WJTV News Channel 12 - DAVIDSON: 'Homeless Jesus' sculpture sparks controversy

'Homeless Jesus' sculpture sparks controversy

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© WCNC/NBC Charlotte © WCNC/NBC Charlotte
DAVIDSON, N.C. -

A sculpture of a "Homeless Jesus" outside a church in Davidson has resulted in neighbors and church leaders debating its message and appropriateness, according to WCNC in Charlotte.

The sculptor, Timothy Schmalz, claims on his website that the sculpture outside St. Alban's Episcopal Church was rejected by cathedrals in Canada and New  York. Articles on his site also claim that Pope Francis blessed and accepted the sculpture into Vatican City.

One issue people in Davidson have is that from a distance, especially in the evening, the sculpture looks like a real-life homeless person sleeping on a bench outside the church.

Some have even called the police.

"I was concerned for the safety of the neighborhood," Cindy Castano Swannack told WCNC.

Only upon closer look do people realize it's not a real person.

The only identifying feature on the sculpture itself is the crucifixion marks in the feet. A plaque next to it shows the "Homeless Jesus" title and that the inspiration came from a passage in Matthew 25.

"It's Jesus representing the most marginalized of society," said Rev. Doctor David E. Buck, the rector at St. Alban's.

Buck says the sculpture combines beauty, art and religion.

"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 or the needy."

In order to make the piece interactive, there is room to sit on the bench next to it.

It brings church members like Chuck Dillman that much closer to God.

"If you've been through what I've been through... somehow I got lost about religion," Dillman said while sitting on the bench.

"It brings me right up here with Him, yeah," said neighbor Ellen Donaldson, "It gives me an overwhelming sense of peace and comfort."

"I can't understand why anyone wouldn't want this" said Buck.

Not all the church members approve of the sculpture.

Swannack says it's an inappropriate message and wrong for the neighborhood. She says she wishes it showed Jesus standing over a homeless person and protecting them.

"Jesus is not a vagrant, Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help," she said, "We need someone who is capable of meeting our needs, not someone who is also needy."

The work ended up at the church because a member set aside money years ago to honor a friend and fellow church member who died of cancer in 2007. They finally decided upon a piece of art they liked and gave it to the church.

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