A vagrant sleeping on a park bench may not merit a second glance for many hardened city dwellers, but a statue of a homeless Jesus sleeping on a bench in Davidson, N.C., is getting a lot of scrutiny.
The bronze figure is huddled under a blanket, his face and hands obscured; what gives away his identity are the crucifixion wounds on his uncovered feet, according to a National Public Radio story this weekend.
One neighbor in the upscale town called police when she first drove by, thinking it was an actual homeless person. Another complained that the figure creeped him out.
But Rev. David Buck of St. Albans Episcopal Church in Davidson says the statue is a good lesson for those used to seeing Jesus depicted in religious art as a figure cloaked in finery.
“We believe that that’s the kind of life Jesus had,” Buck told NPR. “He was, in essence, a homeless person.”
Sculptor Timothy Schmalz, a devout Catholic, says the sculpture is meant to challenge people.
The work has friends in high places, he said, adding that he showed Pope Francis a miniature of it. It’s being considered for installation on a park bench near St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
“[The pope] walked over to the sculpture, and it was just chilling,” Schmalz said. “He touched the knee of the Jesus the Homeless sculpture and closed his eyes and prayed.”