What Does Your Jesus Look Like?


By Wesley Davidson
Wesley Davidson is a senior Religious Studies major and Judaic Studies minor from Dothan, Alabama. He plans to continue his study of religion in culture at the graduate level and is currently playing the waiting game after finishing the application process.

A recent story on CNN depicts the controversy over a statue in Davidson, North Carolina. The statue is located outside of Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church, and it renders Jesus Christ as a homeless man lying on a park bench and includes room to sit down beside it. The statue itself has sparked much discussion and debate, and it has caused many to address their own thoughts about who Jesus is. Who is the real Jesus, and what is the best way to represent him?

While we do have various documents with descriptions and narratives involving the person known as Jesus, much of what can be known about him is lost in the past, including details of his appearance and personality. When we as individuals think about a figure, we rely on our own knowledge and opinions to construct an image, as evidenced by this particular conflict. For Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, who produced the statue, and others who have voiced their support, Jesus came to serve the marginalized people of society and stepped into that role himself. Therefore, placing a sculpture in the public eye that demonstrates this type of Jesus is both appropriate and comforting. For other Christians who are in opposition, the statue is an inaccurate illustration of Jesus’ role and is demeaning of his power. One individual even emphasized Jesus’ divinity and how he does not need human assistance as a homeless man would to demonstrate why she disagrees with the erection of the statue. So how do we decide who is right? Perhaps what might be of more interest is to look at how the sides stage their arguments and to think about the ways different sources can be chosen to make a case.

The images we construct and their accompanying narratives are not limited to figures or tales commonly associated with religion. Everyday we create representations that we deem to be most accurate, whether of our favorite professional baseball player or the actor playing the protagonist in a weekly sitcom. The choices we make of what to include and exclude to formulate these are based on our own assumptions and are influenced by a variety of references. What constitutes the way you construct your Jesus?

Photo by Timothy Schmalz via Religion News

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