The bronze statue was installed in an affluent neighborhood in Bay Village in Ohio and shocked many people.
Jesus was an immigrant and an outcast but it's not a popular depiction of God. St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Bay Village in Ohio wanted to raise awareness on homelessness and remind the affluent class that Jesus was essentially a homeless person who stood up for the downtrodden. The church had a homeless statue of Jesus installed on its property in the middle of an upscale neighborhood. The reactions to the statues were contrasting. Within hours of installing the statue, one person called the cops complaining about a homeless person sleeping on the bench in the neighborhood. The church had installed the statue to "raise awareness of homelessness in Cleveland and remind us that all people are created in the image of God."
We're glad to temporarily host this statue of Homeless Jesus to raise awareness of homelessness in Cleveland and remind us that all people are created in the image of God. pic.twitter.com/EKClQm7PFG— St. Barnabas, Bay Village (@StBarnabasBV) October 12, 2020
The bronze statue made by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz showed Jesus as a homeless person, covering his face and hands with a blanket while lying down on a park bench. The giveaway was the statue's uncovered feet which showed he crucifixion wounds, confirming him as Jesus. Within twenty minutes of installing the statue on the Ohio Church grounds, someone called the cops to report a homeless person. The realistic statue makes it easy for people to mistake the statue for a real person. It was the church's pastor, Alex Martin, who tweeted about the call the cops. Martin said he found himself talking with a cop about a complaint about Jesus' statue. He wrote: Within twenty minutes of the statue arriving, I was having a conversation with a very kind police officer because someone called to report a homeless man sleeping on a park bench. Within twenty minutes.
Pastor Martin said the decision to place the statue in an affluent neighborhood was intentional and he thanked the responding police officer for understanding the situation and showing curiosity in understanding the thought process of placing the bronze statue there. "[The sculpture] reminds us that, even though homelessness is not a significant problem in our immediate neighborhood, we don’t have to drive far to find those in tremendous need," wrote Martin in an email to Cleveland Scene. "Perhaps the statue will inspire those who see it to take action and help... Seeing Jesus depicted this way reminds us that Jesus identified with the outcast and marginalized in his own day. He spent much of his time with tax collectors and prostitutes, largely to the chagrin of polite society." Martin called on those in the Bay Village community to be " a bit kinder and gentler with one another." St. Barnabas has started a campaign — Homeless Jesus — to raise funds to help feed, clothe, and house those in need.
Absolutely perfect. If you saw the irony in that someone saw this & actually called the police on the "homeless person" sleeping on a bench, you'd realize we have more work to do in society than just social programs. We need neighborly compassion &welcome. https://t.co/vL7RStku2X— EstherMaria - Talking Nonsense, Not Fooling Anyone (@esther_1010) October 14, 2020
It's not the first time the homeless Jesus statue has riled up people in upscale neighborhoods. The St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Davidson, North Carolina, too, faced a similar situation within hours of installing the statue when someone called the cops complaining about a homeless person sleeping on the bench in the neighborhood. "One woman from the neighborhood actually called police the first time she drove by," says David Boraks, editor of DavidsonNews.net. "She thought it was an actual homeless person," reported NPR.
How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/2M7MiSzxsQ— Zack Kopplin (@ZackKopplin) October 16, 2020
Boraks said a couple complained that the image of Jesus as a homeless person curled up on a bench creeped them out. Many felt depicting Jesus as a homeless person was an insult to the son of god. Reverend David Buck, the rector of the liberal, inclusive church said it was to remind the people of the hardships of the poor people. "It gives authenticity to our church. 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," said Buck. He quoted Jesus' words to hit home the message, "As you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me." While the privileged have a very different image of Jesus, he was an outcast, reminds Buck. "We believe that that's the kind of life Jesus had. He was, in essence, a homeless person."