I don't remember where I first encountered the phrase, What Would Jesus Do? Or WWJD. Perhaps it was at church. Or on a billboard. Or on a flourescent bracelet next to another bracelet that advised us, perhaps prematurely, to live strong.
Where or when I learned it doesn't really matter. It was a thing people said. It was one of those statements people made, telling the world you aim to live like Jesus.
Growing up, Jesus was an honorary member of my family. Mom and dad adored him in that fervent, burning bright, hippie kind of way. The kids, we learned of him early. God's son, died on the cross, resurrection, all of that. I mean, he seemed like a cool cat. Always turning the other cheek, facilitating the transformation of water (ugh) into wine (oh yeah), and, most admirably, helping those who needed it most.
Disclosure: I no longer believe in god. At one point I did, or thought I did. It's hard to tell sometimes. Looking back, it's what I knew, it's what the people around me knew, and it was a thing in my life. Perhaps that was the problem. It was just a thing. It wasn't until my twenties when I realized it wasn't important to me; it didn't make sense. Jesus may be the son of god, or he may have just been a cool dude, or not real in the slightest. For the facts that follow, it's important to remember that they came at a time in my childhood when I did believe. Also, as you possibly know, I'm in therapy. SO, ALL THE FEELINGS.
So, when my father yelled WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? at us, my first inclination, after cowering and running away due to abject terror, was to remind him of the gentle, caring dude Jesus seemed to be. I never had the courage to remind him though.
As an adolescent, I was fully aware of this absurd hypocrisy. But I really didn't have an answer to his question (accusation?). Not then. Not as a kid. Not when it came out as light on inquiry and heavy on YOU WILL DO WHAT I SAY OR ELSE YOU IDIOT.
But there's good news, folks. There's some redemption here. Decades after his self-righteous Jesus-pummeling, I have finally figured out the answer. Or, rather, I now have so many answers I don't know what to do with them all. Okay, thats a lie. I've written each of them down below.
Here are many possible answers to my father's accusation of What Would Jesus Do:
Don't be judgmental.
Treat others with compassion.
Not be one who cheats on his wife. Many times. For decades.
Definitely not bite his lower lip as an obvious tell indicating his wrath is forthcoming.
Abstain from thinking he's the best person ever and everyone else in the world is just a dumb idiot.
Value the two-by-four for its applicability to building things and not for its similarity to a medieval weapon he can use to punish his kid.
Love all creatures, even the stray kittens who wander into his home.
Be aware of the sensitivity of his son, the one who has built survival mechanisms based on the hope that "if he can't hear me, maybe he won't know I'm there."
Remember that stairwells are for ascending and descending floors, not for pushing kids down.
Live like we are all equal.
Just let your kid be who they choose to be, and definitely don't tell them that they'll just end up working at McDonald's because McDonald's is for inferior humans. It's not.
Think of soccer as a fun sport and not an opportunity to scream bloody murder at grown adults on sidelines or your kid when he just wants to shut down in embarassment and fear.
Refrain from drunk driving. At least when your kids are in the car.
Just be loving, man.
Truth is, of course I don't know what Jesus would do. I don't even know if Jesus was a real person. I just know that he was real to me then. Real in my childhood beliefs, real in my father's anger.
This has been therapy talk. I'm your host. Have a swell one.