A North Carolina church placed a statue of Jesus Christ as a vagrant sleeping on a park bench on its grounds, and the church's wealthy neighbors, who believed it was a real person, called the cops.
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson installed the statue, which depicts a life-size Jesus sleeping huddled under a blanket on a bench. His face is covered by the blanket, but his visible feet show the wounds of crucifixion.
"One woman from the neighborhood actually called police the first time she drove by," David Boraks, editor of DavidsonNews.net, told NPR. "She thought it was an actual homeless person."
"Another neighbor, who lives a couple of doors down from the church, wrote us a letter to the editor saying it creeps him out," Boraks added.
Some neighbors in the upscale neighborhood said the depiction of Jesus is insulting and demeans the neighborhood.
The bronze statue, created by Toronto artist Timothy Schmalz and called “Jesus the Homeless,” was rejected by two high-profile Catholic churches, St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
“Homeless Jesus had no home,” Schmalz told the Toronto Star. “It was very upsetting because the rectors liked it, but when it got to the administration, people thought it might be too controversial or vague.”
He said the point of the piece is to make people reconsider how urban life dehumanizes the homeless and that Jesus during his time was marginalized.
"That's essentially what the sculpture is there to do," he said. "It's meant to challenge people."
The statue was purchased for $22,000 as a memorial to Kate McIntyre, who was a member of the church, WUNC reported.
"It gives authenticity to our church,” said Rev. David Buck. "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."
"We believe that that's the kind of life Jesus had," Buck said. "He was, in essence, a homeless person."