Outside St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, North Carolina rests a sculpture, so realistic that from not too far a distance, it appears to be an actual, living homeless man sleeping on a bench. It’s a piece by sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz entitled, “Homeless Jesus.” As WCNC NBC Charlotte reports, it’s getting quite a bit of attention.
On his website, Schmalz describes “Homeless Jesus” as a, “representation that suggests Christ is with the most marginalized in our society.” The art, which costs as much as $2,975 depending on the size one might want, shows Jesus wrapped in a heavy blanket with very little of his face showing, but his wounded feet clearly on display. Schmalz talks about the piece on his YouTube account…
Reverend Doctor David E. Buck, St. Alban’s rector told WCNC that it’s “beautiful” and that it help reminds believers that their, “ultimate calling is as Christians, as people of faith, [is] to do what we can individually and systematically to eliminate homelessness.” The piece also seems to have some notable fans. In a CTV report, Schmalz says “Homeless Jesus” was blessed by Pope Francis and displayed in Vatican City.
So the sculpture, having the endorsements of religious leaders both home and abroad must have the community of Davidson behind it, right? Well…no. Not entirely. While some neighbors of St. Alban’s told WCNC that they like “Homeless Jesus,” others aren’t happy. The station spoke with Cindy Castano Swannack, who said she initially called police the first time she drove by it, thinking it was an actual homeless person. Additionally, Swannack said, "Jesus is not a vagrant, Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help. We need someone who is capable of meeting our needs, not someone who is also needy."
She isn’t alone in her sentiment. In a letter to the editor of DavidsonNews.net, resident Jerry Dawson wrote:
“…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. It is also about walking by this sculpture at night and passing within inches of the grim reaper. These are the impressions that this sculpture gives. I have stepped over actual homeless people sleeping on a sidewalk in New York City and not been as creeped out as I am walking past this sculpture.”
DavidsonNews.net writes “Homeless Jesus” will, “remain permanently at the church.” Reverend Buck told the site, “It’s here because it’s wonderful art that reminds, with this beautiful (church) structure here, that our faith is expressed through our concern and care for the homeless. We think it’s the perfect place for it.”