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You’ve seen the slogan. You’ve read the bumper sticker. You’ve bought the cereal. You’ve collected the action figures. WWJD is everywhere.

It’s a global trend, a widespread meme, a constantly repeated rhetorical question, which exists primarily – it sometimes seems – to give atheists something to chuckle over, and marvel at the asinine, fantasy-driven approach that some people take to solving their problems.

Against the trend, I think there’s a really powerful idea buried in the cliché, and it’s odd how unnoticed it tends to go.

The baggage that comes with invoking Jesus is obviously a big hindrance. In some ways it renders the question moot, because Jesus never existed.

Or, I dunno, maybe he did. Different historical scholars seem to have different ideas on this. It may well be that the science is settled, and the controversy is an entirely artificial one which relies on people like me being bamboozled by the way both sides seem to have a significant presence, despite one of them being utterly wrong (cf. intelligent design). It doesn’t remotely matter.

There’s also the question of whether the character of Jesus is really such a wonderful example of the sweetness and charity he’s presumed to exemplify. The God of the Bible is a malicious, spiteful tyrant, after all, and it was Jesus who introduced the idea of sending people to Hell for calling your brother a dick (I’m translating for a modern audience).

The result of which is that most people (including me until, like, this week) don’t really get any further in their considerations of WWJD than being mildly amused that anyone might seriously use what Jesus would do in their situation as a guiding principle for their actions. Even moderate Christians often distance themselves from the phrase, finding their more extreme counterparts bothersome for all the same reasons we do.

But I think the basic idea behind it could do with a reboot, and a closer look.

WWJD comes from an awareness that we don’t always meet our ideals, in our natural, everyday behaviour. We plan to get things done, but flake out. We promise ourselves we’re going to tidy the house, but end up sitting and watching TV all evening. We make grand plans to eat healthily and work out, and then remember how much effort it takes to actually do all that. We want to resolve a dispute with a friend or partner, to apologise and make everything right, but find ourselves getting so wound up and infuriated that we end up shouting, or saying deliberately hurtful things to score a point and make ourselves feel better.

Very few of us can claim to be the person we really want to be. But we usually do have an idea of that person, a concept of the creative, industrious, charitable paragon of virtue we feel like we could be. Even if we regularly fail to live up to that construct in the moment, when it comes time to actually take action.

We could all be doing better. And maybe there’s a useful way to prompt ourselves to do better. If there’s anything about the current direction of your life in which you’re not entirely satisfied with your own performance, ask yourself:

If I were a better person – if I were the diligent, patient, paragon of virtue I wish I could be – then how would I respond to this situation? What would I be doing now?

If you have the time to pause for just a moment, and ask yourself the question… and if you can come up with an answer (which is generally the easy part)…

…then why not just do that thing, instead of whatever inferior thing you were going to do instead?

There are limits to this notion’s scope, obviously. It might be clear that the ideal you would punch out a bear that was threatening your family, or play a heartbreaking violin solo, or solve a quadratic equation for complex values of x – but simply knowing that fact doesn’t help you achieve any of those goals, if you aren’t already physically capable of them.

But surely some of your goals are more attainable. Maybe the ideal you would converse with arse-grobbling shitgibbons on the internet without spitting bile at them about what arse-grobbling shitgibbons they are…

And so maybe you can, too.

Maybe the ideal you would have more patience with the sonofabitch who cut you up and made you slam your brakes on that time, and make allowance for their various human failings without writing them off as a waste of atomic matter and bearing a grudge for the rest of the day…

So maybe you could start doing that now. You already know you’d rather do that than your usual thing.

Maybe the power to be awesome was inside you all along.

Of course, it can be really, really hard to remember this kind of thinking in the moment. When you’re angry or frustrated or frightened or upset, the natural thing is to do what feels, well, natural. Which is generally something other than positing a hypothetical version of yourself and planning a response around that. There’s a way you react to things which feels like the kind of person you just are. It’s not easy to remember to think things over when you’re busy reacting.

Which is why people wear those goofy wrist-bands and stuff, I guess. To help them remember the person they want to be, even – especially – at times when their instinct is to act like the less awesome version. The idea is to cultivate that more thoughtful reaction, the one you wish could be the way you react to stuff, until it becomes such a learned habit that that’s just the person you are.

It’s a really powerful idea… if you can just get past the whole Jesus thing. It’s a shame when religion makes good things so inaccessible.

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The video below is of a recent Saturday Night Live sketch.

In case it’s vanished by the time you read this, like several other versions have, it’s a trailer for a fake movie called Djesus Uncrossed, a suitably over-the-top parody of several Quentin Tarantino films, featuring Jesus Christ as a merciless, sword-happy, gun-toting god of vengeance. The juxtaposition of two ideas that don’t obviously mesh well together isn’t a ground-breaking comedic construction, but it’s nicely done. It plays on Tarantino’s style of film-making and directly takes off a few specific scenes, and seeing the lamb of God played by a psychotically violent Christoph Waltz is jarring in the sort of way that makes things humourous. There’s nothing revolutionary about any of this.

Some Christians have decided that it’s the worst thing ever.

And I’m not even exaggerating to make them sound ridiculous.

NBC has produced the worst possible attack on the person and character of Jesus Christ.

Never be surprised at the level of evil man can devise.

