‘Homeless Jesus’ statue confuses the hell out of affluent town

Residents of Davidson, North Carolina don’t seem to know quite what to make of a “Homeless Jesus” statue on a park bench installed outside St. Alban’s Episcopal Church.

The statue is a convincing representation of homeless person shrouded in a blanket. The figure’s head and hands are covered—the only thing to indicate that it’s Jesus are the crucifixion marks on his feet, which you probably wouldn’t notice until you got up close. And you probably wouldn’t bother getting close since most of us don’t exactly run at the chance to share the few inches of empty space on a bench otherwise occupied by what appears to be a sleeping homeless person.

In a big city like New York the statue might get overlooked entirely, but in Davidson it was more alarming.

“One woman from the neighborhood actually called police the first time she drove by,” David Boraks, editor of DavidsonNews.net tells NPR. “She thought it was an actual homeless person.”

Church rector David Buck says, “We believe that that’s the kind of life Jesus had. He was, in essence, a homeless person.” Buck added that the statue “gives authenticity to our church. This is a relatively affluent church, to be honest, and we need to be reminded ourselves that our faith expresses itself in active concern for the marginalized of society.”

Which sounds a little bit like fetishizing the destitute—and the bronze statue cost $22,000, which sounds like an expensive way to commemorate them as opposed to, say, donating to homeless shelters. But the statue was bought for the church to commemorate a parishioner who had loved public art.

The statue was created by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz. St. Alban’s is the first to commission and display the “Homeless Jesus,” but a Chicago church has plans to install one this spring and Schmalz traveled to Rome to present a miniature of “Homeless Jesus” to Pope Francis himself, who touched its knee and prayed. Schmalz is still in talks to have one displayed outside St. Peter’s basilica.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York turned him down, as did St. Michael’s in Toronto. Appreciation for the “Homeless Jesus” there “was not unanimous,” the church said.

Source/ Image: NPR