According to NPR, a bronze statue depicting Christ as a homeless man sleeping on a park bench in front of a church has been startling an upscale North Carolina community. The statue was installed on the property of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson. It was scuplted by Timothy P. Schmalz and purchased for $22,000.
“He lies there, on a metal bench, feet bare, the nail holes boring into the very marrow of our souls,” says the church’s website about the sculpture. “This is not the angry prophet who thew out the money changers from the icy temple. Oh no, this is Jesus after what we did to him.”
Reactions from the public to the sculpture were varied but immediate. One woman called the police because she mistook the statue for a real homeless man. Another neighbor wrote a letter saying the sculpture “creeps him out.” Others felt it to be an insulting depiction of Jesus that demeans the community.
Rev. David Buck, 65, rector of the church, has no problem with the controversy. “It gives authenticity to our church,” he says. “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.”
“We believe that that’s the kind of life Jesus had,” Buck says. “He was, in essence, a homeless person.”
Buck says it is not uncommon for people to sit on the bench, rest a hand on the statue, and pray.