J500 Media and the Environment

What Would Jesus Do? by mindeeforman
October 28, 2008, 1:17 pm
Filed under: Art + Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Did you know the whole “What Would Jesus Do?” question originated in Topeka in the 1890’s? I sure didn’t… WWJD had a second coming (pardon the pun) in the 1990’s and turned into a fad. As with the term “green,” it became rather trite and overused and even became a snowclone with spin-offs like, “What Would Jesus Drive?” (an actual environmental campaign back in 2002 that unfortunately didn’t have a huge impact). When approaching the faith-based community regarding green initiatives, WWJD may still have some clout, but it has to go deeper than that.

What Would Jesus Drive?
What Would Jesus Drive?

With both religion and being green, it’s not so much about the talk you talk but the walk you walk. Do you really mean it? Do you try to live green (or by the tenents of your faith) in your own life, even if you’re not perfect? “Living your message” lends a much greater level of authenticity to what you say than words that get lost in so much “religious proselytizing” (whether your religion is an actual religion or something like the environment). As any parent will tell you, the “Do as I say and not as I do” line never works – kids learn by example and do what they see their parents doing.

As Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” The first step in relaying any message of importance to someone else is to truly believe in what you’re saying, and the best way to prove your belief is by living it in your own life.

-Mindee Forman


6 Comments so far
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I had no idea WWJD originated in good ol’ Kansas. Who knew! We’ve discussed in class and via the blog that green efforts are often regarded as a point of differentiation or excellence in the marketplace. I’m wondering if you’re finding this to be true in faith-based organizations too. I know funding is often important to these organizations so curious to see if green is a factor. Are memebers of the community demanding it, is it authentic or are efforts focused on marketing? Is it a combo?

Comment by jillwilder14

Interesting post. I have to admit, I was swept up in the WWJD fad in the nineties. While I think it is important to have visual cues as a way to stop and think about your actions, the effect seemed to trickle off over time. As I’ve been doing some work with Kansas Interfaith Power & Light, I’ve come across several quotes that serve as meaningful calls to action for people of faith. Here are a few:

“The same love for God and neighbor that compels us to preach salvation through Jesus Christ, protect the unborn, preserve the family and the sanctity of marriage, and take the whole Gospel to a hurting world, also compels us to recognize that human-induced climate change is a serious Christian issue requiring action now.” http://www.christiansandclimate.org/

From Reverend Richard Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals. “The climate change crisis that we believe is occurring is not something we can wait ten years, five years, even a year, to address. Climate change is real and human induced. It calls for action soon. And we are saying action based upon a biblical view of the world as God’s world. And to deplete our resources, to harm our world by environmental degradation, is an offense against God. That’s what the Scriptures say. Therefore, if we are to be obedient to the Scriptures, there is no time to wait, no time to stall, no time to deliberate… God doesn’t intend to ask me ‘Rich, how did I create the Earth?’ He won’t ask me that. He’ll say ‘Rich, what did you do to protect that which I created? And that is an awesome question that deserves a good answer.”

Comment by johncwilson


So what do you mean when you say people have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk? In your field work, did you find that if churches and religious organizations become greener, their community will become greener too? Is there some kind of research that shows that? Not trying to quiz you. It’s just that I was thinking that, as you know, lots of people go to church on Sundays and then think they’re done for the rest of the week. They hear what the priest, pastor, minister has to say, but don’t really practice the religious values they learn in their day-to-day lives. I’m just interested in whether faith-based groups can actually cause a big impact. What do you think?

Comment by angelikeg

Hi Jill and Angelike,

The pastor we interviewed was saying that “going green” is just now an issue in the church because it’s also just now an issue with mainstream society. He gave faith leaders a C+/D- in their efforts in this area because instead of actively taking a leadership role and paving the way, they just followed what society wanted to discuss.

War’s on people’s minds? They preach about war. The election? They preach about politics. I hope that as we (we being those who care most, I suppose) move forward and educate communities better (faith-based or otherwise) that congregations will begin to demand more action from their churches. (And workplaces, and all other aspects of their lives.)

The problem with “Sunday only” Christians does apply to living green, too. I think it often times comes down to convenience. Do people only recycle when they can put it in the bin on their curb and everything else gets tossed? Do they use reusable bags at the grocery store but drive a giant SUV? A challenge to faith-based leaders (and all green communicators) will be finding a balance. Educating without alienating, if you will.

Again, the pastor we interviewed said it was a huge challenge making environmental issues exciting enough to get his congregation engaged. They had a class on the Da Vinci Code and had 350 people show up, but when they had one on the environment maybe a dozen people came. How can we make green sexy? There’s the challenge…

Here’s hoping…

Comment by mindeeforman

Thanks for the quotes, John – those are great! Good luck next week, by the way…

Comment by mindeeforman

Great post. I resonate with your comment about “With both religion and being green, it’s not so much about the talk you talk but the walk you walk. Do you really mean it? Do you try to live green (or by the tenets of your faith) in your own life, even if you’re not perfect?” That opportunity to fail and be forgiven when we do is instrumental in getting people to take the first step.

Comment by j500

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