Jesus on the Side

By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 16, 2007

On a recent warm spring day, four T.C. Williams High School students sat sweating inside a Jeep Cherokee in the parking lot of a Baptist church scarfing slices of pizza. Scores of their classmates streamed into the church in search of the same pizza. Jesus Pizza.

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 that part of the bargain is why the four boys have chosen to take their cheese, pepperoni and Hawaiian slices out to their stuffy car.

"I'm half-Jewish," one said.

"My dad's an atheist," a second said.

"I'm Hindu," a third said.

"And I'm agnostic," the fourth answered.

The free food they like.

"We're broke," said half-Jewish Chris Stephens.

The praying they don't.

"And we have to sit around listening to Christian rock," Ian Mabley said.

"Yeah, the lyrics are horrible," added Juan Parducci as Mabley broke into a high falsetto, "Gaaaaaaaahd, Gaaaaaaahd, Gaaaaaahd."

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