“What are you going to do with Jesus?”

“It’s caught on because it lends immediacy and even more confrontation to the process of witnessing and proselytising.”

Question du jour:
“What are you going to do with Jesus?”

“Not much. If he ever lived then he died a long time ago and there’s no indication that he has any stake in what I do today.”

The question probably got its start in the video The Jesus Rant. It’s now popular enough to populate many pages of Google results.

It’s caught on because it lends immediacy and even more confrontation to the process of witnessing and proselytising. Jesus, it implies, is right in front of you, waiting for your answer. No passive response is available because action is required of you; inaction is point-blank rejection.

Importantly, there’s no really polite way to engage and then dismiss it. This is a technique learned long ago by aggressive salespeople and beggars: force the customer to stifle prompted responses, be rude and/or feel uncomfortable and guilty in order to escape signing up or handing it over. Since the question assumes the continued importance (and existence) of Jesus, the only way for a non-believer to answer honestly is to go “off script” and challenge the question itself. That means being more forward than you might like, especially when you’re responding to a friend, family member or apparently nice person. That’s the point.

Another important aspect of the question is what it doesn’t mention. Those who ask it are hardly going to follow up with, “Okay, now what are you going to do with the Buddha?…Mohammed?” To accept Jesus is to reject all other potential objects of worship just as strongly. Considering this goes against the purpose of the question; you’re supposed to accept Jesus and be relieved of guilt. Any mention of other religions, and suddenly it’s like you’re giving a pony ride to only one child out of a group.

I can’t make responding to this question easy, even by supplying an answer as I did first off, because its impact is primarily emotional. Once you understand that, however, you can see it for what it is: simple but effective propaganda.


2 thoughts on ““What are you going to do with Jesus?””

  1. When I look at the video as I am now (happily atheist), I find his opening line irrelevant and my brain switches on to “here comes a rant” mode and I find myself tapping my fingers on my table, waiting to see if there is any real point being made in the video.
    And I just hate the camera coming in and out of his face time and again – it all seems like a lot of razzle dazzle but without a real point being made.

    But here are three thought experiments I tried doing with Jesus (in the video, and this was before I read to the end of the answer above):

    – Tried replacing the name Jesus with “Zeus” … the impact of the video was so much less. Being from a sales background, I just saw a salesman in front of me, hurrying up with a smooth pitch. All the makings of the pitch were there. The “hey … I am as amazed as you are with this product. Its really outrageous, ludicrous etc” thing, the “hey … you need to act NOW” thing and the “hey … you may think its not what i claim it to be … but WHAT IF IT IS?” thing, the desperate “hey why would you not buy something so great thing”. And of-course, the general passive, subtle bullying (though its considered to be an outdated tactic now – just offends the weak “I must ask my daddy” customers, instead of invoking their sense of rebellion).

    – Tried pretending that I’d had no contact at all with any form of religion ever … then the guy just appeared a bit over-emotional and over-zealous about something I could not comprehend. And he was doing it without even trying to explain what it is that he was talking about.

    – Pretended just being spiritual (the “all is in one and one is in all” types – mysticism and stuff). Then I found the video to be, well … pretty narrow. I liked the guy’s passion in this case, but I wanted to tell him to see the broader picture.
    I wanted to tell him … stop worrying about what are we going to do about Jesus – he and whatever you want to call the “one spirit” will always be there for small things like us human souls anyway … the BIG QUESTION is what are we going to do with OURSELVES?

    (notice the sales training – the use of CAPS for emphasis 🙂 )

    No intention of hurting any feelings … I genuinely tried all three thought experiments above.

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