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  • Executive Order Risks Fueling Discrimination in the Name of Religious Freedom

    For Immediate Release: May 4, 2017

    Contact: Rev. Paul Benz or Elise DeGooyer at 206-625-9790

    Executive Order Risks Fueling Discrimination in the Name of Religious Freedom

    While more analysis is still to come, Faith Action Network, Interfaith Leaders in Washington State, and our colleagues nationwide share concerns about today’s Executive Order, issued on National Day of Prayer and in the name of religious liberty. Faith Action Network is a statewide, faith-inspired organization that works for a more just, compassionate, and sustainable world, often in the halls of government and within the protections of the Johnson Amendment and IRS guidelines.

    Rev. Paul Benz, Co-Director of the Faith Action Network, said: “This president’s continued use of governing by executive orders, more than any other president in this country’s history, shows his lack of experience in governing from an elected office. This particular executive order moves the boundary of the faith community from being an advocate on critical issues before Congress, to one that misconstrues the mission and purpose of churches/synagogues/mosques and weakens the constitutional separation of church and state.”

    Co-Director Elise DeGooyer added: “We are concerned that blurring the distinction between church and state will lead to discrimination against our neighbors in the name of religious freedom.”

    Rabbi Ruth Zlotnick of Temple Beth Am, Seattle, said: “This Executive Order concerns me as a rabbi and as an American. Each week we read a passage of Torah and ironically this week we learn that we must promote kedoshim, holiness, in our communities by loving our neighbors and caring for vulnerable communities. In other words, Judaism teaches that we should be a moral voice speaking out above the fray of ordinary politics in order to promote a just and sacred world. Our American democracy is threatened when the firm boundary between faith and partisan politics is eroded. I believe the integrity of every faith tradition is called into question by this Executive Order.”

    Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Temple de Hirsch Sinai in Seattle considers this weakening of the Johnson Amendment “an ill-conceived assault on American Democracy and its precious Jeffersonian wall, insuring the integrity of both the purity of faith and the judiciousness of good government.  Both will be corrupted by this reckless blurring of sacred boundaries.”

    As voices of concern are raised across the country, FAN is willing to put you in touch with other Interfaith Leaders in our network who seek to protect the faith communities’ role in the public square.

  • It Is Finished: A Good Friday Sermon on Empire

    On Good Friday,  at a special service about resistance at Plymouth Church in Seattle, Emily Linderman preached on Jesus’s last words as he was dying on the cross: “It is finished.” She said:

    IT IS FINISHED – John 19:30
    We are obsessed with his death. We are obsessed with the crucifixion. Crosses are the predominant symbol for Christianity. They are everywhere and not just on G—d Friday. Most Christians go so far as to call this day Good Friday and I’ve heard all the reasons why, but for the life of me I still don’t understand it. I try to see the cross as a meditation, a reminder to look for where crucifixion and unnecessary suffering and oppression are alive today and not look away. I believe we are called to die to our false selves and awaken to our true selves. And I even believe that living the gospel today can get you killed as it did Jesus. But I still have the question:

    What is good about this day? What is good about this or any other crucifixion?

    I am terrified by this kind of worshipping of the cross and I resist, more than resist, I reject! And I am finished with the myth of redemptive violence and redemptive suffering. I’m terrified of a religion that glorifies redemptive violence and suffering and I’m terrified of the empire that put Jesus up on the cross and the Spirit of empire alive in me, our country, and the world today that keeps putting people up on crosses.

    I let tools and this reminder of empire, the messages of scarcity, the fear, the reports of bombs, the deportations, the call to pick up my crucifixion keep me in check, keep me quiet, keep me just trying to make sure that I’m o.k. Because my resistance and terror of these messages and teachings is mixed up with my strong emotional bond to my faith communities and the Gospel it keeps me from leaving Christianity, but I think it also keeps me from fully living.

    And I’m starting to wonder if that’s not the point.

    The cross bound up in atonement theologies (the thinking that upholds “good” Friday) and Christianity’s obsession with it, consciously and unconsciously, intentionally and unintentionally, distorts and hides Jesus’ LIFE.

    And that is why empire, and religion in bed with empire, keeps pushing the cross in front because it distorts Jesus’ message of ABUNDANT LIFE for all people.

    It is a tool of social control and it’s working wonders. There’s a reason it happened in public. There’s a reason it happened in public. The cross is doing empire’s job for it today just byhanging on the wall.

    Yes, God suffers with us. God is with us in our suffering. Yes, Jesus was willing to die, knew he was going to die, he repeatedly told the disciples that he was going to suffer and die. He knew the cost at that time and in that place with the way he was living, but let’s not confuse that with having a death wish or passing out death wishes to other people too.

    He didn’t spend his life teaching the disciples how to be CRUCIFIED. He taught them how to LIVE: how to teach, how to preach, how to heal, how to feed, how to bless, how to listen, how to talk, how to hide from empire when necessary, how to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, how to give thanks, how to calm the storm… and yes, he was honest that all of this might cost them their lives. We are all going to die so HOW will we live, what will we live for.