If I were a better writer or any sort of cultural analyst, I’d have something to say about this sort of thin-skinnedness, and this capacity for such stupendous missing of the point. Rather than just pointing it out and inviting you to join me in staring in dumb bemusement.

Bryan Fischer, director of the American Family Association, felt the need to obliquely threaten the makers of the sketch with Jesus’s actual vengeance. Other people cried at that sketch because of how mean it was to their omnipotent overlord. Good grief. Nobody tell them what the Romans did to him two thousand years ago; they might have an attack of the vapours from which they’d never recover.

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And this is totally how grown-ups behave.

He’s finally noticed that in 1987 there was this award-winning photograph called Piss Christ. Don’t ask me why. I don’t understand art, and I don’t understand this.

He’s offended by it, which is not remotely surprising, but also not entirely unreasonable. It’s a symbol of Jesus on the cross submerged entirely in urine. Even if most Christians have more sense than to get particularly riled over it, it’s pretty offensive.

But Bill Donohue’s reaction to it is very confused. First of all, he wants those people who spoke out against that YouTube film which offended Muslims recently to mount a similar defense of Christians:

Where are they when Christians are being offended? We are offended over and over again, through the artistic community, on radio and television, in the movies. Where have these people been? Why don’t they ever speak out against anti-Christian fare?

I suspect the answer is partly to do with the dearth of Christian extremists bombing embassies who officials feel they should mollify, and partly because the overwhelming majority of the USA are still Christians, are in no way a persecuted minority, and are in no actual danger of suffering any serious detriment to their lives because of a few jibes about their belief system.

He then adopted a completely different set of principles, and presented a piece of art of his own creation, in which a doll of Obama is mounted in some fake shit.

It’s not a subtle or complex piece. (Or maybe I still just don’t get art.) But I suspect it honestly expresses the artist’s feelings, in a way likely to offend many people. In this way, perhaps it’s doing exactly what art should do. But the target of the work is in such a position of power or authority that their autonomy and dignity is not remotely threatened by something so weakly subversive.

Bill Donohue has, in fact, chosen to closely emulate the creator of Piss Christ.

You know what? This part kinda doesn’t bother me. Because, in his blindly petulant lashing-out, in his latest childish tantrum against some irrelevancy he’s picked on and inflated to a major injustice against the centre of his own personal universe, he’s actually managed to stumble quite by accident across the right answer.

The solution to bad speech is more speech.

If someone creates something which denigrates you or your ideas, then assuming those ideas have any merit, the only way for you to really lose that fight is to try and forcibly shut them up.

Make some art of your own. Add to the conversation. Don’t try to hush it up.

Bill Donohue’s part of the way there. He knows he ought to have the right to insult Obama and his supporters. He gets why free speech is important when it supports his cause, even if you can just hear him squawking:

“Hey, if you get to do that, I get to do this! Yeah, Obama’s covered in shit! See? Not so fun, is it? How d’ya like your precious free speech now, huh?”

We like it just fine, Bill.

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So, I’ve done another one of these.

 

 

The camera quality’s still so-so, and I’m still not exactly Cyriak, but I’m having fun.

Let me know if this is something you think it’s worth keeping up with.

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– A new proposal in the States suggests that health services will be expected to do their job, regardless of the religious affiliation of the people working there. Outrageous. They’ll be telling us we can’t let a bunch of strangers rape our daughters, next.

– Do Christians really love Jesus?

– “My pain is not caused because I am gay. My pain was caused by how I was treated because I am gay.” – a teenager who recently committed suicide, after his parents tried to exorcise the gay out of him, then threw him out of the house.

– Julianne Moore is completely awesome, but if she ends up making me like Sarah Palin, I will never forgive her.

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I only discovered Dusty recently, and I’m ready to join his cult. Here he is talking us through the fantastic Christian propaganda of a Chick tract:

 

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”       .”

Gay rights activists are still being quite entertaining with some of their placards.

The title and opening line of this post refer to one of my favourite signs from that compilation, and here’s another one that made me chuckle:

Ridicule is a useful way of approaching arguments like this, particularly when the other side are so vacuously ridiculous. But something about this one made me pause. The boring guy’s sign – the one declaring that “HOMOSEXUALS WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD” – actually has a citation.

Okay, admittedly it’s citing the Bible. But a lot of anti-gay zealots don’t even bother to do that with any specificity. They just know that there’s something about no queers in there somewhere, and that’s an important bit, not realising that it’s only really mentioned in the same part which also forbids things like round haircuts, tattoos, and blended fabrics.

But this guy’s not looking back to the ancient Moses-y bits (which may or may not still apply today) to justify his position. He’s got New Testament stuff that blasts the gays as well, and does so unequivocally. No homosexuals inheriting God’s kingdom. Harsh.

Shall we try checking what that bit of the Bible actually says, though? Just for fun? Here’s one modern translation of 1 Corinthians, 6:9-10 (it spills over into the next verse):

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Which is odd. Because that trustworthy man with the placard up there didn’t mention any of those people at all. I suppose homosexuals could count as a subcategory of some of those groups, but it’s not like God’s going out of his way to condemn them in particular.

It’s almost like placard-man’s letting his own personal values influence his interpretation of his holy text.

And he’s not the only one. There are many things the Bible rails against, at lengths which make its occasional mentions of gay sex seem cursory. But the likes of adulterers often get something of a free pass when it comes to judgment from the conservative Christian crowd.

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