That's right. Somebody called the cops on Jesus.
April 13, 2014 10:14 PM   Subscribe

 
Taking yet another bed away from actual homeless men.
The people of that community should congratulate him on this.

In all seriousness. I approve. More of this please...
posted by QueerAngel28 at 10:25 PM on April 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


The first thing I thought was the line from the Gospel (well, a hymn in this case), "whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me", which every Christian knows. That the line was the inspiration for the statue shows it works.
posted by Thing at 10:29 PM on April 13, 2014 [28 favorites]


Calling the cops on a homeless Jesus is SO America.txt the irony is almost too dark even for my pitch-black sense of humor.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:29 PM on April 13, 2014 [67 favorites]


I like it because it suggests none of the parishioners wanted to help.
posted by michaelh at 10:33 PM on April 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


Oh hey, art happened!
posted by Mizu at 10:33 PM on April 13, 2014


I'd give him some water, but he'd probably only turn it into wine.
posted by pracowity at 10:36 PM on April 13, 2014 [231 favorites]


Jesus slept.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:37 PM on April 13, 2014 [70 favorites]


if jesus returned to the (fairly affluent, episcopal) parish of my youth, he would experience a second crucifixion.
posted by bruce at 10:46 PM on April 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


If it looks like someone has fallen asleep on a parkbench, all wrapped up in something because cold, calling for help isn't the wrong thing to do.

There can be many reasons women won't stop the car and get out to check on the person. I've called the cops on what I thought was a dead man in a dumpster, turned out he was just sleeping. Sorry homeless man.
posted by dabitch at 10:50 PM on April 13, 2014 [43 favorites]


If it looks like someone has fallen asleep on a parkbench, all wrapped up in something because cold, calling for help isn't the wrong thing to do.

Good point.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:51 PM on April 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


I first read about this about a month ago. But I never tire of seeing the various articles cross my Facebook feed. It's an inspired idea for a sculpture, and some people's reaction to it only highlights the need to remind them of who Jesus was.
posted by sbutler at 10:51 PM on April 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


"It gives authenticity to our church," he [the rector of this church] says. "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."

Well I was glad to read this much. Sometimes I need reminding that some christians are actually christian.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:55 PM on April 13, 2014 [32 favorites]


Love this
posted by gt2 at 10:59 PM on April 13, 2014


Skymall garden sculpture editor, MAKE IT HAPPEN.
posted by benzenedream at 11:19 PM on April 13, 2014 [45 favorites]


The lady who called the cops on Jesus runs an asset management and financial services company, to nobody's surprise.

The company and the founder seem very full of themselves. She's added a website to explain why she's right and everybody else is wrong:

"let it be known I have never lost compassion for my fellow man or woman."

"One question no one has asked is, why did the church spend thousands of dollars on art if they are so concerned for the needs of others?"

"The figure is located in a poorly lit area and didn't actually look like a homeless person, rather like someone lying in wait to mug an innocent victim. I have worked with the homeless and know their demeanor. This "figure" didn't match the MO. It was too organized and uniform appearing more like someone posing as a homeless person, sinister. "
posted by quarsan at 11:21 PM on April 13, 2014 [13 favorites]


The end of the story:the rector reports that the Jesus the Homeless statue has earned more followers than detractors. It is now common, he says, to see people come, sit on the bench, rest their hand on the bronze feet and pray.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:26 PM on April 13, 2014 [11 favorites]


She's added a website to explain why she's right and everybody else is wrong:

Wow, what an absolute scumbag.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:26 PM on April 13, 2014 [22 favorites]


"He was, in essence, a homeless person."

Easter dinner with the family is going to be fun this year.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:28 PM on April 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


I've come to the conclusion that if there is a Jesus he is already on Earth and he's come back as a homeless vagrant. He probably decided that if one person was to show him compassion only because of the love in their heart, and not in their own self-interest like because of some expectation of some sort of after-worldly reward, he would start the second coming and turn Earth into heavenly paradise.

I'd expect he's still waiting for that person to show up.
posted by Talez at 11:33 PM on April 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


Wow, what an absolute scumbag.

Don't you mean, "Christ, what an asshole."?
posted by The otter lady at 11:36 PM on April 13, 2014 [56 favorites]


Hey, I was just reading about a doctoral thesis on this topic: Jesus was a hobo
posted by Paragon at 11:38 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


"The figure is located in a poorly lit area and didn't actually look like a homeless person, rather like someone lying in wait to mug an innocent victim. I have worked with the homeless and know their demeanor. This "figure" didn't match the MO. It was too organized and uniform appearing more like someone posing as a homeless person, sinister. "

Ah, the old "pretend homeless" gag
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:42 PM on April 13, 2014 [37 favorites]


Homeless Jesus Startles A Wealthy Community

that's the everything in the New Testament, I'm pretty sure





except the Book of Revelations.
posted by philip-random at 11:46 PM on April 13, 2014 [77 favorites]


The end of the story:the rector reports that the Jesus the Homeless statue has earned more followers than detractors. It is now common, he says, to see people come, sit on the bench, rest their hand on the bronze feet and pray.

That's kinda awesome. I don't know if it actually touched those hard hearts, but maybe it inspired them to broaden their outlooks just a smidgen.
posted by JHarris at 11:57 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is a statue of a woman sitting on a park bench in San Francisco in a tiny little place amongst the buildings that, while walking home from work, a bit absent, in the winter when it was dark that I have apologized to - twice. "Sorry" I said.
I didn't think she was a religious figure.

I suppose some people need reminding though.
posted by vapidave at 11:58 PM on April 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Another neighbor, who lives a couple of doors down from the church, wrote us a letter to the editor saying it creeps him out," Boraks added.

As opposed to, say, an image of a man who's been crucified?
posted by homunculus at 12:14 AM on April 14, 2014 [81 favorites]


Jesus is huddled under a blanket with his face and hands obscured; only the crucifixion wounds on his uncovered feet give him away.

How am I supposed to know it is Jesus, and not some random guy who just got crucified, and who is now going to ask me for spare change?
posted by thelonius at 12:54 AM on April 14, 2014 [18 favorites]


It could be a statue of Aqualung
posted by thelonius at 12:58 AM on April 14, 2014 [26 favorites]


Asset manager with fucked up threat perception and fear of the Poors: "It could be someone up to no good. I should call the police."

Christ: "What an asshole."
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:59 AM on April 14, 2014 [26 favorites]


"The figure is located in a poorly lit area and didn't actually look like a homeless person, rather like someone lying in wait to mug an innocent victim."

That's another valid message. The representative of the Catholic church as a mugger:

"From fear of priests with an empty plate and guilt and weeping effigies."
posted by three blind mice at 1:18 AM on April 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


I note that the explanatory website of Cindy Castano Swannack, linked above by quarsan, contains some detailed "scriptural" arguments about this matter in the "About Us" section:

"As for the Biblical perspective on whether Jesus should be represented by a homeless man, my case is set below. I am disturbed by priests and pastors who rob Jesus of His rightful place - in the present tense. Yes, he WAS homeless, but the key is in the past tense. He is no longer homeless, nor on Earth. He is seated (in body and spirit) at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us. Please read my supporting Biblical documentation below. [Biblical documentation goes here] ... Where do YOU believe Christ is? The Bible tells us He is in Heaven, doing the Father's work. As for me, I go with what God tells us in the Scriptures."

Which is interesting as it would imply that Christ should also not be represented crucified, given that he is not presently hanging on that cross at Golgotha.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 1:43 AM on April 14, 2014 [33 favorites]


Yes, that site is interesting, Seems she took a lot of crap by the way the story has been presented as she addresses what was left out - her reason for calling the cops.

"Elderly people walk their dogs at all hours in the exact area and the concern was that they could have fallen victim to a mugging. Additionally, it was too cold for someone to sleep out that night and if in fact they were in need, the police would relocate the homeless man to a shelter. Therefore, I had compassion - both on my neighbor (for their safety) and on the homeless, and contacted the police to address the concerns. Unfortunately, this explanation was edited out of the aired interview."

I better not call the cops if I'm concerned about any bodies I find in dumpsters anymore if the consensus will be that I'm an asshole for doing so.

I mean, I get it "somebody called the cops on Jesus" makes a great headline. But would you rather drive past someone sleeping on a bench and ignore it?
posted by dabitch at 2:01 AM on April 14, 2014 [15 favorites]


I like the sculpture, it poses an interesting question to the viewer. I also like the fact that it has generated such varied responses from the parishioners. Good art is meant to challenge us, unlike Thomas Kinkade's output.
posted by arcticseal at 2:19 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Another neighbor, who lives a couple of doors down from the church, wrote us a letter to the editor saying it creeps him out," Boraks added.

As opposed to, say, an image of a man who's been crucified?


You've inspired a song, homunculus, thank you.

Homeless Jesus Creeps Me Out

homeless Jesus creeps me out
i liked him better on the cross, no doubt
hanging up there with nails through his feet
that's the kind of Jesus I prefer to meet

i don't want no homeless Jesus in my neighborhood
let's nail him back up on the cross, yeah i really think we should

when i was driving by last night
homeless Jesus gave me such a fright
i locked the doors of my Mercedes Benz
don't wanna think about the homeless, and neither do my friends

i don't want no homeless Jesus in my neighborhood
let's nail him back up on the cross, yeah i really think we should

i mean, what's he doing lying there on that bench
he might jump up and hit you on the head with a wrench

this ain't the Jesus that i want to see
i want Jesus like he used to be
hangin' on his cross, about halfway dead
bloody crown of thorns upon his head

i don't want no homeless Jesus in my neighborhood
let's nail him back up on the cross, yeah i really think we should
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:30 AM on April 14, 2014 [90 favorites]


I get it "somebody called the cops on Jesus" makes a great headline

Totally agree with you!

Suffice to say I think the cop-caller would have played a better hand (in the Court of the internet/public opinion) if she left out all the "homeless Jesus is against scripture" horseshit.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:55 AM on April 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


Then again, she might be worried that Satan will grow another head for her, beside the one gnawing continually at Judas (who also infamously called the cops on Jesus). «Quell’ anima là sù c’ha maggior pena» / disse ’l maestro, «è Giuda Scarïotto. / che ’l capo ha dentro e fuor le gambe mena, and all that malarky.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:12 AM on April 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


I love this statue. North Carolina needs subversive shit like this, and badly.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:14 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Strangely the relevant centurions don't feature in Dante's Hell. They didn't get thirty pieces of silver, however. Christianity is obviously teaching us something about risk/reward ratios here.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:18 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

--Matthew 8:18-20

It is fascinating that people who (probably) have no objection to seeing Jesus depicted as an executed criminal are scandalized to see him depicted as a homeless man. But it makes a certain kind of sense. Everyone knows that the crucifixion was unjust, and was undertaken willingly on behalf of others, so to see him crucified is a reminder of his virtues. How we think of the crucifixion is reasonably close to how the Bible portrays it.

But many Americans see poverty much differently than the New Testament does. For them, poverty is generally the just result of the individual sin of sloth, so homelessness is a sign that someone lacks virtue. For Jesus, poverty is generally the unjust result of the societal sins of greedy and oppression, so homelessness is a sign that the culture is corrupt and needs to be set right. His own homeless is akin to his crucifixion--a sacrifice willingly made, but necessitated by the sins of others, not his own.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:33 AM on April 14, 2014 [147 favorites]


And now, the Pontius Pilate dancers! Sing it again, flapjax

Then again, she might be worried that Satan will grow another head for her, beside the one gnawing continually at Judas

There are three heads, one for Judas, and two gnawing on betrayers of Julius Caesar. I find that to be excessive, but Dante, who I suspect was smarter than me, probably knew what he was doing.
posted by thelonius at 3:35 AM on April 14, 2014


"As opposed to, say, an image of a man who's been crucified?"

Not everyone thinks that statues of human size and shape, placed in non-statue-like places, like sitting on park-benches or leaning on poles waiting for buses are creepy, but a lot of people do precisely because they're easily mistaken for humans, not statues. The only one like this that I like is Margareta Krook, because she's warm and that causes an interaction with people around her that is very interesting. I also like the blue violinist in Amsterdam, but there's no "person" in that statue so it startles you for that reason.

But yes, the quidnunc kid, the website the cop-caller put up doesn't help her case at all, and without it she would just be an asshole straight up, because she's already judged as that before people read her site. Now she's a scripture asshole.

It's interesting how this probably wouldn't be a news story outside of the local papers at all, without the cop-calling 'hook' to hang it on. Whereby all the happy readers agree it's a great idea for a Jesus statue, while missing the point.
posted by dabitch at 3:46 AM on April 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Quell’ anima là sù c’ha maggior pena

Lasciate ogni speranza, ye who snooze on a bench in una selva oscura.
posted by Wolof at 3:54 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


And at the half it's:
St Albans 1
Banksy 0
posted by superelastic at 4:27 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


A local church serving a VERY wealthy community sets up a nativity scene every year with beautifully painted wooden statues... depicting the three wise men, Mary, Joseph and Jesus as homeless. It's not misery porn, they are depicted as elated and awed at the advent of Jesus' birth, but it hits like a hammer in a surprising way - the artist who carved it titles it "No room at the Inn."

Recently, they've had to take to chaining the statues in place with heavy-duty mooring chain, and set up video monitoring to keep them from being vandalized, after more than a decade of it being left to just be each Christmas season. The One Percent are growing restless.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:35 AM on April 14, 2014 [13 favorites]


That woman's website reminds me of all those episodes of cop shows where the cop asks a couple of questions in an interrogation and then just sits there. And you can see the suspect thinking, He doesn't believe me. I need to give him a better alibi. More details. And then the person talks himself into jail.
posted by Etrigan at 4:37 AM on April 14, 2014 [20 favorites]


LOL. She sells viatical products. Basically buying out peoples life insurance to bet on them dying.
posted by JPD at 4:42 AM on April 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


That may well be a valuable financial product to some (for all I know) but I imagine Dante (if he were reanimated today) would be thinking about making some extensions to his chthonic palace.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 4:52 AM on April 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


He is no longer homeless, nor on Earth. He is seated (in body and spirit) at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us.

Pulled himself up by his bootstraps, all the way to heaven.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:53 AM on April 14, 2014 [14 favorites]


I don't consider buying the life insurance of dying people to be dodgy, for what it's worth. If someone is dying and wants to have the life insurance money for themselves rather than giving it to others, that's their call.

I like the statue, but I can't be sure if the people who pray by it are sincere, and if they are, if the statue prompted the sincerity.
posted by YAMWAK at 4:54 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anyway (further to the above) - I am not this lady's Minos.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:04 AM on April 14, 2014


When I read about this last night (it was all over my feeds, of course), my first thought was, of course, "can you believe this shit?" But then I thought to myself, well, I've passed many sleepless homeless people on my way to work, and I've never done anything at all about it. Mainly because I have no idea what the right thing to do would be. It's easy to imagine that this woman thought that calling the police was the most responsible way to handle this situation. Is it better to just not do anything? (It may actually be better to not do anything, but you could at least make the argument for calling the police)

The fact that the cop-caller is such an unrepentant asshole kind of ruins this line of thought, but I don't think any of us should allow ourselves off the hook for our inaction just because this lady is a jerk.
posted by lunasol at 5:06 AM on April 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


> I don't consider buying the life insurance of dying people to be dodgy

Specifically, viaticals only make money if the original policy holder dies before their expected lifespan. You're literally betting on them to die young.

Which, considered in isolation, is relatively benign albeit ghoulish.

In the context of a country with an increasingly expensive health care system and decreasing wages for people below the classes of white collar professionals, it's effectively an SEC-regulated way of predating on the working poor.

So, yeah, that's some Pharisee-grade hypocrisy she's up to, there.
posted by at by at 5:22 AM on April 14, 2014 [19 favorites]


It's easy to imagine that this woman thought that calling the police was the most responsible way to handle this situation.

This woman, being wealthy, has probably never needed to fear the police—they've probably always protected her interests. So she may not understand that for many (particularly the poor), the police are not perceived as help, but as a threat (and not entirely without reason).
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:27 AM on April 14, 2014 [17 favorites]


I mean, I get it "somebody called the cops on Jesus" makes a great headline. But would you rather drive past someone sleeping on a bench and ignore it?

This is where intent matters, as does the actual policies and practices of the police. Are you calling to request help for the homeless guy, or to request that the police give him the bum rush out of your neighborhood? And regardless of what you are hoping they will do, do the local police have a history of helping the homeless, or of keeping the streets (and benches) clean?

The woman sounds like a real piece of work, almost heaven-sent to prove the point that the rector was hoping to make. I doubt we are going to start seeing homeless Jesus statues anywhere that emphasizes the prosperity gospel, though.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:36 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


In the UK, most people of normal intelligence concerned about the possible wellbeing of a homeless person would call emergency services; and on being given a choice of whether they spoke to the police, fire service or ambulance service would choose the latter.
posted by epo at 5:38 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's the follow-up from Cindy Castano Swannack that's the money shot:

Swannack says it’s an inappropriate message and wrong for the neighborhood. She wishes it showed Jesus standing over the homeless protecting them.

"Jesus is not a vagrant, Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help," she said, "We need someone who is capable of meeting our needs, not someone who is also needy."


She wishes it showed Jesus standing over the homeless, protecting them.

Which is amusing, because He obviously is doing nothing of the sort.
posted by sonascope at 5:38 AM on April 14, 2014 [29 favorites]


Which is interesting as it would imply that Christ should also not be represented crucified, given that he is not presently hanging on that cross at Golgotha.

She doesn't give her denomination, but in North Carolina, I would be absolutely unsurprised if she believed that crucifixes were wrong as well. "Why is Christ still on your Cross, don't you know He is risen?" is a pretty typical line that Protestants of a certain stripes break out on Catholics or other Protestants who use crucifixes.

I'd be curious to know whether her reasoning, which would suggest total opposition to images of Jesus at all, also manifests itself as opposition to treacly pictures of Jesus preaching to little white children of the type beloved by Southern Protestants.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:39 AM on April 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am not Minos, I am not your Minos.....

Dante is pretty uninterested in social justice issues, I am sorry to say. It's betrayal and treachery that he can't abide.
posted by thelonius at 5:42 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


There's a homeless older man who lives somewhere around my place that I call "Itchy" as he seems to have something causing him a great need to scratch his skin a lot. He's white haired and bearded and at some point he had long dreads, broken shoes, a cake of dirt on him and was a terrible mess. At that time, somewhere he got a shower, a beard-buzz and a proper haircut and for a while there he looked really good. He had new shoes, fresh clothes and looked clean and less itchy. I pass him often enough for him to nod something like a hello to me, and I do a discreet nod back, but he's not the kind of homeless man I dare to approach with food offerings (as I tend to do), as I see him often arguing with nothing and sometimes violently attacking lamp posts with anything he can hit it with.

