A recently installed statue depicting Jesus as a homeless man sleeping on a bench caused a local woman, believing it was real, to call the police out of fear for the safety of her neighborhood.
The first time Cindy Castano Swannack of Davidson, N.C., saw the statue – called “Homeless Jesus – she called the police, according to WCNC – Charlotte.
“I was concerned for the safety of the neighborhood,” she said.
The statue, made out of bronze and not flesh and blood, was installed in front the St. Alban’s Episcopal Church by the Rev. Doctor David E. Buck, the rector at the church, who said of it, “It’s Jesus representing the most marginalized of society.”
On close inspection, crucifixion marks in the feet offer the only clue to the man’s identity on the sculpture itself. Room is provided for a person to sit on the bench, making it interactive.
A plaque next to it denotes the ‘Homeless Jesus,’ title with an inscription from the Book of Matthew where Jesus tells his disciples, “as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me.”
The statue was purchased by a church member for $22,000 as a memorial to a former parishioner, Kate McIntyre, who had loved public art.
The statue had previously been turned down by St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
Not everyone in the neighborhood is enamored with the work of art, with Swannock saying, “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.”
Others, such as Ellen Donaldson, say that the statue gives her peace.
“It brings me right up here with Him, yeah,” said Donaldson, “It gives me an overwhelming sense of peace and comfort.”
Rev. Buck defended the artwork.
“We’re reminded of what our ultimate calling is as Christians, as people of faith, to do what we can individually and systematically to eliminate homelessness,” Buck said. “Part of a faith commitment is to care for the needy.”
He added, “I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want this.”
Video from WCNC – Charlotte below: