When I was a child my mother taught me many things. How to distinguish the weeds from the vegetables. How to make gravy without lumps. How to embroider. But her greatest lessons were: “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” as well as “treat others the way you want them to treat you.” In doing so, my mother taught me to respect others.
I wish more people had had my mother to teach them. Because every day I read story after story about people who cannot keep their hate-filled comments to themselves. It has become “okay” to be mean-spirited and sit in judgement of others. It is becoming normal to be disrespectful.
Several years ago many teens started wearing plastic wristbands stamped with “WWJD?” as a reminder to ask “what would Jesus do” in situations in which they found themselves. I received a few wristbands from students but each and every one of them ended up in the garbage. Why? Because I didn’t need a wristband to remind me what Jesus would do. I knew what Jesus would do. I found it sadly ironic that many kids who easily quoted bits and pieces of the Bible really didn’t know what Jesus would have done. Instead, they knew what they had been told a “good Christian” would do, but not what Jesus would have done.
For some, what Jesus did got lost in the translation and teaching of Jesus’ life. Somehow, Jesus became a symbol for certain activities that have very little in common with the actual life of Jesus. The man who was Jesus was not the blonde-haired, blue-eyed man in a downy white robe surrounded by children and fluffy sheep shown to me in my Sunday school class nearly forty years ago. No, he was a poor, brown-eyed, brown-skinned man who taught his disciples through his actions – to love one another. To speak up, to do the right and just thing for all. Jesus was a social activist who valued all life, especially the sick, the poor, and the marginalized.
I think it is very clear what Jesus would do today. He would weep.
- Jesus would weep for every member of humanity hurting because of hate-filled words and actions by others.
- Jesus would weep for those being bullied for real and imagined things.
- Jesus would weep for those assumed to have chosen their sexual orientation.
- Jesus would weep for those who never ask Santa Claus for presents because they know he doesn’t visit their part of town.
- Jesus would weep for those who must choose which of their children gets food or clothing or medicine or an education.
- Jesus would weep for those, young and old, who fall asleep with an empty belly, a bruised body, and a broken heart.
Jesus would weep.
Regardless of whether you think Jesus was just a guy who lived a long time ago or if you believe Jesus was the messiah, it is pretty clear what Jesus would have done. The question is, what will you do?
If you are a religious leader, please stop using the pulpit to encourage violence against others. Regardless of what faith you practice, violence is violence. It doesn’t matter if the message comes from a Christian preacher or a Islamic Imam – encouraging hatred against others must stop.
If you are a religious person but don’t identify with the extremists of your faith, speak up. Most people of faith live their lives in accordance with that basic tenet of “do unto others as you would have done unto you.” These are the voices that should be lifted loudly on Facebook, Twitter, and billboards along the world’s highways. Be the voice of justice. Do not let the voice of judgement and intolerance speak for you.
The time is now to do the right thing, before another person loses his/her life through religious intolerance. We can stop teaching people to hate and hurt others, but we must choose to do so. It starts in our hearts, it grows in our homes, and it flourishes in our lives. But only because we choose to make it so.
Instead of telling victims to hold on until a later time when things will get better, let us make things better today. For everyone. No more bullying, no more intolerance, no more looking the other way because we are uncomfortable. No more waiting to make humanity better.
What will you do?
I am the Christian Education Coordinator and Youth Director of a United Church of Christ church. If you are wondering how to find a church that welcomes all, and welcomes them extravagantly, please visit www.ucc.org to find a progressive church near you.