When it comes to guys like Itchy, who can I call for help if I worry about him? Clearly someone got him in somewhere for that haircut, and I wish he had stayed wherever that was because he's clearly falling into dirty dreadlock and fighting with lampposts territory again... He'll walk out into the street and play chicken with cars. He's also not the only one who might get hurt by his actions.
posted by dabitch at 5:42 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, calling the police about someone sleeping in public often only creates more problems and hardship for that person. A better route would be to familiarize yourself with whatever non-criminalizing outreach or support options are available in your area; or, even better, support networks run by folks who are homeless themselves, so would have the best idea of what would be the most helpful response.

We've had a couple posts on this topic on the blue: homelessness, and the activities and basic bodily functions that the homeless need to engage in in public due to not having a home (like, sleeping, urinating, etc.) are increasingly being criminalized in the US, even as the number of people lacking homes is growing, and services - even just public lands where camping is allowed, or safe and adequately maintained public washrooms - are being cut or greatly restricted (this has been an ongoing trend for decades of course).
posted by eviemath at 5:44 AM on April 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


My favorite part of her site is how obviously all homeless people have one "M.O." and this statue didn't match that.
posted by rtha at 5:44 AM on April 14, 2014 [14 favorites]


Specifically, viaticals only make money if the original policy holder dies before their expected lifespan. You're literally betting on them to die young.

They also make money on the fact that you're trading a lump sum now for a non-guaranteed length of regular payments, or trading a lump sum now for a lump sum later; not to mention the fact that most people got life insurance before they got sick and are therefore anticipating that they're going to die young anyway.

Not to say that the viatical industry isn't ghoulish and exploitative around the margins, but it's not just ghoulish and exploitative around the margins.
posted by Etrigan at 5:48 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Another statue of a homeless Jesus by the same sculptor was recently stolen from downtown Toronto... and then returned with an "I'm sorry" note.
posted by parudox at 5:54 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


the activities and basic bodily functions that the homeless need to engage in in public due to not having a home ... are increasingly being criminalized in the US

C'mon now. The City of Philadelphia, for example, has a list of statutes concerning what you can and cannot do in public places. Such prohibitions have to do with public health, safety, and order AND SPECIFICALLY DO NOT TARGET PEOPLE BASED ON ECONOMIC STATUS.

CHAPTER 10-600. PUBLIC PLACES -- PROHIBITED CONDUCT

§10-601. Spitting.[78]

§10-602. Smoking.[79]

§10-603. Loitering.[85]

§10-604. Alcoholic Beverages.[87]

§10-605. Food or Beverage on Vehicles of Public Transportation.[88]

§10-606. Penalties.[89]

§10-607. Discrimination Based on Economic Status.[90]

§10-608. Solicitation of Prostitution.[91]

§10-609. Public Urination or Defecation.[92]

§10-610. Skateboarding, Rollerblading and Bicycling on Public Property.[95]

§10-611. Sidewalk Behavior.[97]

§10-612. Gambling.[107]

§10-613. Concealed Identities.[108]
posted by three blind mice at 5:56 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


dabitch, I feel like you're giving this woman too much credit. She seems to be throwing excuses at the wall hoping to find one that sticks.
"I thought it was a mugger I was trying to protect my neighbors!"
"I thought it was a homeless guy I was trying to protect him!"
"Anyway images of Jesus are wrong!"
posted by graventy at 5:57 AM on April 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yes, 3bm, the rich get in trouble for loitering under bridges too.
posted by graventy at 5:59 AM on April 14, 2014 [29 favorites]


No, I agree that this woman isn't a very nice person, what I'm objecting to is calling people assholes for alerting someone in the emergency services of a person sleeping on a bench. It's not an asshole move. If police are terrorizing homeless people in your neighborhood, then that's a problem too.
posted by dabitch at 5:59 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Honestly, tbm, I don't even know why I'm bothering replying to you, but did you know that in some cities it's illegal to sit on the sidewalk? In some it's illegal to give people food. But hey, as long as rich and poor both are prohibited, it's okay, right?!
posted by rtha at 6:01 AM on April 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


> AND SPECIFICALLY DO NOT TARGET PEOPLE BASED ON ECONOMIC STATUS.

Yes they do. How do you propose homeless people not loiter or void themselves in public? They are by definition unable to do these things in private.

Also, what the fuck does "sidewalk behavior" mean? That's some grandfather-law grade bullshit vagueness there.
posted by at by at 6:02 AM on April 14, 2014 [12 favorites]


C'mon now. The City of Philadelphia, for example, has a list of statutes concerning what you can and cannot do in public places. Such prohibitions have to do with public health, safety, and order AND SPECIFICALLY DO NOT TARGET PEOPLE BASED ON ECONOMIC STATUS.

All together now:

"In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread." - Anatole France, The Red Lily.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:02 AM on April 14, 2014 [50 favorites]


In New Orleans city councilperson Jackie Clarkson had all the park benches in the French Quarter replaced with benches that have an armrest down the middle so the homeless people wouldn't lay down on them. Homeless Jesus would have to lay down on the ground. Not in front of Clarkson's house though. She'd mace the guy.
posted by bukvich at 6:03 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


.... or void themselves in public?

This is why I frown upon cities that only have pay-for public restrooms. The worst is the high tech ones, where you can only pay with cellphone SMS, not coins. It says a lot about the entire city.

I don't think stepping in human feces on the sidewalk is a good alternative either! This spreads disease!
posted by dabitch at 6:06 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was fully on board until twenty-two thousand dollars?!? I don't know, maybe Rev. David Buck found himself with a 22 grand bequeathment he was obligated to spend on art, and made the best of a bad job but... seems a bit of a backhander to actual homeless.
posted by adamt at 6:08 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, what the fuck does "sidewalk behavior" mean? That's some grandfather-law grade bullshit vagueness there.

3bm's first link is to the actual statutes, which define "sidewalk behavior." It's not at all vague, but it is totally criminalizing panhandling in all its forms.
posted by Etrigan at 6:09 AM on April 14, 2014


I don't know, maybe Rev. David Buck found himself with a 22 grand bequeathment he was obligated to spend on art, and made the best of a bad job but... seems a bit of a backhander to actual homeless.
The bronze statue was purchased for $22,000 as a memorial for a parishioner, Kate McIntyre, who loved public art.
I'm going to give Buck the benefit of the doubt here and figure that probably McIntyre's will and/or survivors gave the money for that specific purpose.
posted by Etrigan at 6:11 AM on April 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


adamt: "I was fully on board until twenty-two thousand dollars?!? I don't know, maybe Rev. David Buck found himself with a 22 grand bequeathment he was obligated to spend on art, and made the best of a bad job but... seems a bit of a backhander to actual homeless"

Did you bother finishing the sentence? From TFA:

The bronze statue was purchased for $22,000 as a memorial for a parishioner, Kate McIntyre, who loved public art.
posted by I am the Walrus at 6:11 AM on April 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Seems she took a lot of crap by the way the story has been presented as she addresses what was left out - her reason for calling the cops.

Even in your quote, she says what her first reason was -- she had an insane fear that the homeless guy was going to spring up out from under his blanket and mug people. Because homeless muggers lying in wait under blankets is a apparently a thing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:16 AM on April 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yes she does. But that quote isn't in the FPP article, and it's from that article that people already decided that it's an asshole thing to do to call for help if you see someone sleeping on a park bench. I simply don't agree with this, because the alternative to ignore people is the asshole thing to do.
posted by dabitch at 6:25 AM on April 14, 2014


Did you bother finishing the sentence? From TFA:

The bronze statue was purchased for $22,000 as a memorial for a parishioner, Kate McIntyre, who loved public art.


I know, but it doesn't say where the money came from, maybe Kate Mcintyre's estate, maybe the congregation, maybe somewhere else, I don't know. Anyway, I was just trying to say I thought it was terrible way to spend money if you were concerned about homelessness, but that I could give the church the benefit of the doubt that maybe it wasn't up to them.
posted by adamt at 6:27 AM on April 14, 2014


But that quote isn't in the FPP article, and it's from that article that people already decided that it's an asshole thing to do to call for help if you see someone sleeping on a park bench. I simply don't agree with this, because the alternative to ignore people is the asshole thing to do.

As several people have pointed out, calling the police is not exactly the same thing as calling for help when it comes to the homeless in our modern society. At least, it's not helpful for the homeless.
posted by Etrigan at 6:28 AM on April 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


Pulled himself up by his bootstraps, all the way to heaven.

Pfft, his daddy got him that job.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:32 AM on April 14, 2014 [39 favorites]


Anyway, I was just trying to say I thought it was terrible way to spend money if you were concerned about homelessness, but that I could give the church the benefit of the doubt that maybe it wasn't up to them.

Maybe they spend plenty of money on homeless issues and felt that an endowment for public art would help publicize the need. I find it is helpful not to criticize when I have limited information, because there is a real risk the thing I am criticizing has long been addressed.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:35 AM on April 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


In the UK, most people of normal intelligence concerned about the possible wellbeing of a homeless person would call emergency services; and on being given a choice of whether they spoke to the police, fire service or ambulance service would choose the latter.

