Thursday, December 22, 2011

We have got used to Muslim fanatics hating, killing, or destroying anyone or anything they think demeans their religion. We’re used to foaming at the mouth American fundamentalists who hate everything but themselves. (Most probably don’t really like themselves very much either when push comes to shove). Now it seems Catholics are joining in the fray. Riot police in Paris have been brought in to protect a city centre theatre putting on a play said to be blasphemous by many Catholics. A group of young Catholic activists has already disrupted another play said to be offensive, but critics say they are attacking the right to free speech. They have kept a vigil outside the theatre with the police holding them off. The play is followed by a nude pianist playing Haydn’s “Creation”! Maybe he is meant to represent Adam except that I don’t think Adam would have been quite so fat. Not a pretty picture.

The more I hear about religion the dafter it seems. Thinking of the mob outside the theatre, are they using the slogan "what would Jesus do?" Where did the slogan come from and is there ever an answer to the question posed? It sounds like something happy clappies would have come up with. Actually the question has a long history. In 1896 Congregational minister Charles Sheldon published a novel called “In His Steps - What would Jesus do?” in which a town is revolutionised when Christians "pledge themselves, earnestly and honestly for an entire year, not to do anything without first asking the question, 'What would Jesus do?'".

Thanks to a mistake by its first publisher, the book was never covered by copyright, so it was sold cheaply by multiple publishers. As a result it has sold 30 million copies, putting it in the top 50 bestselling books ever. Have you read it? I never even knew it existed.

A youth leader at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, one Janie Tinklenberg, after re-reading it in 1989, talked to her youth group about it.

At the time friendship bracelets were all the rage, so she got a local company to produce 300. She opted for the abbreviation WWJD and asked the group to wear them for 30 days, they caught on locally, and more were needed.

Naturally others with more of a commercial eye than Tinklenberg spotted the trend, made their own and took the marketing to the national level. By the time she attempted to register her trademark it was too late. Particularly in the US, but also elsewhere, it's on wristbands, mugs, T-shirts, bumper stickers, necklaces and earrings, though most of those seem rather to defeat the purpose of reminding the owner about anything, but God sure makes the wide boys who see a shining opportunity rich beyond belief. Apart from T-shirts, also available are WWJD? teddy bears, WWJD? lunch boxes, WWJD? underwear, and WWJD? baby bibs. Will the Muslims follow the example I wonder? Probably not. It would mean mentioning the prophet and that would be blasphemous.

Like all the most enduring slogans, "what would Jesus do?" has inspired countless rewrites. There has been everything from political parody - anti-war T-shirts asking "who would Jesus bomb?" - to something that is a parody in itself such as the "what would Jesus eat?" biblical diet plan!

The original question has been taken seriously by millions of Christian teenagers and has now been co-opted by protesters outside London's St Paul's Cathedral threatened with eviction.

Someone has commented, “I would have thought that anything that encourages people to stop and think before they act has got to be a good thing. At least that way you would know that anyone breaking the law had thought about it first and decided to continue anyway. With that knowledge perhaps judges would be more ready to hand out sentences that reflect the crime. Bankers and politicians spring to mind.”

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