This Homeless Jesus Statue In A Wealthy North Carolina Town Has Drawn, Um, Mixed Reactions

St. Alban's Episcopal Church recently installed a statue in the wealthy town of Davidson, North Carolina that has sparked a controversy among the residents: A statue of Jesus as a homeless man. The church bought the statue — which cost a whopping $22,000 — as a memorial for Kate McIntyre, a former parishioner with a fondness for public art. Despite the good intentions behind the installation, the statue has divided many residents who consider it an insult to Jesus' image.

David Boraks, editor of DavidsonNews.net, told NPR that one woman initially thought it was a real homeless person and called the police, while another resident wrote letter to the editor about how much the statue "creeped him out."

But the church's rector, Rev. David Buck, believes that the controversy over the statue reflects its importance.

"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," he told NPR. "We believe that that's the kind of life Jesus had. He was, in essence, a homeless person."

The statue's creator, Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, also said that the statue was meant to "challenge people."

"There's been this blind spot in representation of Jesus in artwork. There's only one Jesus out there, and that's the perfect Jesus — this perfect person in physical form," he told DNAInfo. "My sculpture is not some sugar-cream version of Jesus. It's as raw and powerful as the gospel itself."

Located on a bench next to the church, the statue is a very atypical depiction of Jesus — his face isn't visible, and he isn't sitting upright. Rather, he's lying in a fetal position on the bench and covered in a long blanket that almost entirely covers his face as well as his hands.

So how is this a statue of Jesus? The answer lies in the statue's uncovered feet, which shows his crucifixion wounds, and anyone who sits on the bench space next to the statue's feet will immediately notice.

Two churches had previously turned down the statue, including New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral and Toronto's St. Michael's. While both cathedrals had cited renovations as a reason for turning down the statue, a spokesperson for St. Michael's also said that there hadn't been "unanimous" appreciation for the statue.

Now that the statue has made its mark in Davidson, Chicago may soon also have its statue of a homeless Jesus, coordinated by the Catholic Charities of Chicago.