By J.B. SMITH
In the 40-day season of self-denial called Lent, some Christians give up daily comforts such as chocolate, soda or Facebook. Attorney Kent McKeever felt called to try something a little more uncomfortable.
McKeever, a youth minister and Mission Waco legal advocate, is dressing each day head to toe in orange jailhouse scrubs in solidarity with the imprisoned and returning ex-cons shunned by society.
His appearances in public since Lent began last Wednesday have turned some heads.
“On Saturday I took my daughter to a movie,” he said. “Here I am holding my 6-year-old daughter’s hand walking into the movie. Not many people said anything but definitely I had glances and questioning looks.”
McKeever is hoping his choice of clothes will kickstart discussions about the failures of the criminal justice and immigration detention systems and the lack of employment opportunities for “returning citizens.”
He said his “Lenten spiritual practice” has also caused him to reflect on the teachings of Jesus about the poor and dispossessed — and his own social privileges as a white professional male.
“I wanted this to be a time for repentance, sacrifice and humility in my own faith, and in a way that will lead many of us to a corporate confession of our complicity with a system that devastates individuals, families and communities, often communities of color,” he said.
McKeever is blogging about his experience at 40daysinorange.wordpress.com, where he critiques the big business of “mass incarceration” and cites studies showing that 65 million American adults have criminal records.
But the main message he wants to convey is that communities should offer second chances to those who have already served time.
“A living wage is so crucial to getting people out of poverty,” he said. “There are a lot of people in the community who can’t get jobs because they have to check this box on an employment application: Have you ever been convicted of a felony? Once you check it, it’s pretty much inevitable that it’s going into this pile, and you’re not going to get a call back.”