    God is with us in our abundant living too. Empire is selling us fear of death and through shows of might and creating a reality and an illusion of greedy scarcity.

    John’s Gospel says “ What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people… The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 1:3-4 and John 10:10)

    How did we get finished with this message of LIFE so quickly? How did these promises of LIFE turn into an obsession with his death? The unconscious messages keep us afraid, it keeps us from abundant life in solidarity with one another.

    It is normal – it is even holy to resist crucifixion. If we really understood that we, I’m speaking as a white person to white people now, would understand what black lives matter means and why protests against police brutality, against empire’s ongoing fear based crucifixions, are sacred. Yes, pick up the weight and the cost and the sacrifice of our communal liberation – but leave the tools of empire on the ground. Abundant, communal LIFE is calling.

    When I hear the Jesus of John’s Gospel say from the cross a moment before the very end, “It is finished,” what I hear and feel this year, more than any other year, is the illusions are finished. And I know for some people here, including many of my sisters, the illusions have been finished for a long time and maybe you never had the privilege of being illusioned at all.

    I hear Jesus saying:

    The illusion that I am not going to die – finished.

    The illusion that empire could get me to turn away from my message, to not live my call, even unto death – finished.

    he illusion that you’re going to have me around to lead you and for you to hide behind – finished.

    The illusion that the Gospel is more about redemption through violent death than it is about radical companionship and abundant life – finished.

    The illusion that any one person, including a black president or a well-groomed white female candidate or a socialist leaning white male candidate – God forgive me, even Jesus – is going to save us without our engagement and participation – finished.

    The illusion that you are not called to greater things than these – finished.

    The illusion that you’re not going to have to carry out my teachings and the ongoing revealing of the kin-dom of God in the midst of empire – finished.

    The illusion that empire isn’t coming for every body – finished.

    The illusion that white supremacy isn’t coming for everyone including white people – finished.

    So too are these illusions finished:

    The illusion that any legion of ignorant, power hungry, fearful, elite, mostly white men are going to destroy all of us without our creative resistance and revolutionary love rising up – finished.

    The illusion and the lie that we really don’t care about one another and that most of us are only looking out for ourselves – finished.

    I hear Jesus saying, “You have no idea how these teachings will live beyond me. You have no idea that the power of love of God cannot be destroyed.”

    Jesus, I mourn your death, I give thanks for your life.

    I am finished with being terrified of your death to the point that I am beholden, distracted, and paralyzed by the teachings surrounding it. God, help me, help us, be finished with being controlled by intimidation. God, help me, help us, turn towards abundant life and the Body of Christ, the human family.

    Yes, it is finished.

    So, Spirit, lead on.

    -Emily Linderman
    Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ with the Rev. Kelle J. Brown
    RESIST! Seven sisters preaching an ecumenical observance of G—d Friday 2017

    *The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of an individual and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Faith Action Network. FAN is an interfaith organization, committed to celebrating and embracing the diversity of faith traditions. If you have questions about FAN’s position on any public policy issues, please feel free to contact the FAN office at (206) 625-9790 or [email protected].
    To learn more about contributing to this blog, click here.
  • A Passover Message

    From Rabbi Zari Weiss of Kol HaNeshamah in Seattle:

    Dear Friends,

    This year, Passover offers a particularly poignant opportunity to think about the many millions of people throughout the world who searching for safety and security, because they are fleeing oppressive regimes, violence, or looking for freedom from the crushing burden of poverty and hopelessness. There are many excellent resources that can supplement the traditional haggadah, including T’ruah’s haggadah, The Other Side of the Sea. Perhaps at our Seder tables this year we can invite participants to share their own stories of parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents immigrating to this country; perhaps you can also extend an invitation to someone who is a new immigrant or seeking to become a citizen. As we eat matzah and other unleavened products, we can be reminded of the painful realities of those living in poverty or trying to reach safer places with little food or means along the way. Eating this way throughout the week of Passover can sensitize us to their plight, and remind us of our own abundance, and ability to share with others. From this perspective too, chametz can be seen as those parts of ourselves, our egos, that get puffed up from pride and a false sense of self and security. How fortunate we are; how much we have-relative to those who have so little. Perhaps we can give the amount we might otherwise spend on food this week to an organization that is supporting those who are current-day refugees. This year, the holiday challenges us to consider how we might be able to help others live in greater freedom. For an updated version of my annual Preparing for Passover, please click here. And do let me know if you’d like me to sell your chamatz, and/or if I can be of help/support to you in preparing for the holiday.

    An early Chag Sameach!
    Rabbi Zari

    Read the full blog on Kol HaNeshamah’s website.

    *The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of an individual and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Faith Action Network. FAN is an interfaith organization, committed to celebrating and embracing the diversity of faith traditions. If you have questions about FAN’s position on any public policy issues, please feel free to contact the FAN office at (206) 625-9790 or [email protected].
    To learn more about contributing to this blog, click here.