Monday, June 25, 2012

A Question I've Heard Enough Of: "What Would Jesus Do?"

Recently, I've been in touch with a boyhood friend whom I will call "Hal." Born into what Ross Douthat would term a Protestant "heresy" (an offshoot of an offshoot of the universal Catholic Church), Hal became disenchanted with his "church" some years ago and now has gone New Age. Today he posts repeatedly about his midlife interest in the offshoot of an offshoot of an esoteric Eastern teaching, and he takes issue with many of my own posts written from my perspective as a lay Catholic.

Recently, in carping about a point I made, he asked the FAQ of so many New Agers: "What would Jesus do?" It's a rhetorical question, because the typical New Age enthusiast thinks he knows very well what Jesus would do. Jesus would be nice, basically, is what it boils down to. Jesus would be cool. Jesus would not harm people and he would not harm the planet. That's what Jesus would do, and so that is what we should do, all the other rules being fair.

What's both inane and insulting about the question is that (a) it's usually asked by someone who doesn't believe in Jesus anyway and especially (b) we already know what Jesus did.

Let's skip past the messy supernatural business of Jesus dying and resurrecting and ascending into heaven and then sending down his Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Let's look only at the nuts-and-bolts stuff that we know Jesus did while he was in the flesh.

Jesus gathered a group of twelve eminently human men around him, his Apostles. Then when he knew that his time was coming, he told the Apostles what he wanted them to do and how he would help them. We have all this on good authority. It's documented. In the Gospels.

He told Peter, as fallible as any of them, that he, Peter, would be the foundation stone on which His church would be built. He said that all the forces of hell would not prevail against this Church. And he urged his Apostles to spread the message of this Church to the farthest corners of the earth. My new favorite Apostle, St. James the Greater (Santiago), took Jesus literally, traveling to the end of the then-known world, what we now call Finisterre.

That Church founded on Peter and the rest of the Twelve continues in full force today, by Apostolic succession, though all the forces of hell occasionally do seem to mass against it.

Did I mention that the question "What would Jesus do?" is presumptuous? Because even the New Ager who does not accept Jesus's divinity means by asking the question that Jesus was a very enlightened man. By assuming that he knows what Jesus would do, Hal and all the others are saying that they are every bit as enlightened, and that therefore no religious teacher, human or divine, has anything to teach them.

So next time someone asks you, "What would Jesus do?" just say you have no idea, because how could you? Then tell them what Jesus did.


  1. Yes we know what Jesus did and we also know what Jesus said. He said, "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, rather I came to bring division."


  2. Just go by the Golden Rule and you'll be fine.

  3. When asking "What would Jesus do?" One should remember that the answer is sometimes, "freak out and turn over tables." ;)


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