Kansas City-area church members dress like Jesus

Tuesday, December 23, 2008 | 3:47 p.m. CST; updated 4:21 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 23, 2008

KANSAS CITY — Just in time for Christmas, hundreds of people in the Kansas City area have committed to dress like Jesus in the days leading to the holiday, in what they say is an answer to a widening secularization of the season.

Members of Praise Chapel Christian Fellowship began showing up at their jobs, shopping malls and restaurants last week dressed in flowing robes and crowns of thorns as a hard-to miss reminder of the holiday’s religious roots.

Now the idea is generating interest in other states after a video of Jesus-clad shoppers was posted on YouTube.

“We are just showing people on the outside what we are on the inside,” said pastor Kelly Lohrke, whose members attend services in Kansas City, Kan., and nearby Lee’s Summit.

In formulating the plan, the 41-year-old tapped into his own frustration over the removal of religious symbols such as crosses and nativity scenes from public displays.

Several groups have pushed the issue this year, with the American Humanist Association plastering ads on Washington, D.C., buses that proclaim, “Why believe in god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”

That story captured Lohrke’s interest, as did another about the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s decision to place a placard that declared “religion is but a myth and superstition” near a Christmas nativity scene at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

For Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, the removal of religious symbols is appropriate. Her group’s attorney has sent 20 letters this year and filed one lawsuit seeking to have nativity scenes removed from public spots.

“There is such a profound misunderstanding about the separation of church and state,” Gaylor said. “And there’s an unwillingness to honor it in the month of December. It’s like the constitution is put on hold in December.”

Lohrke, whose church is part of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based Praise Chapel Fellowship of Churches and Ministers International, isn’t convinced the founding fathers intended for religion to disappear from the public realm entirely at the holidays.

“It’s just absurd,” he said, “that Jesus is taken out.”

Still, he wasn’t sure how his congregation would respond when he told them during Sunday services on Dec. 14 of his plan to dress like Jesus. The members are evangelical, but he told them, “We aren’t going to preach.” If asked about their attire, he said, the congregation should feel free to share their faith and explain that they are celebrating Christmas or Jesus’ birthday.

Afterward, he asked that church members come forward if they planned to participate. About 400 did.

“We’ve gotten nothing but positives,” he said, adding he personally has dressed like Jesus at a Starbucks, a Target store and a post office.

He said one Jesus-clad church member was strolling through a shopping mall when a store Santa Claus called out and asked to have their picture taken together. The Santa grumbled that he isn’t even allowed to wish the children who climb onto his lap a “Merry Christmas.”

After video was posted on YouTube, Lohrke received several calls. And he said four or five churches in the Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., areas had planned to urge their members to dress like Jesus, too.

Lohrke is already starting to think ahead after the idea gained so much traction in just a few days.

“Next year,” he said, “we are going to make this a big deal.”

Later he winced in pain. “Don’t laugh,” he said. “I just poked my forehead with my crown of thorns.”


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Syretta McGee December 24, 2008 | 12:51 p.m.

I LOVE ITTTT!!!!! What Praise Chapel is doing! I think its an honor to remind people of the real meaning of CHRISTmas! It's not just a holiday, it's a CELEBRATION!!..of our (the Earths') Lord and Savior Jesus Christ..the best gift ever given! The bible tells us (Matthew 10:32-33) that whoever denies Him before men, He also will deny before His Father who is in heaven...BUT!!! everyone who acknowledges Him before men, He also will acknowledge befor His Father who is in heaven. Think about it...what is Jesus saying about Praise Chapel? Thas a good question. Even better question....What is Jesus saying about you?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr December 24, 2008 | 1:02 p.m.

My only question is should we worship and honor traditions instituted by men as doctrine or should we follow those things instituted by God.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking December 24, 2008 | 1:19 p.m.

I think people are getting too sensitive about the whole nativity scene/winter solstice/harvest celebration stuff. Celebrate the hoidays the way you feel, and let your neighbor do the same (even if it's different than yours). The country needs a good dose of live-and-let-live right about now.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr December 24, 2008 | 1:41 p.m.

Mark that is a good point to look at but I just asked a very simple question about this issue.

Over time society has become "lovers of self" more than lovers of their neighbors and of God Himself.

Look around you Mark it is all about wanting the newest clothes,newest cars,newest trucks,newest house and the newest cell phone.

It is all about "what can I get" instead of "what can I give" these days.

Is that the true spirit of Christianity these days?

Mark nothing changes if nothing changes is the old adage from long ago and this country your are correct needs a serious true spiritual awakening but I do feel it will take something so huge and unexpected to cause this to happen.

We are on the very precipice of a total economic melt down and the big question is what will all of these people do when they cannot get what they want and might have serious trouble even getting what they need.

How many of the rich class will you see in Food Lines with their hands out when it all falls apart? For truth you will see more than you can imagine and the reason will be is because they have become lovers of self first than lovers of others first.

The last shall be first and the first shall be last and so it shall be when the economic crash comes to the country nearest to you.

(Report Comment)
carol smith September 15, 2009 | 1:09 p.m.

maybe you can help and if not maybe you can help me find someone who can help.. i play in a game room on line.. bigmouths and blowhards ali baba slots 40's room

there is a man in there with the screen name mxx987
his name is david and he says he attends your church
the prasie chapel international in kansas city kansas

he says he lost his wife a few years ago
he has a beard i believe?
his address is 1948 N. 44th st. kansas city kansas 66102

i want to make sure this is the right person.. and the reason i am contacting you is because of his on line behavior. he claims to attend your church and claims to be a christian but if he is a christian then that is the last thing i want to be.
it is the last thing anyone wants to be that views his actions
his language is terrible he uses profanity worse than anyone i have ever seen and makes death threats to me

he makes death threats to so many people in that chat room
he is turning so many people away from god with his actions and threats and he claims to be a christian
people are becoming scared for their lifes with his threats
i do not know who to turn to and need help
if this man attends your church then you need to come on line and view his actions.. you would be shocked at his language his harassment and his death threats as they are a serious matter
his action as a christian are pathetic
please help if at all possible or help me find someone that is in a position to help
either way i wanted you to be aware of this matter

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