Home Opinion THE PULPIT: Why I Can’t Get Riled Up About Jesus Lunches

THE PULPIT: Why I Can’t Get Riled Up About Jesus Lunches


If we believe recent reports, then the City of Middleton, Wisconsin, has a religion problem.

If we believe those reports, Middleton is the front of a religious battleground that pits high school students against Jesus of Nazareth.

That’s because this week, a lunch program now called “Jesus Lunches” — an informal free lunch and discussion about Christianity between some parents and students at the high school in Middleton — has received considerable media and public attention.

The origins of Jesus Lunches are beautiful and not in dispute. A few parents wanting to connect with their children spiritually began having lunches during school hours with their children to help keep them focused on their faith.

The lunches have grown organically and are currently held in a park adjacent to the school.

And the plight of the people who have risen against Jesus Lunches seems pretty noble as well. A group led primarily by students, claims that the lunches, held in a park the school leases to use during school hours, infringes upon their right to matriculate free from religious influence.

Now, who can find fault with parents who want to connect with their children spiritually? And who can find fault with students who are engaged enough in school to organize and lead a protest to protect their rights and freedoms?

Well, it must be pretty easy. Almost every public account of the discourse regarding Jesus Lunches has cast the two sides in unflattering terms.

On one side are religious zealots who want to use school property to evangelize for Jesus. On the other side, are godless students, prodded by liberals with the intent to erase all signs of Christianity from the society.

And this one-dimensional public characterization of the positions in this issue, has done a considerable amount to create divisions within our community.

I have been asked, for example, on more than one occasion, as a Christian pastor, which “side” of the Jesus Lunches discourse was I on.

And that is a difficult question to answer. I don’t see the sides in this discourse to be at odds with each other in a manner that would call on someone to choose one side or the other.

I see students and adults who want what’s best for children and for the community. I think the groups can find some common ground to work through their differences.

But, but above that, I can’t get riled up about being for or against the Jesus Lunches. I can’t because while Jesus is important to me, and personal liberties are also important to me, I see larger issues that need to be solved in schools now.

I did note that most of the individuals who are attending the protests were not people of color. And perhaps there are a few reasons why.

As the parent of two black high schoolers, my concern is not about whether I can talk to them about Jesus at lunch. I can talk to them about Jesus in my house or anywhere else.

My concern for my children is keeping them safe. I worry about whether they will make it home alive from school, from the streets, where there are some police who see them, not as bright scholars, but as suspects.

My concern for my children is making sure that they’re properly educated by teachers who care about them and don’t see them as a racial stereotype.

My concern for them is that they can be successful academically and socially without having to apologize for their desire to be successful.

My concern is that they interact and treat people with the love of Jesus, and my kids are treated by others with that same love.

Being for or against the lunches is certainly important, but in my estimation it won’t make my children be safe, functional, and healthy in school.

That’s why I can’t get riled up about Jesus Lunches.