Palm Sunday Peep-orama
Moravian Seminary students tell an ancient story in a new way
By Frank Whelan
Of The Morning Call
March 18, 2005
Lance Fox takes his Christian faith and his Moravian heritage seriously.
But on a recent morning, the 38-year-old student at Bethlehem's Moravian Theological Seminary took some time off from cramming for his Greek final to discuss a lighthearted project that he, his children and a number of other students prepared.
It is a Palm Sunday diorama of Christ's entrance into Jerusalem. What makes the display unique is that all of the figures used in it are long-eared bunny Peeps, the multi-colored marshmallow candy produced by local candy maker Just Born Inc.
The first impression the viewer gets of what Fox calls a ''Palm Sunday putz'' is a cast-of-thousands' swirl of color in a Hollywood ''Ben Hur''-esque style. It is as if Cecil B. De Mille, the great movie director of biblical spectacle, was in charge.
There are Peeps in aquamarine glory, yellow Peeps in stately procession, lavender Peeps that gaze at the passing scene and shocking pink Peeps that dazzle the eye. Most are holding green strips of paper representing palms.
''Most of the Peeps were purchased at local stores,'' says Fox. ''But we had some trouble finding enough of the blue ones, so we had to get some directly from the company.''
Once the eye grows accustomed to the figures, the familiar scene of Palm Sunday showing Jesus entering Jerusalem becomes clear. At the center is the figure that represents Christ, a yellow Peep on a pink ''donkey'' wearing a LifeSavers halo. Pontius Pilate and his wife are visible in blue with little cloth cloaks around their shoulders. The Mary Magdalene figure has a white cloth wrapped around her shoulders.
The cardboard ''buildings,'' which have a vaguely Middle Eastern look, are made from old pizza boxes that Fox painted. ''The whole thing cost less than $25 to make,'' says Fox.
In front of some of the buildings are neat rows of small chocolate Easter eggs wrapped in colorful foil.
''When we first put them in, we thought of them as representing merchant's wares that were for sale,'' says Fox. ''But, then, someone noted that they thought of them as the very stones that Christ said would have cried out if the crowd had remained silent. I thought that was an interesting way to look at it.''
Using Peeps to represent Christ and other biblical figures may strike some as disrespectful, if not sacrilegious. The Rev. Dr. Frank Crouch, dean of the Moravian Seminary, says he is not aware of any negative reactions to the display.
''Obviously, it is not to everybody's taste,'' he says. ''But others will see it is a creative way to display the life of Jesus. I see it as something that, in an ironic way, comments on the commercialism of the holiday season. It represents a new way as to how we tell an ancient story.''
Fox feared that fellow students or faculty might be made uncomfortable by his Peeps depiction of Palm Sunday, so he asked them to offer their comments. But ''I did not get any negative reaction,'' says Fox, adding that all he has heard are positive comments, like those made by Crouch.
If there is any theological message to be taken from the diorama, says Fox, it is a simple one.
''It is about joy and praise,'' he says. ''It is not meant to be shocking or horribly controversial or tasteless. It is meant to be a creative act, a homemade thing, a counterweight to all the commercialization of the Easter season.''
Fox was particularly pleased with the one yellow Peep, the only one that is facing out at the public. ''He was put there by my 12-year-old son,'' says Fox. ''He is telling viewers to come and see.''
''My wife and I did something on a smaller scale at our church in Minnesota,'' he says.''This is a group effort. Twenty-three students and five kids took part in making it.''
Fox's Palm Sunday diorama is on display through March 28 at the seminary's administration building, the Bahnson Center, at 60 W. Locust St. in Bethlehem.
Copyright © 2005, The Morning Call
I'm sorry the pictures of the Palm Sunday Putz aren't on line. For those of you unfamiliar with peeps candy:
The characters used for the Putz are the rabbits
I'm not a Christian, but it seems to me that the theological value of this creation for children would be in the making, rather than in displaying the finished product.
Does this particular Palm Sunday Putz have any value for adults?
By the by, Moravians have a long tradition of Christmas Putzes during Advent. The displays illustrate the Christmas story.