Recently, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, North Carolina obtained a new piece of art that has inspired controversy all over the world. It has been blessed by Pope Francis, condemned by the affluent, and has sparked many a debate. It’s a sculpture entitled, “Homeless Jesus,” and depicts Christ wrapped in a blanket and lying on His side on a park bench, His face hidden and His feet, maimed from the Crucifixion, in full view.
Those who oppose the statue being outside the church in broad Southern daylight dislike the idea of Christ being homeless and helpless, appearing in something less than His full glory.
The statue is a startling reminder of what Christianity is about — helping those who are less fortunate and reminding us that we have a Friend who will help us because He lowered Himself to the lowest level possible. He humbled Himself and suffered as we do, and worse than most of us will.
Jesus came to serve. I cannot emphasize this point enough. I spent most of my high school years in a youth group at a church that emphasized serving others. To that end, for over four years, I volunteered for Vacation Bible School every summer, served drinks at countless spaghetti dinners and potlucks, helped clean out a shed in South Carolina, helped paint an cafeteria in a New Orleans elementary school that was still in terrible shape and closed five years after Hurricane Katrina, and did various tasks.
Honestly, I know I don’t deserve thanks for doing my Christian (or human) duty, since I was doing them for the Lord and not for myself, but I got benefits that Jesus did not get. He healed the blind, cured the lame, raised the dead, and did it all without getting a free plate of spaghetti, jarred marinara, and bagged salad served with a plastic cup of pink lemonade; without getting to swim in the ocean and wash the sweat off His brow, or getting to play tourist in voodoo souvenir shops and try alligator sausage po’boys as He watched the steamboats go up and down the Mississippi. At the Last Supper, He actually stripped down to a loincloth and washed the feet of his Disciples, taking on a task done by the lowest slave in the household at the time (when everyone wore sandals in an arid, desert-like climate, feet tended to get pretty disgusting).
As far as being offended by a depiction of Jesus as helpless, I would like to remind you that the man was put through a show trial in a kangaroo court, mocked, whipped thirty-nine times, and crucified—the worst possible death sentence under the Romans—which meant that He spent six hours baking in the Israeli sun, His body going into shock, suffering from severe blood loss, and dying of suffocation as His lungs collapsed because the nails in His hands and feet couldn’t support His body weight—the entire Redemption hinges on Him being helpless and dying in agony in the absolute worst way so that we don’t have to spend eternity burning in Hell. To be offended by a depiction of Him asleep on a bench but to not bat an eyelash at His death is hypocrisy—not as bad as religious hypocrisy can get, but still egregious enough that it needs addressing.
There’s really no point in getting offended by the statue because it reminds us that Jesus went to lengths for us that we certainly wouldn’t go to ourselves. To those of other faiths, or to the nonreligious, I’ll just say that there’s no harm in the statue, and that serving others is not an exclusively Christian concept, but an obligation that we have as humanity; we’re born to help others.
Allison Chase is a junior Creative Writing major and a confirmed Lutheran. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A religious statue depicting what faith means should not spark this kind of controversy.
Christians are meant to serve; some people obviously need reminders of this.
There’s no harm being done here – just let it go.