This statue called Jesus the Homeless was rejected by two prominent churches before finding a home outside Regis College, a Jesuit school of theology with an emphasis on social justice, at the University of Toronto.
The rejection by churches of “Jesus the Homeless” is what I find we are up against as we try to spread a message on how economic justice is at the core of the Gospel message. People are really threatened by an image of “Jesus the Homeless” because it rips away the pretense that Christianity is about rewarding the wealthy.
Who is on that bench, under that blanket, shivering in the cold? God-with-us. It shakes you to your core if you let it.
The heart of the Kingdom of God program of Jesus is community organizing against Roman taxation, peasant indebtedness, loss of land, urban poverty, and the abuse of religion to justify that.
Jesus, and his disciples, lived the alternative as revelation. That is why, as Jesus is journeying toward Jerusalem, he talks to them about the “Human One” (Oxford Inclusive Translation) having “nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58). It’s the revelation of how this is God’s program, not just a human program he is about.
But the ownership crowd is not going down without a fight. In an amazing tweet-back, I was informed that “Jesus owned two homes. One in Nazareth and one in Capernaum. Plus a temple in Jerusalem.” Yes, I’m sure. That’s probably why Jesus cleaned the Temple, he “owned it.” You have to work hard to misread the life and teachings of Jesus that way.
But I’m finding there is a longing, in our local churches, to just tell the Gospel truth about this economy, and what it is doing to community, to education, to retirement, to actually being able to have enough to eat and a safe, warm place to lay your head. There are people sitting in our pews, right now, who are food insecure, who are drowning in debt, who aren’t sure how they will make the mortgage payment, who are facing a retirement in poverty.
Reality. It’s the best interpreter of scripture. But incredible art helps a lot. That’s why it’s so often rejected, as was the very Jesus it depicts.