Sunday, March 16, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Lent and Bullets

As many of you know, my friend Kent McKeever, a lawyer and minister, is spending much of Lent wearing the orange jumpsuit of a county prisoner.  I am struck by his depth of conviction and his insight; I learn from his experience every day.  He is keeping a blog of the event, and this is how he describes the project there:

I am a follower of Jesus.  Lent is a time of penance, of sacrifice, of humility.  It is a time to commit oneself to a spiritual discipline that will draw us in to God’s presence and prepare our souls for Easter.  I have also for a while now understood Lent to be a time to reflect on Jesus’s life.  How did Jesus live in a way that led him to die as a criminal on a cross?  I want to take seriously Jesus’s words that he has been sent to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners” and “to release the oppressed” (among several other purposes in Luke 4:18-19) and find out more of what they mean in the context we find ourselves in today in the United States and beyond.  As followers of this criminal Jesus and children of a God of justice, how then should I live as neighbor to the 65 million brothers and sisters in the United States suffering as an underclass?  What does seeking love and justice with 2.3 million prisoners really mean?  Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaims, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.  Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything standing against love.”  What is our power to correct everything that stands against love and how are we using it?!  Until I am swayed by personal conviction or impassioned reason, this is my working definition of love and justice as I seek to follow Jesus, love God, love all people, and invite the world to do the same.l

I am a husband and a father.  I am an attorney.  I am a youth minister.  I am a white male, privileged in a way that prevents me from ever really experiencing the depths of the harsh realities of the lived experiences of those looked at with disdain or as an underclass or as those that should be cast aside or left out.  I have seen too many stories of broken lives stymied by the lack of fair chances and banged my head against the wall for too long now to continue in my ignorance.  For the sake of my family, friends, neighbors, our nation, our world, I want to know more.  I want to experience in the slightest what it might be like to carry a dehumanizing stigma with you everywhere you go.  I really have the impression that I have no earthly idea what it is truly like.  Thus, this Lenten journey in the uniform of the imprisoned is my small, small part in seeking understanding and solidarity, justice and love. 

In our communications about the project, one thing I wrote to Kent was that I "hope he doesn't get shot."  He wasn't sure if I was joking or not... but I wasn't.  It's entirely possible that someone might think he is an escaped convict, a situation might escalate, and that could happen.  Possible, but not probable.  Still, when you are talking about getting shot, "possible" isn't so great.

I mentioned that possibility because I knew it would not dissuade him.  He was doing this project as a way of gaining empathy for those in (and just out of) prison-- and Jesus said that when you visit those in prison, those in the orange jumpsuits, you visit Him.  One of the risks that the people he seeks to empathize with is that of being shot.  It's real.  That possibility raises ethical and political questions that many would rather not face... but Kent does.  And that is why I admire him.

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