taking the words of Jesus seriously

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We got into good trouble on Good Friday.  Twenty-five people were arrested for a nonviolent direct action at the headquarters of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest weapons contractor, where the weapons being used in Gaza are made.  

Hundreds of other joined in the action during Holy Week as members of the Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage walked over 20 miles, roughly the length of Gaza, from the Liberty Bell to Lockheed Martin.

Here’s why we did it. 

The event was part of a global movement with similar walks happening in over 200 cities around the world, in every continent including Antarctica. 

Our message is simple.  End the genocide – we need a permanent lasting ceasefire, now.  Let in the aid – collective punishment and forced starvation are evil and morally indefensible.  Release all the hostages.  And stop sending weapons and funds to Israel, weapons like those made at Lockheed Martin.  

On October 7, some 1200 precious lives were lost, every one of them a sacred child of God, made in the image of God.  The world stood with Israel against the merciless slaughter and terror of October 7.  And we must not hesitate to stand against antisemitism today.

But in the days since October 7, we have watched the State of Israel pour out its wrath on the people of Gaza, killing around 200 a day, one child every 10 minutes.  Often using the Bible as a weapon to justify their revenge.  

Two wrongs don’t make a right… that’s what my momma taught me.  

In the past 170 days since October 7, over 32,000 people have been killed… 15,000 of them are children.  And over 74,000 people have been injured.  

Thousands are missing under the rubble.  We are watching a genocide, ethnic cleansing – livestreamed on social media, and most of our leaders are silent or even complicit.  As Palestinian pastor, Rev. Munther Isaac has said, “Gaza is become the moral compass of the world.”  

To speak out against the violence of October 7th does not make you anti-Palestinian.  It makes you decent, human, moral, and compassionate.  To speak out against the violence since October 7th is not to be antisemitic or pro-Hamas… it is to be decent, human, moral, compassionate.  

One of the central convictions of Christianity is that there is a God who is near to the suffering, to the poor, the widows and orphans, and to all those who are victims of violence.  Jesus left all the comfort of Heaven to be born as a brown-skinned, Palestinian, Jewish baby, born as a refugee during a genocide under King Herod… born homeless in a manger, from a town called Nazareth where people said nothing good could come… arrested, terrorized, tortured and executed on a cross.  On Good Friday, Christians around the world remember in a special way that Christ is God’s act of solidarity, as he endured the most horrific violence on the cross, and subverted it with love, forgiveness, and an empty tomb.  It is Christ who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they are the children of God.” It is Christ who rebuked his own disciples when they wanted to call down “fire from heaven” on the people of Samaria. And it is Christ, who scolded Peter when he resorted to violence, saying to Peter, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword… put the sword away.”  

In the Easter story, Pontius Pilate washes his hands as Christ is being killed, attempting to wash the blood off his hands and pretend he was not responsible.  So that was part of our message at Lockheed Martin on Good Friday. Our lead banner read: “Lockheed Martin, YOU HAVE BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS.”

Ironically, Lockheed Martin covered up the large signs at their main entrance with large blue tarps and duct tape, making the point even stronger.  They literally tried to hide any evidence of their corporate logo as we gathered.   

You can’t make this stuff up. 

We made a banner with the numbers on it: “Over 32,000 killed.  Over 13,000 children killed.  Over 74,000 injured.”  And we all added our handprints in red paint, even little Eli added his for the babies in Gaza.  

Many folks left the paint on their hands as a reminder that the genocide in Gaza is not just being done by Israel.  It is being done with funds from the United States and weapons made in the United States, by companies like Lockheed Martin.  

The US gives Israel $4 Billion a year.  And Lockheed Martin makes billions more from weapons sales, with contracts that did not begin after October 7 but have a decades old history.  Since the 1970s, Lockheed Martin has provided the F-16s and more recently the F-35 fighter jets used in Gaza.  In 5 years, Lockheed sent 102 F-16s and 50 F-35s.  They also make the M-270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, and the Hellfire missiles that have killed so many people.  In the recent assault in response to October 7th, the US and Israel agreed on a new weapons package (two months into the genocide) to supply even more F-35 and F-15 jets as well as Apache helicopters.  So yes, Lockheed Martin has blood on its hands. They have made a killing off killing.  They have turned war into a billion-dollar business enterprise.  The old saying is correct: “If you want to stop war, figure out who is profiting from it.”  

That’s why we gathered at Lockheed Martin on Good Friday.  Even in the days since our vigil, we have seen even more unimaginable violence in the destruction of the Al-Shifa hospital and the Israeli bombing of the Iranian embassy in Syria… using weapons made by Lockheed Martin. 

As many fellow Christians bless the bombs falling on Gaza, weapons made at Lockheed Martin… we say NO, not in our name, and not in the name of our Savior.  As many Christians try to defend the violence of Israel being done in planes made by Lockheed Martin, we are calling for a ceasefire, and an end to the violence in the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace.

It was a diverse, interfaith gathering with people of all faiths as well as some folks who aren’t religious at all but are compelled by their conscience to stand against the violence in Gaza.  We had dozens of children of all ages. 

I’m guessing my little baby, Elijah, was one of the youngest at 12 weeks old, but he sure wasn’t alone.

There were babies in strollers and kids playing tag.  There were teenagers sitting on the Lockheed Martin wall with their feet dangling off next to a sign that read “Let Gaza Live.”  One of the kids held a homemade banner that read, “US Bombs Kill Children.”  

