Outrageous Sculpture of Jesus Rejected by Churches in U.S. and Canada

How outrageous? Why it depicts him as . . . homeless.

Jesus has been depicted in art as triumphant, gentle or suffering. Now, in a controversial new sculpture in downtown Toronto, he is shown as homeless — an outcast sleeping on a bench.

It takes a moment to see that the slight figure shrouded by a blanket, hauntingly similar to the real homeless who lie on grates and in doorways, is Jesus. It’s the gaping wounds in the feet that reveal the subject, whose face is draped and barely visible, as Jesus the Homeless.

Despite message of the sculpture — Jesus identifying with the poorest among us — it was rejected by two prominent Catholic churches, St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

Here it is:

RNS-HOMELESS-JESUS

The sculptor is Timothy Schmalz.

I’m sorry, but I have no problem with this. It’s touching, potent, and BIBLICAL: Matthew 8:20 and 25:40.

Seems the rectors of the churches were “enthusiastic about the bronze piece and showed Schmalz possible locations, but higher-ups in the New York and Toronto archdiocese turned it down, he says. . . . The Toronto archdiocese tried to help him find an alternative location, including St. Augustine’s Seminary in Scarborough. But Schmalz, who describes his work as a visual prayer, wanted to reach a wider, secular audience. “I wanted not only the converted to see it, but also the marginalized. I almost gave up trying to find a place.”

It has finally landed outside a Jesuit institution in Toronto.

I understand there are reasons to be wary of a “social justice” theology, which can quickly degenerate into attempts to immanentize the eschaton (love that expression) and supplant the Savior with statism.

But come on, guys. I could see this coming from certain pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps, no work no bread, get-a-job-you-lazy-bum, God helps those who help themselves, if you had tithed God would have supplied all your good-measure, pressed-down, shaken-together, running over needs Prots. But Catholics! For shame! What would St. Francis say? Or Pope Francis? Or Connie Francis? Pick a Francis, for goodness’ sake!

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9 thoughts on “Outrageous Sculpture of Jesus Rejected by Churches in U.S. and Canada

  1. I do love the way you can drive home a serious point…and make me laugh at the same time!
    (and, btw, do like to see well used opportunities to work “immanentize the eschaton” into the conversation. I would more often, but my slight over-bite makes it hard for me to say clearly. Perhaps I should persuade my boss to make that a choice in the phone system’s voicemail menu. Just to see if anyone would dare press that #!)

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  2. In some ways you might find room for it just because it does appear as well conceived and (bigger miracle today) well executed art. But the two places that turned it down were: St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC and St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto. I have my doubts that they turned it down solely on “uncomfortable religious bigot” issues implied. Getting your artwork in a major cathedral like those is probably a little more difficult than “hey, want a bronze Jesus”?

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  3. Since the way to know that this is a depiction of Jesus is by the holes in the feet, it raised this question for me. This would then be Jesus after the Resurrection. I can see a work like this of Jesus during the time of his ministry when he had, at times, nowhere to lay his head. But after the Resurrection, with a glorified body, he is not homeless for now the Heavenly Universe is his home.

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