Wednesday, September 25, 2002

What Would Jesus Do?

I don't usually ask myself "what would Jesus do?" because it usually turns out Jesus would do pretty much whatever was most convenient and least trouble. Or the opposite. Amazingly, Jesus is usually completely in sync with my present needs and desires.

You see the problem, right? "What would Jesus do?" accepts as an external standard only what we have allowed ourselves to accept about Jesus, and it's usually (for me anyway) a pretty "attaboy," "feel good" standard. The actual Jesus usually did the on thing no one would have expected, and how you translate that into your own life, as a fully (and solely) human critter is a big fat mystery.

So I look not to some befuddled notion of Jesus, but to a standard that I hope Jesus would approve of, that is less easy for me to muddle with. "How would that have been on Sept. 30, 2001?" It was fairly easy in the days immediately after 9/11 to discern what was good, what was essential, and what was not. A lot of TV ads that had been airing on 9/10 vanished for a while. Some never came back, but others were just held in reserve until we'd "gotten over it." Most should have been scrapped.

Nearly the entire country was pleased to see the President attend football and baseball games. It helped us remember that pleasure in athletic prowess is not, by itself, harmful.

Okay, sure, we were told "buy a car or the terrorists will have won" but that was so understated compared to the "buy a gratuitously unnecessary diamond for 1/3 your salary or the terrorists will have won" standard that it seems even in retrospect to mark the boundary of acceptable taste, rather than to have crossed it.

Family meals and church attendance were a common theme that have sadly receded. Attacking the President or other politicians as individuals was out of bounds: dissenting from their ideas was not, unless you were Susan Sontag or Barbara Kingsolver, in which case you proclaimed yourself unable to discern the difference.

Loving your country simply because it was yours was permissible. Thanking men and women who risk their lives for others was mandatory. Speaking openly, however hesitantly, of your religious faith was not an abomination. Looking into your community to figure out if you could make it better was a good thing too. "Right" and "wrong" had clear, obvious meanings that nearly everyone could agree on.

You can see the trend. If you can conceive that last September you would have done one thing or considered something else out of bounds, that moment of extreme stress and clarity might offer you a better tool for discerning in more turbid waters what is right and what is wrong than asking yourself "what would Jesus do?"--at least if for you "Jesus" is an amalgm of "Davey and Goliath" and that Doonesbury priest's Wellness Seminar attitude.


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