So what would Republican Jesus do?
By E.F Nicholson
Back in my early twenties me and some friends had a running joke that when faced with the most mundane of dilemmas we would ask the question “What would Jesus do?” Should I get ribs or a burger? Um, what would Jesus do? Should we try to park here or get a little closer to the venue? Um what would Jesus do? Over the years it’s a question that’s kind of stuck in my mind. Recently in the UK election there was a Twitter account called ‘Tory Jesus’. It took heartless and cruel Tory policies and put them in speech bubbles above a white blue-eyed Jesus. It was funny as these policies are so horribly mean and nasty that it is hilarious to see them coming out of the mouth of Jesus.
Asking “what would Jesus do?” is really analogous to asking what is the most loving, compassionate and tolerant perspective to take in a situation. You could replace Jesus with Buddha or Rumi and get the same angle. What’s ironic with the “what Jesus would do?” question is so many of the most right-wing politicians consider themselves devout Christians. Mitch McConnell in the US right now is working hard to push through Trump’s repeal of Obamacare, giving billionaires and the 1% a massive tax break while taking healthcare away from 22 million of America’s poorest. As a Christian he somehow has convinced himself “that yes, that’s exactly what Jesus would do!” Maybe his logic is if blessed art the meek, then the more meek, the more blessed people. Though it’s just more likely he holds himself to a way, way lower standard. Whatever the case, politicians seem to be able to make that disconnect between their Christian faith and the Beelzebub-inspired policies they so rigorously work to make happen. I assume they must somehow have managed to rationalise the distinction between personal values and political work as being separate. Having love and compassion as values that direct politician’s work is seen as “unrealistic”. Yet there is ample evidence to show the exact opposite. Jeremy Corbyn’s recent Labour manifesto was an example, to begin with at least, of what public policy based on some basic values of compassion and fairness and care could look like.
Yet for myself I don’t have those kind of large scale influences in my life where I am forced to look at how my personal value system impacts potentially millions of people. Rather my application of the “what would Jesus do?” applies to asking my daughters to clean their room before they go to bed, and coming back an hour later to find the room messier and the two of them fighting over whose mess is the messiest. As my stress, irritation and angst bubbles up I am faced with what is the most loving and compassionate response, not just to my kids but for myself. Through my day and the rudimentary interactions with family and friends and the random people I cross paths with, that question of how to act from a loving place is at the forefront of my mind. After all, coming from the most loving place is often akin to coming from the most mindful place. It is a lot harder to act out of stress, resentment, anger, sadness, hurt, or fear when I remain anchored in the act of self-remembering or self-observation.
My wish for a more just and more loving world isn’t some abstract political aspiration; rather the rubber meets the road in my day-to-day life. It’s here I work to remind myself the value of these small loving and mindful acts in the bigger picture of things. It’s very easy to read the news about what’s happening in Yemen or the worsening climate change and feel my actions, thoughts and relationship have no bearing, as I hold no political, social or economic power to bring weight or influence on these large geopolitical issues. This response presumes I know the ripple effect of each and every action I take, when in reality I don’t. What I do know is interconnection and interdependence are fundamental realities of our existence. Therefore the love, patience and kindness I work to nurture and grow with my kids, wife and immediate circle of people I know on a daily basis really matters. How exactly, I can’t know, but I know it does.
The world needs more love and it needs more self-awareness. I can rail in my mind with self-righteous indignation against the likes of Mitch McConnell and Theresa May yet if in my own world I just continue to remain asleep to my habits, wounds and conditioning, it’s all in vain. We live in cultures and economic systems where being aware and loving is an act of dissent, as so much of the forces that direct my day and populate my mind encourage me to be self-involved, habitual and unconscious. So “what would Jesus do?” or “do I want to be kind or right?”, or whatever way you choose to frame it, are daily and moment to moment questions worth remembering and worth acting on.