A 7-foot bronze sculpture depicting Jesus as a homeless man huddled under a blanket on a park bench is stirring up controversy around the world. The statue is identifiable as Jesus only by the crucifixion wounds on his feet. The sculptor, Timothy Schmalz, has installed casts in the U.S., Canada and Europe. And now it could be coming to my home of Detroit.
An anonymous donor who grew up in a Detroit suburb is contributing the $32,000 needed to have the statue installed. But the reactions are mixed.
While Pope Francis calls it a “beautiful and excellent” representation of Jesus, others say it demeans Jesus. And yet others have mistaken the statue for a homeless person and alerted police.
The artist says the sculpture is meant as a call to action among Christians. He sees it as a way to inspire people to help those in need. In fact, people have been leaving money, food and other items for the homeless at the statue outside a church in Buffalo, New York.
So, should we welcome the so-called “Homeless Jesus” as a sign of the hunger and despair faced by hundreds of thousands of people across the globe? Is the sculpture a means of confronting homelessness and drawing attention to the plight of the homeless?
Well, let’s start by asking “What would Jesus think?”
We know that Jesus showed his concern for the homeless and poor. He talked about feeding the hungry and caring for the needy. Matthew 25:45 reads, “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ ”
Jesus himself spent much of his life as a homeless person. He was a homeless baby, born in a stable. Later, during His public ministry, He didn’t have a permanent place to call home. And, when he was crucified, he was stripped of everything — home, clothing and possessions.
Here at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we provide services to more than 1,400 homeless and needy people every day. One could argue that the donor’s generous contribution could have been put to better use at the many non-profit organizations in the Detroit area like ours that provide a multitude of services to the homeless, hungry and disadvantaged.
But one thing is for sure, the “Homeless Jesus” sculpture is guaranteed to make you stop and think. Let me know your thoughts.