As with many aspects of American life this varies greatly from region to region, but I don't think you can always select which emergency service shows up first to a call regarding medical needs (my understanding is fire trucks often show up first since they're less-often occupied with their primary mission and firefighters also have EMT training). Many places also have a "non-emergency" service line (usually 3-1-1) for situations like this, which often gets routed to the police.
posted by psoas at 6:36 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Elderly people walk their dogs at all hours in the exact area and the concern was that they could have fallen victim to a mugging. Additionally, it was too cold for someone to sleep out that night and if in fact they were in need, the police would relocate the homeless man to a shelter

So she was worried that a lone man, however vulnerable-looking, might be a source of violence. And also worried that said man was outside in the cold and might die. Meaning it's exactly like the Wellesley statue controversy. Interesting how different opinions are in this thread.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:43 AM on April 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's actually a poor parallel, given how different the statues and the environments are.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:51 AM on April 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Meaning it's exactly like the Wellesley statue controversy.

A statue of Christ outside a church, designed to express the Christian message of love for the destitute, is not exacty the same as a statue of some schmuck outside a women's college, designed to "create a dialogue."

Interesting how different opinions are in this thread.

It is interesting how different situations elicit different responses.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:52 AM on April 14, 2014 [21 favorites]


This is oddly seasonal with the Eastertide approaching.

I think a lot of what makes this statue so offensive is how deeply insulting it is to a cheery view of Jesus as Christus Victor, the conquering triumphant Christ who is rewarded by God and rewards Christians according to their piety. It is a direct attack on the Jesus of the prosperity gospel, and I say Amen. I mean seriously, Christianity is an entire religion based around worshiping a Dude whose signature act was allowing himself to be so weak that He could be nailed naked to a tree next to common thieves and left to die, suffocated by the weight of His own body. He willingly left Himself in excruciating pain with His conspicuous suffering and powerlessness displayed openly for all to see and His body discarded by authorities like it was excrement after being abandoned by all who loved Him. The statue is an accusation to all who would sit morally comfortable in their pews this coming Sunday and imagine themselves in the place of Simon of Cyrene during the passion play rather than another face in the callous crowd like we all are constantly. It is morally aggressive, an attack, on anyone who would walk by someone in trouble who needed help without providing it.

When people wear those WWJD bracelets that were so weirdly popular not so long ago, it is easy to forget that Jesus flipping over tables and chasing people with a whip is not out of the question. Jesus didn't live his life seeking the negative peace that is the absence of tension but the positive peace that is the presence of justice. The people who find themselves vocally offended at this art seem like the same kind of people who have the audacious conceit to describe America as a Christian country. That is, even though those who have prisoners for neighbors and do not visit them, have the hungry for neighbors and do not feed them, have the naked (or I suppose in a more modern context visibly disgraced) for neighbors and do not clothe them with dignity, or have foreigners for neighbors and do not welcome them into their homes cannot plausibly claim to be Christian. When this is a nation that clearly not only neglects the duties it would need to fulfill to be even close to describable as Christian but says that there are prisoners who should not be visited, hungry people who should not be fed, people who should not have dignity, and foreigners who should not only be unwelcome but hunted, calling America essentially Christian betrays a deeply offensive hypocrisy.

The statue is offensive and it should be, it seems to be very effective at making people feel convicted and perhaps that is only because that is exactly what we are. As a Christian, how seldom I see Christ in the imprisoned, the hungry, the naked, and the stranger offends me. Just how easily I find myself going to church and just thinking only of myself, when I am indeed thinking at all, offends me. Even on metafilter, how quick I am to snark and dismissiveness rather than compassion and understanding offends me when the path that Jesus took was so radically different. I love this statue for all of the same reasons why I'd be so afraid to have one in my neighborhood, or especially at my church, where I'd have to look at on a regular basis and be so reminded of the essential message of my religion.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:54 AM on April 14, 2014 [94 favorites]


How do you propose homeless people not loiter or void themselves in public?

Oh, man. See, this is the problem. People get caught between these two extremes - either "no laws are criminalizing the homeless ever" or "the homeless are just doing what they have to to survive!" And the truth is in between.

Yes, laws targeting sleeping on park benches are aimed at the homeless. No one fucking cares if a non-homeless person is napping in the sunlight. Lack of bench space is not a tragedy afflicting neighborhoods.

At the same time, loitering laws are most often aimed at teenagers, not homeless. And there are ways to piss and shit without having to do it out in the open or in front of people, even for homeless people. During the day, there are public libraries. During the evening, there are drop-in shelters. And even if people, for whatever reason, did not choose to avail themselves of those locations, there are wooded areas where people can defecate without anyone really caring or being upset.

You see people publicly urinating or defecating when they just don't care about their community. They don't care about not exposing themselves. They don't care about not taking a shit on the stairway where people will walk. And sometimes you see that with drunk rich assholes, and sometimes you see that with embittered homeless people. And it is important to acknowledge that.
posted by corb at 6:55 AM on April 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


A statue of Christ outside a church, designed to express the Christian message of love for the destitute, is not exacty the same as a statue of some schmuck outside a women's college, designed to "create a dialogue."

There seems to have been no context suggesting it was Christ. It appeared to be a statue of a lone man. The intention of the artist would be unknown to an observer. Otherwise, the difference is that the man in this statue was far more protected from the elements than the man in the other statue, and was in a dark area near a path, rather than out in the open.

In short, this statue, if mistaken for a person, would be far more threatening. But in this case, when a woman complains about a statue making her feel threatened or worried for the person's safety, she's exorciated.

Amazing, the power of framing.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:01 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


So what happened when the cops tried to taser the statue?
posted by srboisvert at 7:04 AM on April 14, 2014 [18 favorites]


"There seems to have been no context suggesting it was Christ. It appeared to be a statue of a lone man. The intention of the artist would be unknown to an observer. Otherwise, the difference is that the man in this statue was far more protected from the elements than the man in the other statue, and was in a dark area near a path, rather than out in the open."

Well for starters, there is conspicuous stigmata on the hands and feet of the statue for anyone who would approach it that pretty obviously betrays the intention. While half the jokes in The Life of Brian do fall flat on the religious illiteracy of modern audiences, that at least still communicates clearly right?

Regardless, unlike the other art piece that was made to be as lifelike as possible, this is a shiny bronze statue made to be clearly a statue to anyone not just giving it a glance as they drive by. It is also depicting a someone who is non-threateningly asleep in a submissive posture in a way that is depressingly not out of place rather than a man upright and wandering through the neighborhood of a women's college in their underwear in a way that is indeed very out of place. There is a very big difference between being morally threatening and being sexually aggressive.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:10 AM on April 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


"calling the police is not exactly the same thing as calling for help"

...and as I've already said, then that's a problem. Because calling emergency responses (ie: 911) and stating the answer to "what's your emergency" to the operator should direct you to the appropriate resource at hand in that community, and they should help.
posted by dabitch at 7:13 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


I just realized we probably live in the reverse Kitty Genovese world if the consensus is; "Don't call the cops."
posted by dabitch at 7:18 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


"calling the police is not exactly the same thing as calling for help"

I think this is locality dependent. In Madison, WI, for example, you are directed to call 911 for things like this because it could be a homeless dude who doesn't know where the shelters are, or a drunk teenager who has passed out outside.

The cops will triage the situation and get the individual to the place most appropriate for them - detox, shelter, hospital, whatever - and they are best equipped to bring others into it.

But, yeah, that's Madison - where there is a community expectation of kindness towards people in trouble. I have had.... somewhat less professional experiences with the constabulatory in other towns like Macomb, Illinois, where the cop found me sleeping in my car and then proceeded to make me do stupid human tricks and searched my shit because a person with out of state plates asleep at 4am near a highway must of course be a drug dealer.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:20 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


The consensus, as I read it, is "We don't live in a world of just law enforcement, so don't call the cops; call someone, but not the cops."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:21 AM on April 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


The consensus isn't not to help, it's that you shouldn't call a part of the government with a long history of brutally oppressing the homeless. There are localities where calling the cops is a good idea, and localities where calling the cops is a bad idea, if what you want to do is help the person sleeping on the bench. I have no idea what it is in Davidson, but I've never lived anywhere where I would feel comfortable calling the police in this situation.

This conversation is also a weird counter-factual because this woman did not call the police to report a person sleeping outside. She called the police to report a mugger lurking under a blanket.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:25 AM on April 14, 2014 [12 favorites]


Thing: The first thing I thought was the line from the Gospel (well, a hymn in this case), "whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me", which every Christian knows.

But many Christians forget, or they'd be a lot more empathic towards the downtrodden.


Pater Aletheias: It is fascinating that people who (probably) have no objection to seeing Jesus depicted as an executed criminal are scandalized to see him depicted as a homeless man.

Again, I think many people (myself included) tend to forget that Jesus was on the cross because he that was his sentencing as a criminal, not just because that was his route to take away the sins of the world and conquer death.


adamt: I know, but it doesn't say where the money came from, maybe Kate Mcintyre's estate, maybe the congregation, maybe somewhere else, I don't know. Anyway, I was just trying to say I thought it was terrible way to spend money if you were concerned about homelessness, but that I could give the church the benefit of the doubt that maybe it wasn't up to them.

