Aims of Table Turning Monday
- Increasing awareness of the role of Jesus’s Temple action in the narrative of Holy Week
- Increasing participation in faith-based economic justice activism
- Confronting the reality that institutions purportedly guided by Jesus’s life and teachings invest in economically and ecologically disastrous fossil fuel companies
- Repentance and reinvestment in socially and environmentally beneficial alternatives
Ancient Historical Background
Table Turning Monday commemorates the day when Jesus walked into the Temple and turned over the tables of the money changers. This was a symbolic act that cast a light on the economic and social oppression of the common people by the elite. The Biblical text speaks specifically about Jesus casting out those who sold doves, which were the sacrificial animals used by the poorest. It seems that poor Jews who came to worship were being exploited even on this holy ground. In keeping with the long line of Hebrew prophets that called out the powerful for entrapping poor farmers and laborers in debts that they could never repay, Jesus called the institution and community that he was a part of to live up to its values and its sacred calling. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all place the temple action and the subversive political street theater that was Palm Sunday (aka the Triumphal Entry) on the week of Christ’s arrest and execution. Somehow these pieces are rarely put together in the narrative of Jesus, but one is not crucified by Rome for questionable religious claims within one’s own community. Crucifixion is a punishment for those who would challenge Caesar’s authority by upsetting the economic-political order.
Why Monday? According to the gospel of Mark, Jesus did this action the day after Palm Sunday, which puts it on the Monday of the week that Jesus was crucified–the Monday before Easter.
History of Table Turning Monday
In 2011, a church in Seattle, Valley & Mountain Fellowship, saw this action as a crucial part of the Holy Week story, and social justice activism as a crucial part of the Jesus story in general. While many individuals and faith communities rooted in the way of Jesus take action on a regular basis, the people of Valley & Mountain did not know of a specific day in the church calendar that emphasized social justice-focused action. Noting that holidays in the church calendar are not meant to be one-time token events in a year, but rather are supposed to be special reminders of how we could always live, they decided to start a new holiday and named it: Table Turning Monday.
Valley & Mountain gathered a group together who went into the local Bank of America and closed personal checking/savings accounts, and then opened accounts in independent community banks and credit unions. They also passed out fliers outside the bank explaining to people how Bank of America (and other giant banks) had recently paid out huge legal settlements for ripping off the country, ripping off the poor, and even for systematically giving African Americans worse interest rates than other people (regardless of economic situation). They participated in political lobbying that fought against health care for the poor. They bankrolled environmentally heinous and socially destructive enterprises like mountain-top removal for coal mining.
In 2012, V&M targeted Bank of America again, and in 2013, they moved on to Chase Bank.
In 2014, V&M realized that the Temple action was more about challenging faith-based institutions, groups, and individuals to live up to their professed values, rather than a general confrontation of injustice. It comes as no surprise that enormous banks act without conscience. But it should spur us to action when those who claim to love God, love neighbor, serve the poor, and honor creation turn out to be indifferent when profiting from injustice and exploitation. The emphasis this year is on Christian institutions that enrich themselves from investments in the exploitative fossil fuel industry. So now the focus is calling out that hypocrisy, without and within (we are trying to discover if we at Valley & Mountain are benefiting from fossil fuel investments via the financial support we receive from various bodies of The United Methodist Church).
In 2015, a large group of churches organized a demonstration at the headquarters of Howard S. Wright, a corporate developer that is building a $210,000,000 taxpayer-funded youth jail. Currently, 40% of incarcerated youth in our county are Black even though just 10% of the population is Black. Crimes are not committed are these kinds of rates, demonstrating that racism has become institutionalized into our justice system. So, demonstrators entered the lobby, spoke with management, read scripture, set up a table with money on it and cards expressing demands as well as confessions of complicity in the system, and turned over the table before marching out.
Growing the Movement
Churches and other faith-based organizations have begun to hear about Table Turning Monday and want to participate. The resources on this website are meant to educate and empower other communities to plan their own actions, using their own language, liturgy, and theology.
If you have any questions or want to help grow the movement, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.