For Good Friday, I went with a group for a prayer service in front of the State House in Atlanta. One t-shirt read: “Jesus was a victim of the death penalty.” The group leader this day, Calvin Kimbrough, said we were gathering in front of the State House because the legislation for Georgia’s Death Penalty law was crafted inside. (The group does a protest vigil here on the day of practically every execution.) Ed Weir has a ministry to those on death row in Georgia’s Jackson Prison. He said the first time he went there, upon entering, he was questioned by a guard — positioned high up in a 50 foot tower. “He was the receptionist,” Weir laughed (only sort of). He said once past this guard, he was led through an underground tunnel, past a series of heavy metal doors and finally into the room where the prisoner was. A prisoner who is confined to his cell for 23 hours a day. A prisoner who has little hope of ever seeing the outside again. “There is more to a person than the worst moments of their life,” Ed quoted Murphy Davis, co-founder of the Open Door Community here. Note: I also saw a very dramatic “Stations of the Cross” depiction today at the Open Door. It was a series of posters from around the world depicting each station. Some examples: For “Jesus carries his cross,” a Mayan father carries a small wooden casket on his back through the streets toward the cemetery. His son had just been killed in war-torn Guatemala… For “Simon helps Jesus,” two six-year-old South American boys push a heavy cart of rocks with the caption: “They bear each others’ burdens where children have no time for study or play…” And for “Jesus falls a third time,” there is a picture of a stick thin woman in India dying alone on the sidewalk below a shop window featuring expensive, pristine statues of Jesus. The caption: “When people ignore the true image of God in one another…” And so it will be today in ‘pristine’ churches with pristine statues across the country. People, many people, will go, will pray, will sing laments about Jesus’ death… and then give hardly a thought (much less any significant money or volunteer time) to help those dying without health care insurance; to help those dying of starvation in the Third World; to help those violently dying on the urban streets of America… It’s like we’ve bought into this ‘Hallmark Card’ version of Jesus, while the ‘true’ Jesus sleeps in the back alleys with the homeless. And we sleep in our comfortable beds next to the expensive, pristine cross on the wall. Note 2: Leo Chang comes to the Open Door Community for Holy Week from Memphis Theological Seminary every year. He goes out on the street for the week in solidarity with the homeless. Last year he was robbed at gun point. Undaunted, he’s back again this year. “I feel a call to be out here with the people who are poor,” he said to me. Note 3: The day I was homeless in the city, a group of us were discussing the Biblical scene where Jesus angrily turns over the tables in the temple. During a short talk at an Open Door service later that evening, I said if Jesus came back today to Atlanta, I believe he’d ‘turn over’ the huge Coca Cola sign shadowing Woodruff Park. They make non-nutritional beverages at a profit, while one sixth of the world doesn’t have access to clean drinking water. I said Jesus would then overturn the Georgia Pacific Lumber high rise just beyond the other end of the park. I said if GP is like so many other lumber companies these days, they rape the land without much of a second thought about environmental consciousness. Then… I said Jesus would probably come to our apartment in Cleveland, where he’d turn over the maybe a-little-too-nice kitchen table made of Georgia Pacific wood — spilling the Coca Cola can on top of the table in the process. We Americans are, indeed, complicit.