A statue of Jesus in Davidson, NC has some local folks upset. No, it’s not blasphemous, not even slightly; in fact, it’s in front of a church, one which willingly hosted it. The problem with it, is that it depicts Jesus as … <drumroll please> … a homeless man, of all things! WCNC-TV in Charlotte explains this “controversy,” if one can call it that (WebCite cached article):
A sculpture of Jesus as a homeless man installed outside a church in Davidson has neighbors and church leaders debating its message and appropriateness.
According to articles on sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz’s website, the same “Homeless Jesus” now at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church was rejected by cathedrals in New York and Canada. Schmalz’s site also includes articles claiming Pope Francis blessed and accepted “Homeless Jesus” into Vatican City.
From a distance, especially at dusk, you would swear the sculpture is a real-life homeless man sleeping on a bench in front of the church.…
Crucifixion marks in the feet offer the only clue to the man’s identity on the sculpture itself. A plaque next to it shows the “Homeless Jesus,” title and that the inspiration came from a passage in Matthew: 25.
A local woman — I assume, Christian — interviewed for this story had called police about the statue, fearing for her family’s safety.
Later in the story she complained about it:
[Cindy Castano] Swannack says it’s an inappropriate message and wrong for the neighborhood. She wishes it showed Jesus standing over the homeless protecting them.
“Jesus is not a vagrant, Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help,” she said, “We need someone who is capable of meeting our needs, not someone who is also needy.”
Actually, Ms Swannack, if you’d actually read your Bible (most Christians, sadly, have never done so) and noticed the mention of Matthew 25 at the site, you’d realize what this was about. It was about one of Jesus’ more notable teachings:
“Then the [Son of Man] will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40)
Jesus’ message is a simple one, which is completely lost on Christians like Ms Swannack. And that simple message is this: Treat the lowly as though they were Jesus himself; whatever you do for them, you do for Jesus. Honestly, how much plainer could that be? How can it not, therefore, make sense to depict Jesus as homeless?
Artist Timothy P. Schmalz’s Web site is available here, and here is his page about this particular statue. After spending some time looking at the site and Mr Schmalz’s art, I can’t see how anyone could possibly conclude his work is anything but reverent, and (contrary to Ms Swannack’s assessment) appropriately Christian.
Photo credit: WCNC-TV photo of Timothy P. Schmalz sculpture.
Hat tip: CNN Belief blog.Tags: christian, Christianity, christians, cindy castano swannack, davidson NC, homeless, homeless jesus, homelessness, jesus, jesus christ, matthew 25, matthew 25:34-40, mt 25:34-40, religious art, st alban's episcopal church, timothy p schmalz