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Ernest Partridge, Ph.D
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The Gadfly Bytes -- October, 2002


What Would Jesus Do?


Ernest Partridge
The Online Gadfly
www.igc.org/gadfly

Published in The Online Journal October  3, 2002

Adapted for inclusion in Chapter Twenty of Conscience of a Progressive.
 

People are equally horrified at hearing the Christian religion doubted, and at seeing it practiced.

Samuel Butler

A fundamentalist is someone who hates sin more than he loves virtue.

John H. Schaar

The Last Christian died on the cross

Nietzsche


What would Jesus Do?

I submit that this is a perfectly fine question. And so, to find answers, I decided to go to the source and last week read through the four Gospels. This is what I found.

Would Jesus launch a “pre-emptive” war?

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
(Matt. 5:9)

Our “President” appears to be prepared to “kick some Iraqi ass.” What would Jesus do?

Ye have heard that it hath it said, thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. (Matt. 5: 43-44)

While he was the Governor of Texas, George Bush signed 155 death warrants, and granted no pardons to condemned prisoners. What would Jesus do?

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. (Matt. 5:7)

Rev. Jerry Falwell, steadfast proponent of “the right to life,” also endorses capital punishment. What would Jesus do?

Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto thee, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turned him the other also. (Matt. 5:38 39)

What might Jesus say about school prayer?

And when thou prayest, thou shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which seeth in secret . (Matt. 6.27)

And the separation of church and state?

Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. (Matt. 22-21).

Did I remember to ask what Jesus had to say about war and peace”

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
(Matt. 5:9)

Our glorious free market economy is driven by the profit motive. What might Jesus say about the profit motive?

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. ... For where you treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt. 6: 19, 21)

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matt. 6:24)

Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. (Luke 12:15).

With the help of a few well-placed friends, George Bush parlayed a nominal investment in the Texas Rangers into a $20 million fortune. When Dick Cheney left Halliburton, he was given a $34 million “retirement package.” What would Jesus do with these “winnings?”

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. (Matt. 19:21)

Verily, I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. ... It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Matt. 19-23).

George Bush has denied access to his gubernatorial papers and his father’s presidential papers (in both cases, public documents). Dick Cheney refuses to disclose the contents and the persons involved in consultations regarding energy policy. What might Jesus say about this?

There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. (Luke 12:2-3)

What might Jesus do about poverty and welfare assistance? 

I was hungred and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.... Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matt. 25:35-40).

Forty million American children live below the poverty level. What might Jesus say about this?

Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned int the depth of the sea. (Matt. 18:6)

Furthermore, it is estimated that as a result of the economic sanctions, a half a million Iraqi children have died.

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones...” (Matt. 18:10).

Rev. Falwell, Rev. Robertson and numerous “televangelists” claim to speak for Jesus, as they successfully solicit millions in donations. What might Jesus tell them?

Not everyone who sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 7:21).

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; inasmuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matt. 24:24).

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (Matt. 7:15)

There appears to be something of a “disconnect” between the teachings of Jesus Christ (who, George Bush tells us, “changed my life”), and the behavior and policies of many self-confessed “Christians.” I believe that the word that describes such inconsistency might be “hypocrisy.” Jesus had a great deal to say about hypocrites.

Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites... This people honoureth me with their lips but their heart is far from me. (Mark 7:6)

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer; therefore ye shall receive thy greater damnation. (Matt. 23:14)

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith, these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. 

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.... 

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ... ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Matt. 23: 23-28).

And one last time, just in case you forgot:

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
(Matt. 5:9)

Finally, the troubled Christian today might reply: “I do love Jesus, but really, ‘love my enemies?’ ‘Sell all that I have?’ Isn’t that asking too much?” To this, Jesus would reply:

If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

As I read the four gospels, front to back, these are some of the passages that seemed especially relevant to our times and responsive to the question “What would Jesus do?” Alas, try as I might, I could find no guidance therein regarding abortion, homosexuality, pornography, gun control or the capital gains tax.

When faced with such hypocrisy as we seem to find amongst prominent “Christians” today, what did Jesus do?

Jesus wept. (John 11:35).


A Personal note: I take a secular-scholarly approach to the Bible, and thus believe that these are not accurate translations of the actual words of Jesus of Nazareth. (“Christ” is a word derived from the Greek and added to Jesus’ name after his death). The earliest gospel (Mark) was probably written at least forty years after the death of Jesus. None of the authors of these four books knew Jesus personally or witnessed the events that they record. How much of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life is history and how much is fable is both unknown and unknowable. The point of this exercise is that those who ask “What would Jesus do?” generally believe that these verses contain the inerrant “word of God Himself.” Thus these believers must come to terms with apparent inconsistencies between these verses and their own beliefs and behavior.

 

Copyright 2002 by Ernest Partridge

 


Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .