We can make Good Friday better (SATIRE)

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Members of the clergy take part in a prayer after a procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Good Friday, during Holy Week in Jerusalem's Old City on April 3, 2015. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Amir Cohen
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-FITZSIMMONS-COLUMN, originally transmitted on March 23, 2016.

Members of the clergy take part in a prayer after a procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Good Friday, during Holy Week in Jerusalem's Old City on April 3, 2015. Holy Week is celebrated in many Christian traditions during the week before Easter. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Amir Cohen *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-FITZSIMMONS-COLUMN, originally transmitted on March 23, 2016.

BERKELEY, Calif. — A coalition of inclusive, radical, social justice, love-oriented, tolerant, prejudice-defeating, forward-looking, free-thinking, interfaith and nonjudgmental Christian leaders is launching a campaign to make Good Friday better.

“God is still speaking this Holy Week and telling us that it’s time to reimagine Good Friday,” their announcement says. “The traditional understanding of Good Friday is so scary and tragic, not to mention the holiday’s intimidating, violent depiction of God. We can make Good Friday better, and more expressive of God’s overarching message to love yourself and neighbor. Less about the cross, more about the golden rule. You can call this a movement of substitutionary enjoyment.”


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The campaign leaders, who sought but were unable to obtain any liberal denomination’s formal approval for their project, announced a set of three correctives to the annual remembrance of Jesus Christ’s execution as described in the Bible:

  1. Out with the bloody and painful killing of Jesus by the Roman Empire. Year after year, this day messes up our focus on the liberal, social justice ethics of Jesus. All this killing can be avoided if we just talk about Jesus caring for the poor. Focus instead on Jesus’ call to love your neighbor as yourself and how Jesus wants us to fully embrace LGBTQ equality.
  2. Don’t focus with all that language about a vengeful and punishing God. Who wants a judgmental God? Not us! God is love. God is joy. God is art. God is you. God is me. God is we. But God is not mean.
  3. There’s not even a need to hold a special worship service on Good Friday. What about holding an alternative church gathering? Since Jesus’ message was mostly about economic injustice and redistribution of wealth, consider making your community gathering a rally for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Wouldn’t that make Friday “good” for the 99 percent?
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons writes about faith and public policy. From 2011 to 2015, he worked at the National Immigration Forum mobilizing Christians to advocate for the value of immigrants and immigration to America. Follow him at @guthriegf. Photo courtesy of Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons writes about faith and public policy. From 2011 to 2015, he worked at the National Immigration Forum mobilizing Christians to advocate for the value of immigrants and immigration to America. Follow him at @guthriegf. Photo courtesy of Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons

The group provided a list of churches already participating in the effort. More than half of the seven churches listed are located in either Cambridge, Mass., or Austin, Texas.

The specific focus on Good Friday is part of a broader effort for the liberal churches to have better marketing campaigns. Several pastors noted how more conservative churches always seemed to have the best graphics, slogans and promotional materials. “We’re trying our best to catch up,” one pastor said. The larger effort has taken on the slogan “jesUS loves not just US, but JUST-us(ice).”

(Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons writes The Literalist, a twice-weekly satirical news column for RNS. His writing on faith and public policy has appeared in Sojourners, The Washington Post, Texas Tribune and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @guthriegf)


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  • Paula

    Gotta say, not a fan of satire requiring a straw man. Maybe there are liberal pastors out there with nothing more profound to say than all this about Good Friday, but I’d like to think most of us are pouring over the texts and any number of theological treatments of the death of Jesus, a topic currently enjoying great attention, and which can’t be summarized by “God is not mean.” A better use of this space would have been a list of readings for preachers to consider, or an example of a sermon which takes the day and the texts seriously. If the writer thinks we are neglecting important theological reflection, he could show us what that might look like.

  • Hi Paula,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry you feel satire is not an appropriate medium for my opinions on religion and public life. In terms of recommendations, I’d encourage any of the liberation theologians who take sin and suffering very seriously. A good place to begin would be James Cone’s “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.” Feel free to contact me directly at theliteralist.rns@gmail.com if you’d like to continue this conversation!

  • Do you think Jesus of the myth would have wanted us to focus on the blood and gore? I was under the impression he had done this voluntarily, and we were to focus on our new found opportunity to follow his teachings in the bible, now that we are in a sin-free status, which allows us to better understand him. Your “liberal churches” are doing the proper thing. They are focusing on humanity, rather than a bloodbath. Why aren’t you?