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A couple of weeks ago, we told you about some of the unbelievably heartless ways some American communities have been dealing with homeless people: from making it illegal to give them blankets on cold nights to letting cops knock the free, church-donated hot dogs out of their cold, near-dead and greedy hands. (Really!)

The stories sound incredible, but they’re true. Too many local governments think the homeless should just go away and stop depressing everyone with their mere presence. Or at least find another town to live in.

In this week’s chapter and verse of the crusade against the homeless, the rally cries didn’t come from politicians or cops. Instead, when one wealthy community in Davidson, North Carolina saw what looked like a homeless man sleeping under a blanket on a bench – on church property – they didn’t rush to borrow some fire hoses from Selma. They simply called the police. Not because the guy on the bench needed help, but because they didn’t want to look at him.

Except it turns out that the figure on the bench wasn’t really a homeless person. It was Jesus!

Wait! Before you rush to finish packing your Rapture Readiness Kit, and even though it’s Easter time, you should know that we’re not actually talking about the Second Coming. The homeless figure on the bench was a bronze statue, meant to depict Jesus (stigmata and all) as a down-on-his-luck vagrant. The statue even had the New Pope’s blessing.

This was no prank. The figure — which obscures the face but shows feet with wounds where the nails went – is a $22,000 public art installation created by a Canadian artist. It was purchased by St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, which serves the wealthy town of Davidson (median family income: $100,000+), to stir up some old-fashion conversation and controversy!

“This is a relatively affluent church, to be honest,” said rector Rev. David Buck about the piece’s visual evocation of the passage in Matthew where Jesus says, “As you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me” – adding that Jesus was, “in essence, a homeless person.”

Not everyone in town was impressed by Homeless Jesus. Not only did someone call the police; another resident wrote the local news outlet to say that he was “creeped out” by Homeless Jesus. Others said it demeans the neighborhood and called the depiction “insulting.”

Reasonable people can debate whether this the best way for the church to spread its message of charity. But the horrified reactions to Homeless Jesus in this affluent neighborhood seems worth the $22,000 to us, easily. And the good news is that there will be more Homeless Jesus statues popping up: the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. is said to be interested in getting their own, and so is Catholic Charities in Chicago (though they’re waiting for weather to get warmer, which seems to kinda sorta be missing the point).

It looks like we can all look forward to more hysterical reactions to Homeless Jesus from around the country. And that got us asking: Why stop there? Couldn’t Homeless Jesus do more than just lie under a blanket on a bench? Aren’t there even better ways for him to terrorize the rich in America? What do YOU think?

 

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