Surely you're not saying we have the resources to save the poor from their lot? There will be poor always, pathetically struggling, look at the good things you've got! Think while you still have me, move while you still need me. You'll be lost and you'll be sorry when I'm gone!
posted by filthy light thief at 7:25 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Notice how few answered my question on who I should call about Itchy.
posted by dabitch at 7:25 AM on April 14, 2014


It depends on where you are. Without knowing where you are and what the locally available resources are, no one can answer that question.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:28 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


211 is a widely available service hotline in the US, primarily provided as a service by/through United Way. It is a non-emergency hotline that can provide information regarding training, employment, food pantries, help for an aging parent, addiction prevention programs for their teenage children, affordable housing options, support groups and ways of becoming part of their community.

But it isn't available everywhere, as it requires funding and local support, generally through a United Way office. At least, this is what I learned from hearing about the efforts to maintain this service in a California community where I lived, and where my wife worked for United Way for a while.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:30 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Notice how few answered my question on who I should call about Itchy."

There are actually quite a few mefites who do exactly things like interfacing with folks like Itchy for a living who would be able to give you an authoritative answer with an idea about your general location.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:32 AM on April 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was assaulted by a statue once so I can totally understand her concerns.

I tried to hit it back but it simply said "don't think, feeeeeeel".

I saw a finger pointing at the moon but as I looked up it assaulted me again with a sharp rap to the crown of my head.

To be fair if I'd have paid attention to the statue's threatening pose I might have avoided the whole incident.
posted by longbaugh at 7:33 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


sonascope: It's the follow-up from Cindy Castano Swannack that's the money shot:
Swannack says it’s an inappropriate message and wrong for the neighborhood. She wishes it showed Jesus standing over the homeless protecting them.

"Jesus is not a vagrant, Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help," she said, "We need someone who is capable of meeting our needs, not someone who is also needy."
She wishes it showed Jesus standing over the homeless, protecting them.

Which is amusing, because He obviously is doing nothing of the sort.


Personally, I find it sad that people feel the homeless need a protector, instead of a support system to help them get to a better place, wherever that may be for them. It's saying that Jesus (or the community) should treat the symptoms, not the root cause.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:35 AM on April 14, 2014 [11 favorites]


Notice how few answered my question on who I should call about Itchy.

I'm formerly homeless and I don't know who to tell you to call, except that, unless you know Itchy well, it is safe to assume that he is already quite familiar with your city's social services, and has availed himself of them to the extent they are capable if meeting his needs. That's typically the case.

If you suspect he suffers some sort of medical problem, it might help to figure out how to get him onto Obamacare. That's a new wrinkle in the homelesse experience, and there is quite a lot of mental illness and substance abuse in that community. That might help.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:36 AM on April 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


longbaugh: I was assaulted by a statue once so I can totally understand her concerns.

Your "statue" link points to a 12mb image. For folks on restricted bandwidth, here's the Wikimedia page for that image.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:36 AM on April 14, 2014


It should be noted that in some places calling 911 is no big deal at all. In Philadelphia it is the recommended way to deal with almost anything.

Trash not getting picked up? Call 911

Bike lane blocked? Call 911

Homeless person sleeping on your porch and you want to make sure they're ok? Call 911.

Three city blocks were firebombed? Ehhh....
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:37 AM on April 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


This is where intent matters, as does the actual policies and practices of the police. Are you calling to request help for the homeless guy, or to request that the police give him the bum rush out of your neighborhood? And regardless of what you are hoping they will do, do the local police have a history of helping the homeless, or of keeping the streets (and benches) clean?

I used to live in an area with a really high homeless population (lots of undeveloped open space around, a huge park, and a 7-11 across the street), and this is kind of the thing. There were people sleeping around in the open a lot, which generally isn't a big deal. I knew most of the guys and they had their regular spots and would generally be camping out under an awning with their stuff, and most people I saw would have regular routines and return to the same spots. I did call the cops a couple times, just because I was worried about the condition of the person - both times were with people I didn't recognize passed out in what, in my experience, were odd places - one right in the front entry walkway for a dentist's office and another sprawled out on a lawn. My intent was more "see if that person needs medical attention" than "get this person out of neighborhood", but I can see how even that could be seen negatively. But, I did call the non-emergency line, not 911, but I wouldn't know who else to call otherwise that would have been equipped to deal with the situation if the people did in fact need medical help.
posted by LionIndex at 7:39 AM on April 14, 2014


The consensus, as I read it, is "We don't live in a world of just law enforcement, so don't call the cops; call someone, but not the cops."

In an ideal world, that would be great. But this is not an ideal world.

Here's the thing. Yes, some cops do hassle homeless people. But in areas with effective services, I promise you we've already liased with the police, we've already given the police our cards, the police already know that instead of bringing X individual in, they can bring them to Y location, or can make an appointment with Z organization for help. But I don't expect Joe Q. Citizen is going to know all of those numbers. I only expect Joe Citizen to know 911. (Or 311 in NYC, but not everywhere has that.)

The difference is rarely between people calling the cops or calling a community org - if they know the org exists, they probably already are thinking of it first. The difference is between people calling the police or not calling at all, and sometimes, that's how people freeze to death.
posted by corb at 7:45 AM on April 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


If only the homeless person had chosen to sleep next to a large organization dedicated to charity that the nice woman belonged to and could have alerted to the problem.
posted by Etrigan at 7:53 AM on April 14, 2014 [14 favorites]


Are churches staffed 24/7?
posted by dabitch at 7:54 AM on April 14, 2014


Catholic churches usually are with nuns and priests living 'on campus'.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:56 AM on April 14, 2014


Man this fucking story is hilarious on so many levels, I almost don't know how to respond. Clearly what is needed is a statue of Scripture-quoting Neighborhood Watch Hedge Fund Managing Toyota Avalon driving Jesus calling the cops on the first statue.

I wonder if young people these days are taught anything about the Pharisees.
posted by phaedon at 7:57 AM on April 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


"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."

I love that he points out it is supposed to be a form of ACTIVE concern for the marginalized, not a nice rosy feeling for hypothetical homeless while shying away in disgust from the real ones.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:17 AM on April 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


This reminds me of a parish I used to belong to. The homeless used to sleep on this little piece of land by the church because they could always go into the church and get warm/use the bathrooms/wash up/what have you. The police started kicking them off for looking like bums, so the church bought the strip of land and said "now they're invited bums." I don't think the priest actually went so far as to stick his tongue out at the cops and say "Nyah!" but I would have totally supported him in doing so.
posted by corb at 8:21 AM on April 14, 2014 [42 favorites]


"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."

Yeah, there's been a lot of talk in this thread about the woman who called the cops (which is, admittedly, magnificent) and not enough props for this guy. So as a card-carrying secular Jew who generally comes down hard on the "Hurf Durf Sky Wizard" side of things, let me just say "nice one, Rev." This is the kind of guy who gives organized religion a good name.
posted by The Bellman at 8:24 AM on April 14, 2014 [10 favorites]


corb, that is a baller story and I thank you for sharing it.
posted by Poppa Bear at 8:27 AM on April 14, 2014


It's easy to imagine that this woman thought that calling the police was the most responsible way to handle this situation.

This woman, being wealthy, has probably never needed to fear the police—they've probably always protected her interests. So she may not understand that for many (particularly the poor), the police are not perceived as help, but as a threat (and not entirely without reason).

Yes, that's exactly what I meant when I said it was easy to imagine that this woman (wealthy and sheltered as she is) thought that calling the police was the most reasonable way to handle the situation. I'm not saying it's right, just that there's a way to look at it that's not assuming ill intent.
posted by lunasol at 8:29 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sure there is - until you read her ridiculous statement defending herself.
posted by agregoli at 8:35 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


In an ideal world, that would be great. But this is not an ideal world.

In an ideal world, calling the cops first would be great. But this is not an ideal world.

We have at least two solutions to one problem, but neither of them are totally satisfactory.

That said, I take your point, and I hope people walk away from this thread and learn what their local homeless-aid organizations and services are, if they have any nearby.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:42 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Don't fuck with the Jesus."

In Michelangelo's Last Judgement, Mary looks aside from fear/awe, at the ferocity of the scene. People are robbed of their earthly trappings and it is the time of reckoning. Wealth, beauty, death are no bar from the divine division.
posted by jadepearl at 8:50 AM on April 14, 2014


adamt: "I was fully on board until twenty-two thousand dollars?!? I don't know, maybe Rev. David Buck found himself with a 22 grand bequeathment he was obligated to spend on art, and made the best of a bad job but... seems a bit of a backhander to actual homeless"

Artists need to make a living, too.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:53 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yes, that's exactly what I meant when I said it was easy to imagine that this woman (wealthy and sheltered as she is) thought that calling the police was the most reasonable way to handle the situation. I'm not saying it's right, just that there's a way to look at it that's not assuming ill intent.

