This topic will have a very different cultural identity as I am writing in Australia, rather than America. So for those in the USA my apologies for anything I say that might add fuel to the very real cultural tensions that exist, or for the use of terms that may have different connotations than your own. I read an article a few years ago that explained that of all the English speaking countries we only understand each other on average 80% of the time. And as a frequent visitor to the USA, I have discovered that my vocabulary, if not my accent changes as soon as I touch down now. But culturally I still make mistakes as I don’t have the education, or history behind me to place me fully in the cultural context.
So, to be clear, I am writing this from an Australian context.
If we place a baby in the Christmas crib. What cultural type do we place there?
I have been bought up with a baby that reflects my own culture, and was comfortable with this until during my Children’s Spirituality qualifications, the cultural integrity of Bible story books was pointed out to me (thank you Dr Beth Barnett for opening my eyes to this)
So, when choosing storybook bible’s, I now automatically look for ones that represent a more culturally middle east specific representation if that is where the story takes place. Just as I look for Storybooks that tell of a more culturally diversified Australia.
But do we show the same care when choosing our Manger representation.
It is difficult to find culturally diverse dolls in Australia.
A few can be found in high end toy stores (https://www.malingroadtoyshop.com.au/a/doll-clothing/pretty-wild/vic/canterbury/pretty-wild-irene-set-betsy-powder-blue/100580875 or https://www.malingroadtoyshop.com.au/a/other-dolls/miniland/vic/canterbury/miniland-baby-doll-asian-38cm/100580220 or https://www.malingroadtoyshop.com.au/a/doll-clothing/pretty-wild/vic/canterbury/pretty-wild-dolls-dress-katie-and-millie/100579227 preschool or Kindergarten suppliers,( https://www.windmill.net.au/preemie-with-hair-45cm-asian-boy-doll.html , https://www.windmill.net.au/small-baby-doll-32cm-black-girl.html ) occasionally you come across culturally diverse dolls in the department stores or Kmart (https://www.kmart.com.au/product/cabbage-patch-kids—assorted/2688392 or https://www.kmart.com.au/product/soft-cuddle-baby-doll—taylor/1040301 ) Big W or Target (though this is where I found mine a few years ago, unfortunately I haven’t seen them since) Thus, by default on limited budgets most congregations make do with the Anglo-Saxon representative in the manger.
But maybe the more expensive choices should be considered, and duly budgeted for. If the Children’s budget is too tight place it under the Outreach budget.
Because the theological discussion that needs to take place is if the representation should be culturally accurate for the times of the Bible stories or whether it should show God in our own image. But in today’s Australia what is that image and how many differences do we see in our congregations. Should the Chinese churches be using a Chinese baby? Where congregations are mixed in whose image do we place the Child in the Manger? The major cultural representation or show hospitality by representing the smallest cultural representative (if you can find the appropriate baby doll), and what of the other cultures in the congregation?
We are not alone, the discussion of representing God in human form has split the church, literally, since its early days. But for us maybe this is our time to ask the question in this way.
In the early 1990’s my eldest daughter would watch the TV show Lift Off, in this show was a doll, made of scraps and without a detailed face. This Doll was known as EC https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyA60FEUUMDqDOZS5TsRvlQ a tussle between two children left it with a male and female name shortened to EC, or as it was meant to represent Every Child. Are we at the point of cultural correctness that we need our own EC doll in the manger? And how would that look? And would, as I have seen for decades, a small child reach in and hug the baby to their heart?