ARTS & CULTURE
04/17/2014 01:30 pm ET | Updated Apr 17, 2014

'Homeless Jesus' Sculpture Continues To Divide Wealthy Community In North Carolina

The "Homeless Jesus" sculpture has been on a bench outside St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Davidson, N.C., since February. Although several months have since elapsed, uncertainty over the controversial statue still lingers.

The statue, a work by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, places Jesus on a park bench, sleeping in a thin shawl. The man is unidentifiable as Christ save for crucifixion wounds on his feet.

In a previous interview with The Huffington Post, Schmalz said he was inspired to craft the statue after seeing a homeless man on the ground before Christmas in 2011. "My instinctive thought was, that is Jesus Christ. I saw Jesus," he said.

The statue is so lifelike, DavidsonNews.net Editor David Boraks told NPR, that people have called police after mistaking it for an actual person.

"That's right," NPR observes, "Somebody called the cops on Jesus."

Some in the community disagree with the message the statue sends. "Jesus is not a vagrant, Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help," Cindy Castano Swannack, who called police after seeing the statue, told WCNC. "We need someone who is capable of meeting our needs, not someone who is also needy."

The Rev. Dr. David E. Buck, the rector at St. Alban's, counters, "We're reminded of what our ultimate calling is as Christians, as people of faith, to do what we can individually and systematically to eliminate homelessness. Part of a faith commitment is to care for the needy."

Per USA Today, "Homeless Jesus" cost $22,000, all of which was paid for by a church member in honor of a deceased parishioner. Buck described the church community as "affluent."

St. Alban's isn't alone in having courted controversy with the sculpture. In 2013, two Catholic churches -- one in Toronto, one in New York -- rejected the "Homeless Jesus" from their cathedrals.

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