Again, she explicitly called the police because she thought the statue was a dangerous mugger. It's not a misunderstanding about how police treat the homeless, it's an assumption that someone sleeping outside on a bench must be a criminal.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:56 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Swannack: "It’s an inappropriate message and wrong for the neighborhood. She wishes it showed Jesus standing over the homeless protecting them. "Jesus is not a vagrant, Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help," she said, "We need someone who is capable of meeting our needs, not someone who is also needy."
Not to get all THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE or anything, but in Christian cosmology the Jesus standing watch over the homeless is supposed to be you, those are His explicit instructions, and the man on the bench being helped really is Jesus every single time.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:03 AM on April 14, 2014 [36 favorites]


"Are churches staffed 24/7"

It depends on the church. Many, and especially Catholic churches, have a parsonage right next door or built in where the pastor or some assemblage of clergy live in part for exactly this kind of reason. Especially larger churches and especially ones in inner cities will sometimes have staff on site 24 hours, but generally only in the context of larger ministries involving the vulnerable because just having someone there doesn't do much without services they can actually provide.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:10 AM on April 14, 2014


Even my old church, which was not a bastion of enlightenment, would help someone if they showed up on the doorstep; a few dollars, a sandwich from the fellowship hall, some clothes, a ride to the bus station and a ticket, a chance to call someone. Of course, that was in the 80s-90s, before the whole idea of "wealth means God loves you and since liberals want to help the poor, it must be a bad thing," took hold. You know, the enlightened era of Reagan and Bush I.
posted by emjaybee at 9:14 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Catholic churches generally have clergy onsite 24/7, but that clergy may be "one priest", and he may be already out doing pastoral work, or asleep, or what have you, and you may have to know that you have to ring the rectory bell, which not everyone may know.
posted by corb at 9:15 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


When I read this article the first thing that came to my mind was the poem "General William Booth Enters Into Heaven", by Vachel Lindsay. Some excerpts from the text:
[BASS DRUM BEATEN LOUDLY]
Booth led boldly with his big bass drum—
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
The Saints smiled gravely and they said: “He’s come.”
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
Walking lepers followed, rank on rank,
Lurching bravoes from the ditches dank,
Drabs from the alleyways and drug fiends pale—
Minds still passion-ridden, soul-powers frail:—
Vermin-eaten saints with mouldy breath,
Unwashed legions with the ways of Death—
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

...

[GRAND CHORUS OF ALL INSTRUMENTS.
TAMBOURINES TO THE FOREGROUND]
The hosts were sandalled, and their wings were fire!
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
But their noise played havoc with the angel-choir.
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
O shout Salvation! It was good to see
Kings and Princes by the Lamb set free.
The banjos rattled and the tambourines
Jing-jing-jingled in the hands of Queens.

Emphasis mine. Full poem here.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:25 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


in North Carolina, I would be absolutely unsurprised if she believed that crucifixes were wrong as well. "Why is Christ still on your Cross, don't you know He is risen?" is a pretty typical line that Protestants of a certain stripes break out on Catholics or other Protestants who use crucifixes

(Very late but:) I did not know that!

On a totally unrelated note I understand North Carolina is a place with some nice forests.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:36 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


"I know, but it doesn't say where the money came from, maybe Kate Mcintyre's estate, maybe the congregation, maybe somewhere else, I don't know. Anyway, I was just trying to say I thought it was terrible way to spend money if you were concerned about homelessness, but that I could give the church the benefit of the doubt that maybe it wasn't up to them."
There really is a strangely universal and almost obsessive dedication to making sure that non-profits in general but churches especially never spend money on things that could be considered the least bit wasteful even, or almost especially, among the non-religious. To be clear I'm not knocking it, I think its an awesome disposition to have especially towards our most vital institutions, but I do wish the dedication translated at least a little bit more to the rest of all of our lives. Particularly since it is currently Lent, whether its in Starbucks budgeting, another substance habit, a house made more expensive by its ability to remove you from the poor or its wasteful size, a car or clothes or whatever picked to further separate you from the poor, or even just habits that isolate us from each other in convenience, there is a lot we could all stand to give up for those who need it in ways that perhaps we need anyway.

22 grand on an institutional scale is really nothing anyway, helping the poor in ways that actually help the poor is a lot more expensive and involved than just sandwiches, and especially for a large wealthy church this really would be a pretty beautiful and meaningful drop in the bucket of a building maintenance budget. Sure that 22 grand could have been a stipend for a seminarian for a year of service in the community, but that seminarian would have a lot of other hidden costs like the investment in their education, and require a lot of infrastructural support, while the art piece only costs the sticker price, lasts indefinitely, and also supports an artist in making really cool work.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:39 AM on April 14, 2014 [13 favorites]


> During the day, there are public libraries.

You realize that public libraries are not chartered to provide social services, right? And that in some communities, falling library attendance is directly attributable to the population of homeless people driving other patrons away?

What They Didn't Teach Us in Library School: The Public Library as an Asylum for the Homeless: Scenes from a psych ward? Not at all. Welcome to the Salt Lake City Public Library. Like every urban library in the nation, the City Library, as it is called, is a de facto daytime shelter for the city's "homeless."

The Homelessness Problem: Urban libraries often have a hard time figuring out how to deal with the homeless. While libraries are open for all, too many homeless people loitering about can make libraries seem inhospitable to citizens who want to use the libraries as libraries rather than as homeless shelters

Both of these authors contend that the homeless should be welcomed by public libraries; What they argue is the increasing problem of libraries having become default substitutes for all public support for the homeless other than food and bed. And that, paradoxically, their communities only see fit to punish the libraries where the homeless population threatens to overwhelm other patronage.
posted by at by at 9:50 AM on April 14, 2014 [19 favorites]


How people living in a poor-ish part of Edinburgh feel about a homeless man living in their midst. I used to live near to where this guy hung out. When a newly arrived wine shop tried to move him on from his sleeping spot there were calls to boycott it.

I had no idea he was that old. I genuinely believe he was on the streets because he wanted to be as he didn't appear to have mental health, drug or drink problems. In what can be a rough part of town he was left alone, when he disappeared people wanted to know he was OK. I'd rather live here than Davidson.
posted by epo at 9:54 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Something sorta similar to this happened in my old neighborhood, one lady posted a two-thousand word dispatch to the neighborhood list serve describing a guy living in a tent on some wild property between two industrial sites. She catalogued every crime she could think he might be responsible of to justify calling the police; living in a tent was all the evidence she needed to know he was up to no good. It wasn't a high priority for the police, so she took it on as a personal crusade to nag them to get them to check this obvious criminal out.

The punch line, if there was one, when the police did talk to him he was just a guy down on his luck living rough. He wasn't a criminal, but had recently been the victim of a crime; he was a mechanic looking for work and had his tools stolen from his tent. Being homeless, he was afraid to call the police.

So the woman, unable to pin any of the crimes on this guy that she has earlier insinuated he was guilty of, went on to say that there was a lot of litter on this abandoned property where he was living and demanded that the homeless should clean up the community so they are contributing something.

You could just hear her patting herself on the back for being a "good citizen".

And I was all like, Christ, what an asshole.
posted by peeedro at 10:01 AM on April 14, 2014 [11 favorites]


She sells viatical products. Basically buying out peoples life insurance to bet on them dying.

In the 90s, viatical life insurance settlements were absolutely instrumental in letting HIV+ people live relatively decent lives by giving them the disposable cash to pay for the unconscionably expensive medication. Your summary is disingenuous at best.

During the evening, there are drop-in shelters

I'm just gonna go right ahead and assume you've never set foot near a homeless shelter, let alone in one. For one thing, they're always full. For another they're often poorly maintained, short-staffed, and violence always seems to be thirty seconds away; this is the double whammy of defunding both mental healthcare and basically punishing people for being poor.

And before you ask, yes I have been in a homeless shelter, volunteering with meals. They are scary, painful, terrifying places and it is hardly astonishing that someone would rather sleep in a park or on a heating vent and take the risk of being arrested (arrested for not having a home? Why don't we just being back poorhouses while we're at it?) rather than go back to one.

Notice how few answered my question on who I should call about Itchy.

Call the United Way and/or your local community-engaged mental health facility. It sounds like the poor guy is unmedicated, and that's probably bad for him and everyone around him.

he didn't appear to have mental health ... problems

Many if not most mental health issues are invisible to the outside observer. It's not like we all walk around drooling and having arguments with lampposts. Might want to re-evaluate your thinking on that particular subject.

As for me, when I see someone in apparent distress on the street, I try to talk to them first. If they're uncommunicative or disordered, I call 911 and ask for an ambulance. They're equipped to evaluate what someone needs and get them where they need to go.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:01 AM on April 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


epo, I think that's an illustration of specific vs. general fears. The guy everyone knows, he's just Bob. Give him a dollar now and then, say hi, and he will open the Starbucks door or tell you how cute your kids are. People aren't scared of Bob, they care about him even, he's no threat.

Whereas when many people think of the generic "homeless" they think of a vast army of poor, hopeless people who will need support to the end of time, some of whom are violent or smelly or use drugs, and will drive crime rates up and property values down, pee everywhere, you won't be able to walk down the street without stepping over them, etc. etc. And that's what they fear, whenever any kind of shelter or kitchen or service center opens up in their neighborhood. Because if you make your city friendly to the homeless, then all the other cities will send their homeless to you and your lovely town will be overwhelmed. Attached to that is the sneaking suspicion that some of the people coming in for services aren't unlucky or hurting, just lazy and willing to mooch.

