Religion & Philosophy

Sundays with Uncle God-Momma: what would Jesus do?

wwjdjesuswithtruckerhatLet’s face it, that’s a tall order.  And no matter how much you practice you probably won’t be able to get tanked from the tap.  Still, it makes a pretty good bumper sticker.  Everybody knows which side you’re on, even if you have no intention of actually behaving like Jesus.  But divorced from being a mere affirmation of faith, it makes a damned good question.  Maybe not as good a question as, “What would a wookie do?” or meditating on what Jesus would do for a Klondike bar…but still a good question.

Ed Dobson decided that he would try to find out by attempting to live like Jesus for the year of our Lord 2008.  Keeping the Jewish sabbath was important, as was eating Kosher.  There has been no word concerning loaves and fishes or if Ed took up carpentry.  But he succeeded to some degree, because he managed to piss off a bunch of Christians in the process.  As an added bonus he grew a luxurious beard.

The Reverend Dobson has impeccable credentials.  He took both his BA and MA from Bob Jones University; made “Dean of Men” at Liberty University by the tender age of 23; he was an original board member of the Moral Majority; and he’s widely believed to have co-ghostwritten Falwell’s The Fundamentalist Phenomenon.  And though he drifted away from fundamentalism for mere evangelical belief, he was still one scary preacher for the unwashed-secular-liberal masses.  He didn’t drift that far anyhow.  He became the pastor at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids Michigan.

Grand Rapids is a funny place.  It’s almost like a Dutch Disneyland.  Van tulip gardens.  Van windmills and drawbridges…the whole nine yards.  It’s also extraordinarily religious and conservative.  I once had a chat with a coffeeshop owner in Amsterdam who asked me if i knew of Grand Rapids when he found out that i was from Michigan.  He then proceeded to apologize repeatedly and stressed that the Grand Rapids Dutch shouldn’t be used to judge his nation.  According to him, as the Netherlands became more and more liberal the ultra-conservative Dutch Reform Church followers got more and more upset until they eventually set sail like modern day pilgrims to establish their very own city on a hill.  Lucky us.

The Rev. Dobson is now the vice president of spiritual formation at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, where the motto is “enabling students to apply unchanging Biblical principles in a rapidly changing world”.  I think that translates into kicking and screaming, but i’m not sure.

Dobson’s coming off his Year of Jesus now; making the talk show rounds; trimming his beard a little; and finally enjoying a good chicken and cheese burrito when the fancy strikes.  It’s hard to get the full story on what his year was like because most of the coverage has been about his decision to vote for Obama.  You can imagine how well that’s gone over with his flock.  He apparently had a few drinks along the way too, and that contradicts Cornerstone’s “Lifestyle Statement” that students and faculty sign.

Apparently the Cornerstoners haven’t realized that Jesus drank wine on a regular basis.  If we throw in the dancing Christ portrayed in The Acts of John we might even find a real party animal.  “Hey, Judas, get away from that prostitute…she’s with me…and come here and hold my legs while i do a cask stand.  Soon it will be time to get on the good foot, amen.”

I kid, i kid.  I’m going to Hell and i’ve accepted that.  If heaven is filled with Cornerstoners it won’t be that much fun anyhow.

But the fact remains that there is a huge disconnect between the worship of Christ and the practice of Christ-like (dare i say Christian) living.  Dobson went the full rabbinical and notes that living like Jesus is very difficult.  Spaghetti got stuck in his beard and he found himself voting for a pro-choice president.  Some have criticized him for attempting the cultural life of Jesus rather than the spiritual, but it seems that he found a somewhat new Christ in his adventure, one that forced him to examine his own preconceptions.

He didn’t go as far as he could have.  Not only are there no stories of him trashing the financial offices of Calvary Church, but he relied solely on the Bible for his knowledge of Jesus.  Lord only knows what would have happened if he had started acting like a Gnostic.  He might have gotten actually crucified instead of just lambasted for imbibing the devil’s brew and voting Democratic.  This is not the place for a full discussion of Gnosticism, but it is curious that a massive cannon of Christian writing is wholly ignored by the Church because a handful of bishops declared it heretical more than 1500 years ago.  This state of incomplete Christianity speaks to the worship of the Church rather than Christ…but i’ll save that heresy for another day.

Assuming that the historical Jesus was real, even as depicted in the Bible, much less works like Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (John Dominic Crossan), we find a man fairly at odds with the religion that carries his name.  Jesus was a revolutionary, and apparently upsetting enough to the authorities of his time that he got nailed to the cross for it.  Keep in mind that crucifixion in Rome was used for especially despised criminals like rebels, deserters, and traitors.  The meek did not end up on the cross.

What we see in modern Christianity is the religion of the Roman state.  The canon touted as the divine word was basically stripped of the Jesus who would represent a threat to the State by bishops who relied on the State for their power and privilege.  Dostoevsky pretty well nailed the fate of a Jesus returning sans flaming chariots in “The Grand Inquisitor.”  And he was almost certainly correct in assuming that the defenders of the Christian faith would be Christ’s persecutors.

I give the Rev. Dobson credit for attempting to walk in the footsteps of Jesus; perhaps he will inspire a few of his flock to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk.  But it’s about more than a beard.

The answer to the question, “What would Jesus do?” probably leads straight to a chain link cell at Guantanamo Bay.  No, he wouldn’t try to blow up a building or slaughter innocents, but he would be a threat today just as he was a threat 2000 years ago.  Ed Dobson managed to upset the evangelical community a little, but everything upsets the evangelical community.  Ed failed because there’s no way in hell that Jesus would be feted on Good Morning America.  He’d be called a terrorist, a traitor, and probably a commie…just like the first time around.

Photo credit: unknown, linked to photobucket but i couldn’t find it there.  I found it at

3 replies »

  1. Amen! There’s a song called “Rebel Jesus” that talks about essentially the same thing, by the Chieftans. I don’t think the religious right today would be all that keen on Jesus’ *gasp” redistributive policies!

  2. For some reason, this reminds me of a Tori Amos song I love:

    “Mohammed my friend
    It’s time to tell the world
    We both know it was a girl
    Back in Bethlehem…”