What's missing in Holy Week?
During Holy Week, the church remembers the final days of Jesus' life and ministry. But we often forget how he got the religious authorities so angry to begin with.
Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers ... He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer;' but you are making it a den of robbers." (Matthew 21.12 ff).
Sadly, times aren't too different for us today – whether it's a Catholic bishop building himself a multi-million-dollar mansion, a "Christian, family-oriented" company suing to block women's health care, or even polite, well-mannered Methodists putting a pastor on trial for officiating at the wedding of his gay son.
We're surrounded by too many Christian leaders who are using their authority to advance self-serving and mean-spirited agendas that crucify those who are already poor and marginalised. If we're serious about following Jesus, we need to start turning over some tables ourselves.
That's why I'm so excited about what Faithful America members are doing all over the country. It's not just that thousands upon thousands of us are signing petitions, it's that folks are showing up at the doorsteps of religious and political leaders to deliver those petitions in person and make headlines.
Together, we're putting church leaders on notice that those in the pews are not going to sit idly by while they replace the compassionate message of Jesus with extremist politics and exclusionary policies.
In fact, our tiny staff is struggling to keep up with the demand for change. Some weeks it can feel like we're drowning in phone calls from reporters, and virtually every day we're making difficult decisions about what campaigns and events we actually have the time and resources to support. Just to give one example, our petitions now have so many signatures that we're on pace to spend twice our budget on printing this year.
So in Holy Week we're hoping that more of our supporters can chip in to help us overturn some more tables together. Here's how our initiatives work: The small Faithful America staff team constantly scours the news for opportunities to confront right-wing religious leaders and set the record straight. Hundreds of thousands of people jump into action, adding their name and spreading the word. Then, we recruit and train clergy and local activists to deliver our petitions and speak to the media.
The result? We consistently make headlines that challenge the conventional wisdom and show where a huge number of Christians really stand. And often, we win.
After more than 17,000 of us signed a petition calling on Google to find a Christian charitable partner that doesn't practice anti-gay discrimination, their director of corporate giving resigned from World Vision's board of directors.
The town of Rockford, Illinois tried to force a local church to stop serving as an emergency homeless shelter on freezing nights. But when the church's pastor showed up at City Hall with a petition signed by 25,000 Faithful America members (and a gaggle of local television news cameras!), the mayor quickly changed his tune and invited the pastor to join a special task force on changing city code to accommodate the church's ministry.
When hundreds of students walked out of class to protest the firing of a vice-principal at a Seattle-area Catholic high school, we amplified their message with 20,000 petition signatures delivered to the archbishop’s doorstep. Within days the school’s president resigned (even while a lesbian teacher came out and kept her job), sending a potent message to Catholic schools nationwide.
Of course, this isn't about getting credit – it's about not letting hardliners get away with claiming to speak for the entire Christian faith. And it's only possible with the support of concerned Christians across the country.
* More on Faithful America: http://faithfulamerica.org/
* Easter reflections from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/Easter
© Michael Sherrard is Executive director of Faithful America, the largest and fastest growing online community of Christians putting faith into action for social justice in the US, dedicated to reclaiming Christianity from the 'religious right'.
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