Raccoons, Shrines, Jesus and the Homeless
Just before the start of the Pan-Am Games in Toronto a raccoon died. The failure to remove the raccoon resulted in an impromptu shrine to be erected. I don’t know the particulars of the story about the raccoon, why it was not removed or why a shrine was erected.
What I do find curious is that people found time to create a shrine to the dead raccoon. I do not say this to be callous, far from it. We should treat animals with respect and dignity. Even pesky raccoons, which in urban environments are viewed as a nuisance.
Whether these individuals constructed the shrine as a mockery or heartfelt concern I also do not know. What I do know is that they took the time to do it. I am not suggesting this is a bad thing. Odd perhaps, but at least some apathy for a living creature is observed.
It is striking then, that a dead raccoon can have a shrine erected for it. The only reason I am aware of the raccoon that died is because it receive local and apparently international media coverage (yes I recognize that the article linked is satirical in nature). However, in the same city that the raccoon died a statue of ‘homeless Jesus’ exists. The statue is not unique to Toronto, nor do I suspect are dead raccoons. The statute of homeless Jesus has attracted considerable debate around the statue is also an interesting discussion. As a quick search on Google will inform you. As with our friend the raccoon, I am not here to debate whether a statue of homeless Jesus should or should not be erected in any location. Though I will say I do favour the statue.
What I find most intriguing is that we will celebrate a dead raccoon that a city worker neglected to pick up. We will debate whether a statue of ‘homeless Jesus’ should exist in our city. In many cities we will ignore or as is most likely the case simply be unaware that it is illegal to feed homeless people.
There is a huge disparity here. From enshrining a dead animal on a city street, debates about a statue and making it illegal to feed hungry people in rich developed nations. What does it say about us as people, that his is how the media handles/covers such stories? What does it say about us as people, that this is where our energy is put?
As a Christian I find the need for a statue of ‘homeless Jesus’ depressing. Not because of what it says about the teachings of Christ, which in part are to feed the hungry. What frustrates me is that the statue is needed as a reminder. Then upon being reminded, rather than being driven to making change within our social and political systems, we ask for the reminder to be removed.
So long as we are enshrining dead rodents and covering up the problem of human need we will not progress as a society or as a people. So long as spectacle drives our curiosity and not improving the human condition, we are in trouble. It is time we did more.