Sunday, April 11, 2010

Who Cares What Jesus Would Do?

Having heard much in the news in the last few weeks regarding the Catholic Church confronting the sex abuse scandals as well as seeing the many prominent tragedies or issues that plague the world at large, the common phrase popular in the 90s (though I would think it went as far back as the 60s; not sure on that) What Would Jesus Do? (hereafter abbreviated as WWJD) still resonates with many people. But this article really puts the idea in perspective and points out a fatal flaw within it. The gist is that we’re putting Jesus on a pedestal and using all his actions as the standard to which we must reach. And even if you’re not Christian, you can appreciate the radical nature of Jesus’ behavior and seek to emulate it. He reformed culture, he got people to follow him and preach his ideas in one way or another, not to mention he stood up to authority that had taken itself too seriously or insisted on powers beyond what were allocated to it (Pharisees and the Roman army respectively) But if you take what is supposed to be God incarnate in the Christian vision and make that the standard to live up to, you’re inevitably bound to fail at it, or appear so self righteous that you alienate all those around you by behaving as if you’re superior just because you’re celibate.

By all means you can ask “What Would Jesus Advise You To Do?” since this affirms his authority, Christian or otherwise, as a teacher, but does not suggest that his standard of excellence is what we should hold ourselves to; no more than every martial artist should hold Bruce Lee as their goal to reach. In both cases, we’re talking about men that were the best of the best in what they did, albeit Bruce Lee never made alleged claims to deity. But like Jesus, he took his practice and lifestyle very seriously and taught it as best he could to others in hopes that they might follow the ideals and practices that he had used in his lifetime. To try to take either teacher and make their life’s example as the be all and end all of what you should seek to do is not only dangerous in that it borders on a personality cult, but like a personality cult, it saps you of your individuality and self expression. You can emulate Jesus in that you forgive others that do you wrong, while also pointing out to them that it wasn’t exactly right of them to do whatever they did to you. But to react exactly like Jesus is not only predictable, but it stifles any notion that you’re supposed to be you and not Jesus. As the author, Edward L. Beck, notes, Jesus “was never married, never a parent, never a woman and never fell victim to sinfulness as the rest of us do,” With his lack of complete accessibility to every human, people should take his more universal ethical teachings to heart instead of thinking they can perfectly emulate him through less than expected methods or being notoriously nonconformist to the point where you are conforming to a standard of nonconformity. Until next time, Namaste and Aloha.

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