepio are political, but he said it was hard to avoid taking on the current administration with this year’s knowing that one of the bible’s most beloved stories may never have happened if it were set today.

“The beauty of the presepio is trying to recreate this biblical narrative in a more contemporary scene,” said Sciorra. “The idea that this deity is here to bring peace on earth and all of that is being destroyed by this administration in ways that we have yet to understand, that are constantly unfolding.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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