Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jesus Fail

As one of the few Americans who still reads a print newspaper, I tend to pore through my Washington Post over a cup or three of coffee.  Much strikes me, but I'm particularly drawn to interesting faith-related niblets. 

Today, the moment of Jesus in the Post came in a conversation between two women.  They were both from Tennessee, members of the community where a man's house was allowed to burn to the ground because he'd forgotten to pony up his seventy-five bucks in fire-department service fees.  Their conversation went thusly:

Neighbors are torn over the incident.  Retired teacher Laura Davis rushed to see whether the Cranicks needed help but wants a world in which "people suffer the consequences" of their actions.  A friend challenged Davis to think about what Jesus would do.  "I don't know that he'd put it out," Davis said.  "I don't know what he'd do."
One could always assume that Ms. Davis isn't Christian, but then again, it is Tennessee.  It's deep Bible Belt, and pretty much ain't nobody not Christian in them parts.  Or nominally Christian, anyway. 

Here, we have evidence that Christian ignorance of the core teachings of Jesus goes rather deeper than flailing on the recent Pew survey.  Not knowing about key figures in the Reformation or the philosophical underpinnings of Catholicism is one thing.  But honeychild, if you can't figure this one out, you've failed as a Christian.


Because when Jesus was asked where the rubber meets the road when it comes to following him, he pitched out this little story.   Perhaps you've heard of it.  It's about this guy who chooses to care for an Israelite who foolishly walked a road alone and got himself in a mess of hurt.  It's terribly obscure, of course.  But it is, nonetheless, something that speaks to the heart of what Jesus taught.  If you see someone suffering, you help 'em.  It's a fundamental duty of every human being, one that Jesus couldn't possibly have made any clearer.

But it's probably not what she's been taught.  Many churches in Tea Party country, I'm sure they don't really preach about it at all.    Not very "pull yerself up by yer bootstraps."  It's so off message.


  1. "I don't know that he'd put it out," Davis said. "I don't know what he'd do."

    Wow. This is what happens when the Bible is disseminated from 'on high'. Impersonally transmitted from the pulpit and editorialized, rather than understood to the person and with the understanding of the Spirit in place. Can you imagine this attitude in the early church? The shortest lived movement of God in history!

  2. The guy probably owns 12 Bibles. He should read one. Then he might have a clue about what Jesus would do... which is exhaust himself trying to put out the fire... and sternly critique a la Matthew 23 the selfish, legalistic pricks who watched it burn.

  3. I think Jesus would send the fire into a herd of swine.

    And then he'd forgive the firemen (once they washed his feet with Chanel No. 5 and dried them with their hair).

    That's what I would do.

  4. Or he might just have told the parable of the ten virgins, the moral of which seems to be "You had better do the right thing while you have the chance, because you never know when the hour of reckoning will come, and those foolish ones who didn't pay their dues in advance will suffer great consequences, and their vain pleadings will all be too late. Those who might help them will refuse to hear them."

    I'm not saying that I agree with that parable myself. It always seemed a little legalistic and vindictive to me.

  5. Speculating about what Jesus would do is absurd and irrelevant. Browning makes this point rather well, as Jesus had a different set of tools at His disposal.

    Now, considering what Jesus taught His followers to do is another matter entirely. This is where Christ's parables and the Golden Rule kick in. This is the no-brainer part.

    In my own experience, when the brush between my house and a neighbor's caught fire, another family started putting out the fire and rang my bell to alert me to the situation. We worked together and there was never a reason to ask WWJD.

    As always, please remember that news outlets love to publish 'controversial' opinions (eg, a woman who wants others "suffer the consequences"), malign religious belief, and cause needless controversy by distracting readers from the real issues. [The real issue is that a government fire company didn't put out a fire because the homeowner's didn't pay a $75 tax and the absence of a profit motive encouraged them to watch the home burn.]