Remember when “WWJD?” was a thing? What would Jesus do? Remember that? It was supposed to be a reminder to people (evangelicals mostly) to stop and ask themselves how Jesus might respond to any given situation, and then act accordingly. Oh, come on. You remember, right? The bracelets, the t-shirts, the dog tags, the coffee mugs, the bumper stickers?
The WWJD-thing was a modern take on Charles Sheldon’s 1896 bestseller, In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? The premise of the book was straightforward: The world would be transformed if Jesus’ followers would just ask themselves before doing anything, “What would Jesus do?”–which would then provide an ethical roadmap to follow.
Simple, right? In fact, I used to think it was overly simplistic, since there are a lot of things we don’t have explicit information about “what Jesus would do.” To the extent that Jesus had an opinion about abortion or same sex marriage, for example, the Gospel writers never thought those opinions sufficiently important to share them with us.
Moreover, we’re are all amazingly good at getting Jesus to conform to our own particular framing of him. At least one of the take-aways from the various searches for “the historical Jesus” is that we often wind up finding a Jesus who cares about the things we care about and who hates the things we hate. In other words, attempting to find the historical Jesus often produces only a Jesus who looks pretty much like we do.But the fact that Jesus never explicitly addresses things like the date rape drug or the environmental destruction of the planet through industrialization doesn’t mean we can’t draw some conclusions, based on who the Gospel writers portray him to be, as well as the kinds of principles to which he committed himself. I suspect most of us can imagine Jesus coming out strong against things like nuclear war, exploitation on reality T.V., or Justin Bieber.
But the fact that Jesus never explicitly addresses things like the date rape drug or the environmental destruction of the planet through industrialization doesn’t mean we can’t draw some conclusions, based on who the Gospel writers portray him to be, as well as the kinds of principles to which he committed himself. I suspect most of us can imagine Jesus coming out strong against things like nuclear war, exploitation on reality T.V., or Justin Bieber.
In fact, in our current political environment, I wish there were more evangelicals who were preoccupied with figuring out how Jesus might respond to the world we live in. “What would Jesus make of Donald Trump?” for instance, seems like an especially pertinent line of inquiry at this moment.
Even so, I know it’s not always easy to determine exactly what Jesus would do. And that got me to thinking about apophatic theology, which seeks to develop a picture of God through negative reference, by trying to produce a picture of what God is not (e.g., God is not a liar, finite, anti-creation, etc.).
So then I thought: “It might be a helpful exercise to begin to wonder not just WWJD? (What would Jesus Do?) but WWJND? (What Would Jesus Never Do?).”
Therefore, I thought I’d offer up a few things that, based on a reading of the Gospels, I find it difficult to imagine Jesus getting behind:
Not quite sure, for example, how it is that we can square the circle of Jesus’ love of the stranger with immigration agents tearing parents away from their babies so that we can maintain the febrile fantasy that we’re all safer when we treat the undocumented like criminals, or the convenient fiction that all our good agricultural and domestic jobs are safe for the millions of white folks who desperately want them.
I have a difficult time believing that Jesus – who was pretty quick on the draw when it came to dispensing free health care – would appreciate all the politicians, healthcare corporations, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical concerns getting rich on the backs of those who need healthcare most and can afford it least.
Pretty sure Jesus would have avoided stigmatizing “the little ones” by suggesting that kids who receive free lunch should “earn” those lunches by mopping the floors.
I find it impossible to imagine Jesus signing off on any plan that served the rich by lowering their taxes, while at the same time cutting services for the poor.
You need to have a much more malleable hermeneutic than I can conjure up on my own to get Jesus–who began life as a political refugee on the run from a murderous government–to say that the issue of refugee resettlement is a matter of indifference to the bible.
I can’t help but think that Jesus is doing some sort of celestial face-palm every time he sees another of his most publicly pious followers trying to pass legislation permitting Christians to make the lives of LGBTQ people even more miserable than they’ve already been made–all in the name of doctrinal purity.
Maybe it’s just my lack of theological sophistication, but it strikes me that the Jesus I read about in the Gospels wouldn’t have hesitated even a moment to call people like Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell Jr. a brood of vipers or whitewashed sepulchers, rather than bear for a single instant longer their insufferable self-righteousness.
Of course, I’m no Al Mohler, but try as I might I can’t envision Jesus giving the official okey-dokey to his most ardent (but most misguided followers) to draw even more unwanted attention to transgender kids, whose only desire is to pee in private.
And does anybody seriously think that Jesus would sign off on any plan that further threatened the financial and healthcare stability of the elderly by imperiling Social Security and Medicare?
How can anyone believe that Jesus would have any stake in a political or economic system, the primary purpose of which is to justify the selfishness of people who already have more than they need?
Look, I’m not always sure what Jesus would do in pursuit of God’s reign of justice and peace, but there are some things I’m sure as hell he’d never do.
This post was originally published on the author’s Huffington Post blog and is republished here with his permission.