Another woman had a cardboard sign that read: “Pastor for Peace.”  Another read “Who Would Jesus Bomb?”  

The young and young at heart put a rhythm to our call for ceasefire, as they beat on large drums together.

One of the shirts we made for the Good Friday vigil has an iconic image of Jesus with his mother holding His face, next to a recent image of a mother in Gaza holding the face of her child.  

On the back, the shirt has the words of Jesus from Matthew 25: “Whatsoever you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.” 

A reminder that what we do to the children in Gaza we do to Christ.  As we force them to starve, we are doing it to Christ.  As we refuse to allow in clean water, it is Christ who goes thirsty.  As doctors are forced to amputate without anesthesia using cell phones as flashlights, we are doing that to Christ.  Lord, have mercy on us.  

ALSO SEE Good Trouble on Good Friday – Red Letter Christians

We held a sacred procession reminiscent of the many liturgical “Stations of the Cross” services I’ve attended over the years.  But this one was different – it was taking liturgy into the streets.  Protest done right can be a form of worship.  So, we carried the signs and banners, and slowly made our way to the main entrance of Lockheed Martin. 

We carried professionally printed posters with large photograph mages of the devastation from the bombing, and the shattered lives… each one branded with “Made In the USA.”  

And we carried six large black signs with the names of the children, a reminder that they are not just numbers.

Every one of them has a name, a precious child made in the image of God.  We carried thousands of those names onto the property of Lockheed Martin… an act that was part religious ceremony, part street theater, part public lament.  

As we crossed over the blue line that designates where the public property ends and the private property of Lockheed Martin begins, we were given a warning that we were trespassing and could face arrest.

The folks with the names of the children laid down on the ground, a profoundly moving posture in the rich tradition of “die-ins”.

Others of us began to sing.  Several participants unrolled yellow “Crime Scene Do Not Enter” tape and roped off the entrance, calling it what it is – the scene of a crime, a war crime. 

On the other side of the boundary, we laid several dozen red roses.  One after another, kids and adults brought those flowers over the blue line and laid them on the names of the children – it was all so powerful and moving. 

A Good Friday liturgy of lament.  A prophetic Easter message that death will not get the last word.  You can’t kill love. Love will rise again. 

As the police began arresting us, we sang hymns and freedom songs – “Down by the Riverside” and “We Shall Overcome” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Lockheed Martin, Turn me ‘Round.”  And we said the “Lord’s Prayer” which had a new ring to it as we said the part about forgiving us “our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” as we were arrested for trespassing.  

Just before we began the procession onto Lockheed Martin, I had reminded the group of these words of Martin Luther King (whose assassination we remember on the anniversary this week), as he said this: “There is nothing wrong with a traffic law which says you have to stop for a red light. But when a fire is raging, the fire truck goes through that red light, and normal traffic had better get out of its way. Or when a man is bleeding to death, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed.”  

There is a fire raging in Gaza, and we need brigades of ambulance drivers who will ignore the red lights of the present system until the emergency is solved.  That’s why we were willing to go to jail.  

Dr. King reflected on how he was initially troubled to go to jail – but then he looked at history and saw what good company he had.  Indeed, all the way back to Jesus on that first Good Friday.  And Christians have been making good trouble ever since, stirring up holy mischief and challenging the systems that crush other people.  So, it was an honor to go to jail on Good Friday.  As John Lewis once said, when we get into good trouble we can smile in our mugshot because we know that we are on the right side of history.  

Without a doubt, our children and grandchildren will ask us what we did to try to stop the genocide in Gaza.  I am trying hard to be able to honestly answer them – everything we could, including going to jail.  In fact, I’ll tell my little boy Eli – it was your first protest.  And I know it will not be his last.

On the citation we were given, we have been charged with Disorderly Conduct, and underneath the charge is a section called “Nature of Offense” and they wrote the police officers wrote this in that section: “Defendant created a physically offensive condition by an act which served no legitimate purpose”. 

There was something offensive happening that day, but it was not our prayerful protest.  The thing that is offensive to God is making a profit off the mass destruction of human lives.  What was offensive was not those who laid down with roses on their bodies at the main gate of Lockheed, but it is the mangled bodies from Lockheed’s weapons that lay in the street and under the rubble in Gaza.  That is offensive to God.  

There was a crime committed at 230 Mall Blvd, but it was not prayerfully putting our bodies in the way of the flow of weapons of mass destruction.

As we taped off the entrance to Lockheed, we made it plain — the real crime scene is happening inside the headquarters of Lockheed Martin.  

We will not build a better world by killing other people’s children.  It’s time to get in the way of the business of war.  I am proud of the good trouble we got into on Good Friday, as we went to jail with Jesus.  

Too many lives have been lost.  It is time for us to turn up the volume for an immediate and permanent ceasefire.  And for many of us, we do this holy work in the name of our executed and risen Savior… that brown-skinned Palestinian refugee from Nazareth… Jesus the Christ.  

About The Author


Shane Claiborne is a best-selling author, renowned activist,
 sought-after speaker, and self-proclaimed “recovering sinner.” Shane writes and speaks around the world about peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus, and is the author of several books, 
including "The Irresistible Revolution," "Jesus for President," "Executing Grace," "Beating Guns," and his newest book, "Rethinking Life (released in Feb 2023)." He is the visionary leader of The Simple Way in Philadelphia and co-director of Red Letter Christians. His work has been featured in Fox News, Esquire, SPIN, TIME, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and CNN.

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