3 Comments

‘Homeless Jesus’ Sculpture Sparks Controversy


This is interesting. Not just the sculpture itself, but the varied reactions it’s generating. What’s your reaction? 

From The Huffington Post

RNS-HOMELESS-JESUSIn a small college town 20 miles north of Charlotte, N.C., “Homeless Jesus” is provoking more conversation than a month of Sunday sermons.

The life-size sculpture depicting a figure asleep under a blanket on a park bench lies outside St. Alban’s Episcopal Church. The nail-scarred feet peeking out from under the blanket are the only indication that Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz is making a religious statement about Jesus.

The hollow, bronze piece bolted to the park bench is a $22,000 gift from a church member intended to support public art.

That’s a small price to pay to get people thinking about what it means to be a Christian — and what it means for “Homeless Jesus” to take up residence in a community of 270 townhomes and single-family homes, said the Rev. David Buck, the rector of St. Alban’s.

“You love it, you hate it, it makes you think,” said Buck, who has been happily overwhelmed by the thousands of responses he’s personally received or read online.

St. Alban’s neighbor John Chesser, who walked past “Homeless Jesus” on the way to pick up his mail one sunny Sunday morning, had another response: “It’s a little creepy.”

“Homeless Jesus” was bolted down in February, beside a bronze plaque with the familiar words from Matthew 25:40 — “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Public reaction quickly followed on both sides.

Buck said someone attached a note to the sculpture saying this isn’t the way to remember Jesus. A reader posted a somewhat sarcastic response to The Christian Post story: “The Episcopal Church, huh? Shocking.”

Chesser, the neighbor walking to get his mail, calls the piece “dark” and “macabre” — so dark and macabre, it never occurred to him to think about whether it belongs in a community like his. Neighbor Jerry Dawson wrote a letter to the editor at the online davidsonnews.net saying it doesn’t belong.

“My complaint is not about the art-worthiness or the meaning behind the sculpture. It is about people driving into our beautiful, reasonably upscale neighborhood and seeing an ugly homeless person sleeping on a park bench.”

Bob Cameron, president of the St. Alban’s Square Neighborhood Association, said he invited Dawson to air his concerns at a board meeting. Meanwhile, the association has not taken a position on “Homeless Jesus,” and neither has he.

Supporters have spoken up as well, in and out of St. Alban’s.

“It makes us all more aware of homelessness, that there are others who are not as fortunate as we are,” said church member Alice Mietz, who lives about 20 yards from the piece.

As Buck was seated on a bench outside the church, making the case for the sculpture, Mike Schaefer of Roanoke, Va., stopped his car in front of “Homeless Jesus” and jumped out to snap a picture before heading home. “As Christians, we need to be more aware of the homeless among us,” he said.

Such is the brouhaha that the Rev. John Kuykendall, who lives a mile or so from church, drove over one day to see what all the fuss is about.

The retired president of Davidson College and a Presbyterian preacher, Kuykendall believes St. Alban’s is prophetic for welcoming Jesus in the guise of a homeless man asleep on a park bench. There are more references in the gospels to Jesus’ relationship with the poor than anything else, Kuykendall says. “Where it says the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head, that means he’s homeless.”

Before heading home for Sunday lunch, Buck had one more point to make: There’s a good reason why the artist left room for one person on the bench next to “Homeless Jesus.” Perhaps people will take a seat beside Jesus and pray. – (full article at above link)

3 comments on “‘Homeless Jesus’ Sculpture Sparks Controversy

  1. Reblogged this on The Diary of a Slave.

  2. My reaction to this depiction of Jesus as a homeless bum? Shameful. This is not a religious statement about Jesus nor is it a way to get people to think about what it means to be a Christian. It is a political statement pure and simple. Using an image of Christ to promote the political agenda of social justice is a violation of the 2nd and 4th commandments.

    • I never saw or thought of anything political Steve. Politics, you could say, was the farthest thing from my mind. Actually the verses in Matthew 25, from which those on the plaque were taken, came to mind.

      31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

      34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 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, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

      37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

      40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

      41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

      44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

      45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

      46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

      Guess it depends on the person…and this does show why it’s brought controversy: For two people, in this case both Christians, look at it and have two totally different (first) reactions.

      Oh yes, it also made me think about the story or question we’ve heard many times, usually with a different twist, concerning ‘would we know Jesus if he walked into our churches today”, ‘came knocking at our door’, or if we passed him on the street, would we recognize him, etc. For whatever reason, that also was one of my first impressions.

      I hope others will see it the same way i did.

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