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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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)