We lack an intelligent approach to homelessness, in other words. We have emotional approaches; either fear or compassion, but compassion gets overwhelmed by fear pretty easily.
posted by emjaybee at 10:04 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is something cool and interesting going on in this thread that is perhaps not nearly as strange as it might seem at first glance. Where this statue is provoking a response from a rigidly orthodox disposition, if not framework, even from the recognizably extremely non-religious. I guess it is a testament to both the universality and the uncanny infectiousness of the Christian message, as opposed to the deeply flawed institutions built to carry it out, that even those who despise religion despise churches church-ing wrong so much more.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:05 AM on April 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


Well yeah, Blasdelb. I think it's a relatively universal human trait to expect that if you loudly profess your values, you'd better fucking live up to them, right? Something something not the cheating, it's the lying.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:08 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Its funny feckless fecal fear mongering, I still love that username, the word hypocrite in the modern sense of the word was at least in part largely coined de novo in a passage of Matthew right next to the one that inspired the bench that also has a lot of relevance to this situation. The Greek speaking author traditionally understood to be Matthew uses the word for actor, ὑπόκρισις (hypokrisis), which up until this point had a neutral meaning without a significantly inherent negative connotation*, to describe priests, who ignore the point of the Pentateuch in favor finding details within it to accuse their neighbors of violating. Doing things like taking houses from widows, while they make sure to be careful to tithe a tenth of the produce of their house plants. The way he uses the word hypokrisis, it definitely now has a negative connotation. Jesus calls people like this in clear red letters painted tombs, a dead rotting corpse whitewashed and dressed up along with a few other especially ripe similes.

Interestingly, "Woe to you", or ouai in the Greek dialect that Matthew was written in, does not mean a pleasant warning of future misfortune. Really, according to the gospel, Jesus is saying FUCK YOU to these preachers in no uncertain terms.

*In the 4th century BC Demosthenes ridiculed his rival Aeschines, who had been a successful actor before taking up politics, as a hypocrite because skill at impersonating characters on stage supposedly made him an untrustworthy politician. Still a distinctly different usage.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:22 AM on April 14, 2014 [10 favorites]


emjaybee, but how does even one homeless person get left alone long enough to become familiar in places like Davidson? We have a term for this woman's behaviour in the UK, she is a nimby, a term of contempt for people exhibiting a sense of middle-class entitlement.

But what I reserve my contempt for are the vast legions of self-styled middle-class "Christians" who are very selective about when, how, and to whom they demonstrate Christian values.
posted by epo at 10:24 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


And what about the non-Christians? Are they so much better? I mean, most Christians should get called out. Its good for them. However, I don't think non-Christians should get too comfortable pointing fingers at Christians and feeling smugly superior.
posted by Area Man at 10:35 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why not? I'm not professing a laundry list of values and then being selective about who I apply them to. They are. Smug finger-pointing seems to be entirely appropriate.

Act like an actual Christian, do the things that Christ said to do--feed the hungry, clothe the naked--and I'll stop the smug finger-pointing.

Until then, sorry, but no.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:38 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Smug superiority doesn't help the homeless, nor does an eagerness to feel contempt for others suggest that a person is actually superior to others.

Christian hypocrisy is a real thing, but it doesn't mean non-Christians are any better about actually creating a more just world.
posted by Area Man at 10:50 AM on April 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Area Man, where did that come from? I never claimed non-Christians were different, let alone better. However, many "Christians" merely pretend to have Christian values. Non Christians do not, though many are as good or better at exhibiting charitable behaviour. Anyway, the term "Christian values" denotes smug, back-slapping complacency. Ever heard of "Buddhist values"? "Hindu values"? Me neither. They do it, rather than just talking about doing it.
posted by epo at 10:50 AM on April 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


And what about the non-Christians? Are they so much better? I mean, most Christians should get called out. Its good for them. However, I don't think non-Christians should get too comfortable pointing fingers at Christians and feeling smugly superior.

The relevant moral failing being called out here is hypocrisy, not Christianity, and I wouldn't call Christianity much of a moral failing anyhow. Non-Christians can be hypocrites, turncoats, and general moral weaklings, too. We're only talking Christians today because the thread is about a statue of Jesus Christ.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:54 AM on April 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Area Man, where did that come from? I never claimed non-Christians were different, let alone better. However, many "Christians" merely pretend to have Christian values. Non Christians do not, though many are as good or better at exhibiting charitable behaviour. Anyway, the term "Christian values" denotes smug, back-slapping complacency. Ever heard of "Buddhist values"? "Hindu values"? Me neither. They do it, rather than just talking about doing it.

QFT, and because it sums up my entire rebuttal to you rather exquisitely.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:55 AM on April 14, 2014


I don't know, maybe Rev. David Buck found himself with a 22 grand bequeathment he was obligated to spend on art

I actually think this is a great way to spend $22k especially since this is a rich neighborhood. This neighborhood is full of people with the resources to make a difference- they're influencers, they are networked, I bet some of them even know the local politicians. Their kids will be going to fancy schools and ruling the country in a few years. The more exposure this group has to the idea that actively caring for "the least of these" is a good thing, the better.

And that lady is a piece of work- finance industry represent! I was sympathetic until I read her explanations but clearly she's just a class bigot and can see herself as a good person because she's put so much into charity. I run into this a lot ("I can't be racist/classist- I work in the soup kitchen and it's FULL of black/Hispanic people and I'm VERY nice to them!") on both sides of the political spectrum. I think they do more good than harm but I can't tell.

Around here I think I would have just given the poor bastard another blanket and called Catholic Charities.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:59 AM on April 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


To borrow a metaphor, trying peck out a splinter from the eyes of non-Christians when we've got the big log of this lady's pride in our own seems ill-advised at best.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:19 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Talez: "I've come to the conclusion that if there is a Jesus he is already on Earth and he's come back as a homeless vagrant. He probably decided that if one person was to show him compassion only because of the love in their heart, and not in their own self-interest like because of some expectation of some sort of after-worldly reward, he would start the second coming and turn Earth into heavenly paradise."


Made me think of the liner notes for Globe of Frogs by Robyn Hitchcock:
... The AntiChrist will have access to computers, television, radio and compact disc. If he walks among us already, the chances are that he has a walkman. I just hope it’s not Christ himself, disillusioned after two thousand years in a cosmic sitting room full of magazines and cheeseplants, turned malignant and rotting in despair at the way his message has been perverted….
posted by symbioid at 11:23 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dear God, I hope you got the letter and...
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:28 AM on April 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


"To borrow a metaphor, trying peck out a splinter from the eyes of non-Christians when we've got the big log of this lady's pride in our own seems ill-advised at best."
I guess to expand on that idea, the explicitly smug sense of moral superiority in this thread doesn't seem like its a bad thing at all exactly and a better response to it might be to make it the foundation of a challenge to back it up all around. After all, at least in Christian doctrine, we're supposed to value the input of especially the worst of hypocrites as things we should probably be doing while we forgo the example set, other mefites certainly couldn't be worse than actual Pharisees right?
posted by Blasdelb at 11:33 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


We have emotional approaches; either fear or compassion, but compassion gets overwhelmed by fear pretty easily.

Goes the other way too.
Over the winter I was putting some money in a homeless woman's cup (the ubiquitous Starbucks') and a sandwich next to her (wrapped naturally) and she woke up and was terrified of me. She was screaming, calling for the police, etc. etc. Not much you can do about that.
I suspect she would have been scared of anyone. But it's a hazard of the profession (and pretty much of being me) such that I'm inured to it.

And I think Swannack is one of those who approaches the problem from a certain authoritarian mindset which is meant to insulate and distance people from the sometimes unpleasant realities of dealing with, or attempting to deal with (whether effectively or in a 'feel good' manner), individuals.

She has, in this manner, walked the walk. She has, in fact, worked for some charity organizations.
I don't think of her as a hypocrite, at least as far as living according to her own interpretations.

....I think those interpretations are stupid. But I wouldn't say I'm plugged in to being a Christian either, so *shrug*

The "helping" thing seems fairly ubiquitous though. A cross-cultural, cross-religious spectrum idea. People get to "help" others by being part of an organized, non-systemic, effort that maintains a separation between what one thinks of as daily life and what one thinks of as ideal.
In some ways this allows people to maintain their attitudes while feeling they're actually doing something, but mostly the authoritarian structure protects them from doing something actually subversive and getting their own hand - that is their 'real' life - dirty. Whether that's through direct interaction, or pissing off the cops/politicians/powers that be, or feeling impotent (because there's only so much you can do and the need is so great) getting scared by or scaring someone in need (to be fair, that really does make you feel shitty, but y'know, get an f'ing helmet), or actually risking loss or danger from literally giving someone your coat, inviting them into your home, cutting into your non-free time and making it a real priority.

Most people consider "the values" separate from "real" life.

Of course Christ really, REALLY kicks that idea in the ass in a number of places (mostly the Gospel of Mark, Ch.10,. Christ is down and out in Judea doing the Socrates thing with the kids and a rich guy asks him how to get eternal life - since, y'know, he's adhered to all the rules, hasn't violated the 10 commandments, and Christ says "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” And the guy is disheartened because he's got a lot of stuff. - S'where the "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God" thing comes from.)

It illustrates the problem here. One can follow all the rules and still completely fail. And it seems what Swannack is saying is "I've followed all the rules" or "I know better than you" and as far as J.C. is concerned that doesn't matter. Only giving EVERYTHING to the poor and following him matters.

Tough road, man. You don't see a whole lot of people living up to that standard regardless of their creed, intellect, relative virtue, etc.

