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A Claremont, Calif., nativity scene depicting slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin is shown. (Twitter photo/@weartv)

CLAREMONT, Calif. (AP) - A Southern California church nativity scene is featuring a bloody Trayvon Martin in place of the infant Jesus in an effort to stir a community conversation about gun violence.

The nativity scene on the lawn of the Claremont United Methodist Church- which shows Martin in a hoodie, slumped over and bleeding- was created by 57-year-old congregant and artist John Zachary.

Zachary, who in the past has created installations addressing homelessness and poverty, said he wanted to make the Nativity relevant to modern times and generate a community conversation, the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday ( http://lat.ms/1bw7Qnq).

Zachary said he chose to focus on the Florida teenager whose shooting death captured the nation to draw a parallel to the dark times in which Jesus was born.

But some faithful have shuddered at the depiction and called it sacrilege.

Retiree Viola Saunders, who stopped and took some pictures of the scene with her phone, said she thought the Nativity was too sacred to modify.

"It's pretty bad," she told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. "It takes away from the original."

Lead pastor Rev. Sharon Rhodes-Wickett said the church 35 miles east of Los Angeles is a progressive community where many congregants seek to challenge their minds, and hearts, but she can understand if some find the depiction "too edgy."

"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," she told the Daily Bulletin. "We have to take a look at the violence."

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

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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