The letters WWJD form a popular acronym among many Christians. It is often found on bracelets and wristbands and signifies the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” and reminds the wearer to imitate Christ in all things. It’s a pretty high bar.
I was reminded of this motivational technique as I was driving to Rochester, N.Y., this past weekend and decided to take a detour into Buffalo to sample a chili dog at Ted’s Hot Dogs, an iconic restaurant in Western New York. I can report that the chili dog was amazing. I mean, what’s not to like about a footlong of hot dog, chili, cheese, and onion. This post, however, has nothing to do with Ted’s.
As I drove, I passed a church with a sign out front proclaiming, “Jesus Does not Social Distance,” which clearly implies that one should follow whatever can be reasonably assumed would be what Jesus would do were he walking the Earth in the time of Covid-19. Now, I’m typically as impressed by church signage wit as I am with greeting card poetry, but I couldn’t get that proclamation out of my mind the entire weekend.
What I’ve concluded is that if you’re going to play the WWJD card, you can’t think of it as a wild card that can change its face value from one hand to the next. It is, arguably, the highest card in the deck, and it should only be laid with the greatest of respect for what it represents.
I’d like to believe that the pastor and congregation, represented by the declaration on the sign, apply their aversion to social distancing in all situations, not just the ones that may fit a political view or a need to fill pews and collection baskets. I hope the example from the Gospel to which they allude is that of Christ going among and serving lepers, the poor, Samaritans, and sinners.
I’d also like to assume that said pastor and congregation also find the following forms of social distancing equally abominable and in opposition to Christ-like behavior: 1) Closing borders to refugees, fleeing oppression and poverty in their home countries and seeking succor in America; 2) establishing policies and practices, both informal and institutionalized, that prevent minorities and low-income families from moving into their preferred neighborhoods; 3) constructing and reinforcing glass ceilings that hinder or prevent women from entering board rooms, the halls of power, and every other venue men walk freely in and out of; 4) refusing service to and respect for our LGBT-Q brothers and sisters; 5) pursuing xenophobic agendas that encourage isolationism and ignore our responsibilities to the people of less fortunate nations; 6) passing laws that disenfranchise former felons and following hiring practices that make employment for those who have paid their debt nearly impossible; 7) criminalizing and senselessly harassing the homeless and indigent.
I could go on, but I think, if you’ve read this far, you’ve got the point. The WWJD card is an admirable card to possess but risky to play. It cannot rightly only be played when it fits nicely into one’s political philosophy or worldview. At least it can’t be played in a manner that engenders respect and promotes a Christlike model for human behavior.
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