By Tom Ehrich

Palm Sunday, early morning. How will my new church observe this day?

With palm crosses and palm fronds, no doubt, and a procession of people singing "All glory laud and honor." Then we will shift gears to a somber reading of the Passion Gospel.

I won't complain if it is this way. All will be done as tradition and Prayer Book command. But I wish for more. I want to address the question, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"

Did I join the shouting, "Crucify him!" Not likely. But did I stand by feeling helpless and endangered when the powerful mocked and tormented God? Do I stand by today when they do the same -- as the wealthy and powerful always do?

I wrote a video script yesterday that left me troubled. How can a writer be troubled by his own words? When they end up revealing a truth he hadn't wanted to see, namely, that compromises with evil are normal and easy to make.

It takes unusual courage and faith to stand up to the darkness. Not a Sunday-go-to-church religion, but a deep and abiding conviction that shining light in the darkness is a calling worth risking everything.

And not a my-ox-is-being-gored-too attitude, but a conviction that watching out for the other guy is a calling worth risking everything.

Democracy is grounded in enlightened self-interest, and when it is allowed to work, democracy is a noble system. Faith is grounded in denial of self-interest, in a radical orientation toward the other, even the other whose words set your teeth on edge. Faith loves even enemies and victims and outcasts.

Faith doesn't mean religion, or religiosity, or religious tradition, and it certainly doesn't mean religious bullying. Faith steps into the darkness without a single one of those defenses.

Faith is happy to carry a palm cross in procession if that is what church friends want to do. But faith goes deeper, looks around at these church friends, and asks, Where is the darkness touching our lives, and what light can I shine?

And then, digging even deeper, faith looks outside, beyond the walls, and asks, Where is the darkness hurting God's children out there, and what light can I shine?

When faith is allowed to work, paradise opens.