After a year of searching, “Homeless Jesus” has found a home after being refused by St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. The statue now calls Regis College, a Jesuit theology school at the University of Toronto, home.
The statue’s creator, Timothy Schmalz, himself a devout Catholic, has been sculpting renditions of Christ for more than 25 years and says that this particular piece was intended to “provoke. I’m very sensitive about the stereotypes that people have of Christianity, so I wanted to give a fresh presentation.” Schmalz was inspired to create the sculpture after being moved emotionally by a homeless man he encountered on the streets of Toronto one year during Christmas festivities.
Schmalz said the Christian deity is typically portrayed with “perfectly blow-dried” hair, and a European-esque, symmetrical face but he disagrees with that idea:
“But Jesus hung out with the marginalized,” Schmalz said. “He was with the prostitutes and beggars.”
Schmalz’s version of “Homeless Jesus” is depicted lying on a park bench – His face and hands hidden underneath the folds of a heavy robe. The only evidence that the form is actually Christ are His feet which are pierced – a symbol of the crucifixion.
“If Jesus were an art critic, he would probably prefer my vision of him,” Schmalz said. “Not the perfection, not the Christ on a throne.”
And this is where I’m gonna offer an opinion – which is something I’m learning to steer away from, but there’s something here that hasn’t been mentioned throughout all the articles I’ve read on this subject, and it needs to be clarified. While I understand Schmalz’s ideology behind the sculpture, and concede to him that his intentions do appear to be genuinely sincere, it doesn’t change the fact that the statue is historically inaccurate.
Why? It’s simple. The sculptors argument that Christ mingled with and lectured to the poor, and the meek, and the sinners, and the homeless vagabonds – is true. But this statue isn’t of Christ while He was among the living – as is proven by the pierced feet. This statue is of Christ after crucifixion – after He had been whipped and tortured and nailed to a cross of dogwood and died a violent death and spent 3 days, according to Him, in the center of the earth and had then risen from the dead.
After Jesus Christ rose from the tomb – I assure you He was not homeless and He certainly would NOT have been found sleeping on a park bench. I suspect it’s for this obvious reason that the aforementioned cathedrals refused the sculpture.
Also, I have never seen a photo or statue of Christ with Him seated on a throne. Usually, Christ is shown, as are most people throughout history, in the moment that defined His life. Jesus Christ is constantly depicted nearly nude, malnourished, stripped of human dignity, hanging from spikes which were driven through his hands and feet – paying for the sins of humanity. Many times He is depicted with his mother anguishing at the foot of His cross. I don’t think these scenes substantiate the sculptors assertion that Christ is regularly depicted as a rock star with flowing hair and “sitting on a throne.”
While the sculptor makes an attempt to justify his work with a heart touching story, I think the statue is extremely inaccurate and perhaps even borderline blasphemous.