What Will You Do?

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.

23 thoughts on “What Will You Do?

  1. No matter what your religious belief–or lack thereof–it’s hard to deny the world would be a better place if everyone just followed the Golden Rule. So simple, and yet apparently so difficult.

    Good post, Kristina. 🙂

    • Hi my sweetest “Spammer” – I have no idea why you go to my spam-box, but I just go find you, because I love you and your comments. Thank you!!!

  2. Yes, very brave words. What a wonderful post to read! After a dozen years of parochial school, I always found it sadly ironic that modern-day interpreters of the Bible somehow missed parable after parable in which people judged themselves better than others. My favorite part of scripture remains the Beattitudes. Would that we all strove to live full of love and free of judgment.

    • I too love the Beattitudes although I think of myself as mostly a “Matthew” kind of gal. 🙂 What a gift you are Ev – thanks for being one of my foremost supporters!

  3. I had to tone down my grin a little when I read this since the librarians yell when I smile too loudly.

    This is PHENOMENAL! People twist and convolute a message of love and forgiveness–it’s sick! Jesus ACCEPTED the woman at the well. He ACCEPTED Mary Magdalene. “He who is without sin should cast the first stone.” Everyone has issues, but we weight certain ones to be “worse.” Sin is sin–that’s it. Jesus would ACCEPT the broken and the “sinful” in today’s world because he loved people who loved and cared for others–and even the ones who didn’t.

    Very well put.

    • Good to see you stopping by the blog – it pains me to hear words be taken so literally in order to support the abuse of others. Thank you for your support today!

  4. It IS becoming normal to be disrespectful. And I find that so disturbing. I think you make a very good point that it often starts with leadership. I am always shocked and saddened when religious leaders in particular speak words of hate.

    The only thing we can do is control ourselves and teach our children the right values. Like your mom did with you. It all starts at home. But unfortunately, so many young people are not getting that foundation…

  5. I agree wholeheartedly. Let’s make things better today. Your post makes me think of one of my favorite movies “The Year of Living Dangerously” in which Luke 3:10 is prominently featured. Great post!

    • When I was hired I made it clear that I teach about religion using primarily gender neutral language and I was questioned why I would do that. My answer? Why create another generation who must translate words in order to make meaning or reduce hurt. Same thing with our teachings of so much of the Bible. Why not simply teach our children TODAY to love and respect others – regardless of differences? It will save so many lives…

  6. I find it funny sometimes that in my area at least, it is the movement towards punk and grunge that are waking people up to what Jesus really was all about.

    I live in a small rural town and I bet the teachings have been told time and time again over the past fifty years. But now, things are a bit different. We have a group of young people who are changing how people think. They dress in black, have piercings, tattoos, and listen to loud music. And they are Christian and much more opened minded than their parents and grand parents ever thought to be.
    These kids are willing to give everyone a chance and accept people for who they are. It’s kind of funny really to see the old timers grumble about it, but even they are becoming more open.
    So *high Five* to these kids, may they keep the gears of change here going!

    • Such wonderful news -I too find that my most inspiring workers may have a different fashion statement than others. I say, bring it on! Especially if it makes a difference!

  7. Great words and something we should all be mindful of. One of the most powerful verses in the Bible in my mind is the shortest: Jesus wept. If we cared even 1% as much as He did, we’d be so much better off.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this!

  8. My mother taught us the sister phrase of “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” I’ve always tried to live by that.

    I’m not a church goer, nor a bible thumper, or even someone who blames/thanks God for the events in my life.

    That being said, I do believe in an Almighty power. And every time someone spew hate in the name of their God or Lord, I shudder – because if there truly is a God, I don’t view Him as someone hateful, vindictive, or one who would preach violence toward others. By the same token, when a friend says “but what if my children go to hell because they weren’t baptized,” I said “Do you really think God is so cruel as to take something like that out on an innocent?”

    I used to attend church occasionally with my cousins, but avoided it after a sermon on how the sinful would burn in Hell. WTF… I read most of the bible around age 12 and I did’t see that in there. I didn’t see passages saying being gay is wrong. People, sadly, twist things to fit, and then pass those words of “wisdom” on to those too ignorant or trusting to look further, and the cycle passes on.

    I am so glad you spoke out, because those religious fanatics are why Religious Tolerance is an oxymoron. I wish more people spoke out who were Christians yet realized that preaching about gays being an abomination is just plain wrong and belongs nowhere in religious teachings. The world would be a much better place.

    More mothers and fathers like us and our moms wouldn’t hurt either. 🙂

    • You bring up so many reasons why I had no desire to attend a church regularly until I found the UCC. I saw so much at odds with how I interpreted the Bible and what living life as a good and just person looks like. As a progressive Christian, I don’t believe in most of the creedal elements taught in more conservative churches. How could a creator wish ill upon its child? Unfathomable. I really like the 8 Points on The Center for Progressive Christianity’s website. A much healthier perspective about faith and living a faithful life than living in fear.

      SO glad to see you here today! {hugs}

  9. Hi, I really liked your post, and then saw you’re a member of the UCC which my family is too. I’m so proud to be raising my children in such a loving and accepting church, and I especially like this phrase in our new messaging – “welcomes extravagantly”.

  10. Thanks, Kristina, for this message, in particular. Have you ever seen the movie, “Prayers for Bobby”? I have seen it on TV several times now and I ache every time. But I also feel good that some brave people re-examine their perspective and find ways to make positive change in the world. I don’t belong to any church but also believe that my upbringing, like yours, has made me open-minded and not just tolerant of diversity, but welcoming. I am having a nice time in New Orleans, a very colorful place in every sense of the word. I can’t say I am never judgemental, but I try to make it about actions and not the person and try hard to understand the perspective that leads to the action. To me, the purpose of education is to open minds through exposure to diverse ideas and the conversations in certain circles that disparage formal education scare me very much. I appreciate your message.

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