And too, that's the thing, there is no "relative." I mean, I think most people who don't screw others out of money for a living are less virtuous than, say, someone who works for a non-profit or a doctor who devotes all their time to a free clinic.

But a lot of the messages seem to say "relative" doesn't matter. You're not "better" just because you give more. You're either all in or you're full of b.s. (like the poor widow who only ponies up a few pennies).
That is to say - either you love your neighbor as yourself, or you don't. And if you don't then no matter how much you do, it is worthless in the eyes of God.

Which, again, is some heavy stuff to lay on someone. But it does have the advantage of clearly dividing the rules lawyers from the real deal.

Would Swannack have called the police on herself if she were laying on the bench?
She's pretty much the only one that can answer that. All the quotation and argument really heavily weighs on the likelihood that she's rationalizing.

And man, we have whole institutions set up just for that purpose.

For my own part, if I were sleeping on the street would I want someone to stick some money in my cup and leave me in peace? Just help with habitat for humanity or donate food, time, whatever and not self-aggrandize in the media or build a goddamn website with my real name on it to assuage my ego?
Yeah.

They had to drag this guy into the spotlight and he only did the interview to encourage others and highlight the plight of homeless folks living on lower Wacker.

It's fairly obvious in any organization though. At some point it becomes about arguing about the rules and the why's and wherefores instead of the actual doing of - whatever.

In this case the statue, in part, points to that problem (it does other things as well, but this is just the slice of concept I'm talking about). As it happens its a Christian thing.

But it's a truth with any organization. Get 1 guy riding a motorcycle, he's a biker. Two guys, they're common enthusiasts. Three guys, it's a support system to ride. More than that and they start calling themselves something and making rules about how to present themselves.
Somewhere in there they become a club and start excluding people who aren't "real" riders defining "riding" as a style thing rather than the intrinsic act of getting on a motorcycle and riding it.
True of anything. Hunting. Gaming. Model railroading. Fisherman define themselves by the type of beer they drink. Suicide bombers argue about relative commitment levels even as they're all agreed to blowing themselves up.

Indeed, the breaking of (forgive the use of the term but it's apt) kayfabe is, itself, incorporated into the kayfabe.

It sounds more simplistic than it is. But in fact, like with cults, most of the connection (and tension) depends on personal relationships. Y'know this from observation. I mean, it's weird how so many children of Jews become Jewish. How many Protestant Christians have kids who are Protestant Christians. How rare it is Baptist parents have a kid that grows up Hindu.

But that seems to be the idea behind the teaching (in this case of Christ, but certainly found in many other idea systems). You can't have the separation. You can't have what you consider an ideal separate from a personal relationship. So if you're going to help someone, you have to have a relationship, you have to walk with them as part of the process and have your life and theirs intrinsically linked.
You have to give it all. Do what you'd do for your sibling or child or yourself were you in their position.

All that to say, as far as that identification goes, I think a symbolic identification is very useful. Typically it allows people to sort of shoehorn themselves into a relationship that has real effects, if they're not ready to have a real genuine commitment that includes "warts and all."
(We don't really help people to be ready for that. Socially, I mean. No more than we have athletic organizations in people's lives that help them diet and exercise as a mandate that allows people to, say, run 10 miles. We don't get people ready to bench press their own weight and maintain it all their lives - then at 30 years old expect them to pass a test. So, same thing, we have no expectations for creating and maintaining altruism and personal connections. Indeed, pretty much the opposite in the U.S. in terms of what we popularly consider "success")

Long comment short:
I think you put a Starbucks' cup near this statue you'd more than make up for the cost of it and you'd probably have a nice income that could go to help the actual people so many folks are uncomfortable being in proximity of, much less touching.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:59 AM on April 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


n the 90s, viatical life insurance settlements were absolutely instrumental in letting HIV+ people live relatively decent lives by giving them the disposable cash to pay for the unconscionably expensive medication. Your summary is disingenuous at best.

I used to work with the regulatory body that oversaw these viaticals operators in my state, and from what I gathered at that time, the viaticals industry has come to have a very bad reputation for its practices, essentially paying out pennies on the dollar to people too desperate to have any leverage to get a fairer deal. If public service was the aim of the industry, it wouldn't exploit the desperate so shamefully. No one familiar with the insurance industry in any depth sees these guys as anything more than sleazy opportunists predating on the weak and the sick. Maybe it was otherwise once, but that's how it is today.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:00 PM on April 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


It was otherwise once, and I have (well mostly had) friends who lived longer and happier, not to mention healthier and more independent lives simply because viatical settlements were available.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:11 PM on April 14, 2014


An earlier comment in the thread pointing out that all forms of panhandling is illegal made me look some local laws up. Seems we don't have any laws against panhandling (though we do have laws against bathing in public fountains and reliving yourself in the streets)... and that lead me to this art project: begging as a profession. There's been a recent explosion of begging and people sleeping in the streets, I counted over a dozen the other morning and it's still very cold at night, and this is in the country where we used to not have any homeless because high taxes also provided lots of societal support for people who stumbled in life, be it with joblessness, divorce, mental issues, illness or even drug abuse.

It's like we once had this thing sorted out, and now society is broke again.
posted by dabitch at 12:37 PM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Like so many good ideas, I guess people who only care about the money to be made took it over. Then again, I'm sure there's a lot of variation across different states and markets.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:37 PM on April 14, 2014


The HIV+ pool and the increased life expectancy of that group nearly destroyed the viaticals industry back then.

The business is basically predicated on people overestimating survival times (doctors actually) and people being willing to accept far higher interest rates than market on what are essentially riskless loans.

In theory it can be done in a non-scammy way. Let me know when that happens.
posted by JPD at 12:49 PM on April 14, 2014


It's like we once had this thing sorted out, and now society is broke again.

This is a really simple but very powerful sentiment which I think animates a lot of political angst among ideologically diverse groups.
posted by clockzero at 2:57 PM on April 14, 2014


Who Would Jesus Drop a dime on?

Nobody, I'd assume- if there was a situation, he'd handle it himself, having nothing and therefore nothing to lose.

It's easy enough, though not very compassionate, to make fun of people who are (apparently) as fearful as the woman in the FPP, especially when they come up with self-righteous justifications for it, post-facto. I do wonder though about peoples' experiences with law enforcement- mine havent even been that bad but if I was trying to solve any problem that didn't involve actual violence taking place right now, the cops would be pretty far down the list of who I'd think to call. They'd be after 'nobody,' in fact.

Relatedly, I also wonder- there have been articles discussed on here before about ER doctors and nurses who, having seen how it works in practice, tell their relatives, 'if I have a heart attack don't even call an ambulance, just let me go.' So- how often do the cops, call the cops to solve their problems? I'd bet on 'practically never.'
posted by hap_hazard at 3:02 PM on April 14, 2014


there have been articles discussed on here before about ER doctors and nurses who, having seen how it works in practice, tell their relatives, 'if I have a heart attack don't even call an ambulance, just let me go.'

Can you give a link for this, please?
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:13 PM on April 14, 2014


I think this is the specific thing I was thinking of, tho I feel like it's come up other times. This article linked in the comments there backs up the sentiment I was loosely paraphrasing, though both articles are about ICU, not ER, docs and nurses
posted by hap_hazard at 3:54 PM on April 14, 2014




To the topic of calling authorities to truly help the homeless: Washington DC, along with other municipalities, maintains a dedicated hypothermia hotline to provide assistance for homeless people when the weather is dangerously cold or hot. If you or anyone you know spend time in the DC area, please put this number in your cellphone: District of Columbia Shelter Hotline: 1-800-535-7252. If you see someone in need of shelter, call! It's easy: a volunteer will ask the location of the homeless individual; if you've talked with them (which is not required!), what they need; and whether or not they appear to need medical attention. They'll then send out a trained professional -- not a cop -- with an offer of transport to a shelter and blankets.

Every winter, my friends & I remind each other & everyone we know to put the number in their phones. Join us! If you live in a city with a shelter hotline, keep the number in your phone. If you see a person in need of shelter, blankets, or something warm to drink or wear, use it! A 30-second phone call can make a HUGE difference in someone's well-being. And spread the word so that others can help, too.
posted by Westringia F. at 7:30 PM on April 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


Sometimes I wonder if the people who worshiped the Golden Calf would call cops on the homeless too.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:57 PM on April 14, 2014


The thing with art is that is has the capacity to bring awareness and focus on a topic that merely working on it doesn't. Side-stepping the extremely pertinent inference from the article that the money was explicitly donated for art purposes, the fact of this Jesus statue is providing much more attention to the issues the statue raises, especially about the homeless, than simply using the money directly would do.

I understand the argument for the money to be spend more usefully, but raising awareness is a central part of such things, including most non-profits specific agendas.

I'd also add that is seems we don't need to ascribe benign motives to the woman who called the cops when she has given so many specifics as to why she did so, and as an extension of that, perhaps it is prudent to verify if a person is in fact a piece of metal or other non-animate substance before feeling that threatened by it.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:25 PM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


This story reminded me of a book I read when I was a teenager: Joshua: A Parable for Today by Joseph F. Girzone.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:45 PM on April 14, 2014


I understand the argument for the money to be spend more usefully, but raising awareness is a central part of such things, including most non-profits specific agendas.

It's also true that $22,000 in the grand scheme of things isn't really that much money. I wouldn't be surprised if the statue inspires more than $22,000 in donations over the course of a couple years.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:07 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


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