Religion & Beliefs

Mmmmm, Jesus Pizza

Today’s Washington Post has an article about a program run by a church in Alexandria that provides free pizza for lunch to kids from a public school every Wednesday. Here are the highlights: Jesus Pizza, as the students call it, … Read More

By / April 16, 2007

Today’s Washington Post has an article about a program run by a church in Alexandria that provides free pizza for lunch to kids from a public school every Wednesday.

Here are the highlights:

Jesus Pizza, as the students call it, is warm. It's good. It's free. And it's available to T.C. students for lunch every Wednesday at the First Baptist Church of Alexandria. Some weeks, as many as 150 or more students trek the half-mile down King Street from the school to lounge on old couches, thumb through Bibles or play pool while waiting for free slices and sodas in the church basement. The only cost is that they have to listen to a prayer and a short sermon before digging in.

and then later

Some might call this proselytizing, this allure of easy, free food to those with young, impressionable minds, hungry bellies and empty pocketbooks. "They're trying to brainwash you!" insisted Rachel Goldfarb, a T.C. student who refuses to go to Jesus Pizza.
To others, such as Tommy Clark, who are devout, it's a great place to come for fellowship. "I've had people say, 'I love to come here. Everyone is so nice. I feel so welcome,' " said Clark, who runs a Jesus Pizza group on the Internet. "It's pretty cool to see the biggest stoners and drug dealers come, too.'" Still, when the morning announcements at the public school include an invitation to come to Jesus Pizza could that blur the bright line separating church and state? "They come in. If they want to hear what we're saying, they stay. If they don't, they can leave," said Mary Rhoades, who works with youth at the church.

Free food has always been a big draw for religious groups. Friday night dinners at Hillel, L’chaims with Chabad, and falafel brought to you by AIPAC on campus are all common occurrences in the Jewish community, and I don’t see a problem with it. But then, universities are one thing and public high schools are another. What would you do if you found out your kid was doing lunch with Jesus and his pizza? If you wanted him or her to stop, what would you do? Have your own pizzas delivered to the school? Open your own group? What if you couldn’t afford to do that? Religious bribery is a really tough thing, because it can work so subtly, and it’s hard to pin down exactly where it crosses the line. Can we trust Jewish kids to go into the church and tune out the Jesus-speak? When I was in high school I regularly bribed my friends to come to USY events, and I know NCSY and NFTY people did the same. Free food, cute boys, and big Tvs in the youth lounge was usually all it took. And do I regret this? No, because some kids showed up for the pizza, stayed for the Jewish content and came back for the shabbaton. Am I just being a hypocrite? Would I be pissed if it was Moses-Pizza? Is JSU trying to start a Moses-Pizza movement?