I remember getting my first (and only) WWJD bracelet at a retreat during my college years. For those of you who do not know, WWJD refers to the now-cliche’d term “What Would Jesus Do,” and the bracelet was a reminder to always act in a way that would be representative of who we called savior.
It’s an honorable notion, but it’s mainly been overlooked or marginalized. The majority of those I have encountered who might have acquired the same bracelet in those days seem to be more concerned with perceived rules and dogma rather than the documented acts of Jesus.
The latest of these has come up in Arizona, where a bill written under the guise of religious liberty, allowed businesses to deny service to anyone they chose because of the business owner’s deeply held religious beliefs. The point of this legislation — to anyone that has a brain anyway — was to be able to deny services to homosexuals. Hiding behind the cloak of religious liberty seems cowardly and antithetical to what the purpose of Christianity actually is.
The bill has been vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer, although not without some controversy. While many called on her to veto the bill, including Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, others, such as Rush Limbaugh and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, said that vetoing the bill would show an intolerance to those exercising their religious liberty. Seriously.
Those for the bill are actually saying that if you oppose the bill, you are showing intolerance. You should be more tolerant toward those who are intolerant because the intolerance shown is based in deeply held beliefs of intolerance, and your intolerance of those who are intolerant is wrong. That sounds like it could come from the pages of “Catch-22.”
Limbaugh even said that those in favor of the bill were being bullied. Strange that a bully can now cry about being bullied. Christianity has been persecuted in so many countries around the world, but claiming that same persecution in the United States is rather silly. Christians are not persecuted here, and telling a business owner that they have to serve all people regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation is definitely not persecution.
Not only to discriminate who you provide services to, but also to completely remove yourself from the circle of those who you may disagree with is the polar opposite of everything we know about Jesus. He walked among tax collectors and prostitutes. He washed the feet of others. He welcomed all into his tent.
So what would Jesus do ... in Arizona? Would he seek legislation to deny services to those who genuinely asked for them? I’m thinking if he were a baker, he’d bake that same-sex couple a cake and hand it to them with a smile. Can you imagine him doing anything differently?
But it has been this slow progression toward separatism that is giving the name of Christianity a black eye. One main reason churches are required to exist and be placed throughout the countries is to reach out to all people. There was a story in Russellville recently about a man who had entered a workshop owned by a church, possibly looking for a place to sleep, but who wound up getting arrested. He told police he had been going through withdrawals from alcoholism and that he had been sleeping in the woods. He took a heater from the church, and that led to his arrest. It certainly sounds like the story of Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables,” except in that instance, the priest gave Valjean expensive candlesticks instead of turning him over to the police.
I know that it may not be exactly the same, and I know the world is a scary place, filled with all manner of people who may wish to do us harm, even if we try to help. But that is exactly what we are called to do. I’m not saying that the police shouldn’t have been called, but if a church isn’t going to help those who truly need it, then what good are we?
Many people use the parable of the Good Samaritan to point out our requirement to assist those in need. What we usually gloss over is that two seemingly righteous men avoid the beaten traveller before the Samaritan helps. Those “righteous” men are still around today.
We are called to engage the people of the world, not just those who line up with our way of thinking.
We are called to serve, not just those who make us feel comfortable.
Everyone knows what Jesus would do. There are those, however, who just don’t want to do the same.
(Ricky Duke is the editor of the Log Cabin Democrat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)