The following is a guest post by Jade Nicole Neverdon Merritt, founder of Mikey’s Miracle Foundation, Inc. Learn more about the Imagining Justice in Baltimore series.
What Would Jesus Do?
Do you remember the bracelets?
Popular in the 90s, I owned several bracelets, in various colors, etched with the letters, WWJD, abbreviated for “What Would Jesus Do?’ Worn by many Christians and what some have called a cultural revolution, the bracelets were very popular accessories intended to serve a symbolic reminder for Christians to act in a manner that would demonstrate the actions of Jesus Christ. Particularly, the WWJD was a prompting of how to act in a manner reflective of Jesus when confronted with conflicts or moral dilemmas. While Jesus is referenced in many sacred texts and considered to be one of the most influential people in the world, for Christians He is Savior and one’s life we who seek to model.
While I no longer wear the bracelets, as a Christian woman, I still often find myself asking the question “What Would Jesus Do?” as I strive to live a life that is reflective of my Savior who loves all. While I’m not a perfect person, I do seek to live in a manner where there is peace, love, and kindness towards others.
Throughout my time as an ICJS fellow, we examined a case study from the 2016 Department of Justice report as it relates to the mistreatment and false arrest of African-American males in Baltimore City. It is through this cohort that we explored religion as it relates to social justice issues and how we as leaders in business and various religious communities could come together to drive the change our city so desperately needs.
Each session, we explored the case study through different sacred texts and the question of ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ always came to my mind and more specifically, do we have a moral obligation to respond to injustices that plague our city? For me, the question is yes. While this country was built upon Christian principles and a moral obligation to do just by others, I would argue that we have lost our way. In today’s political and social climate, specifically in the city of Baltimore, we have failed greatly. We have failed to respect the lives of our black and brown brothers. We have failed to acknowledge that law enforcement continues to abuse its power and that the system has been designed to oppress certain races and classes.
I think about how different things would be if those individuals in law enforcement power had adornments such as the WWJD bracelets to serve as a physical reminder to think differently before they respond in certain situations that seek to harm or oppress others with no valid reason. We are made up of a country of various faiths and while it may not be Jesus for all but who or what would be the symbolism to prompt one to act in a space of love and peace towards another. While there is, and will always be debate over moral character, and what is considered just, I believe we should all aspire to live with the standard to do the right thing. For me, that is what Jesus would do.
The city of Baltimore is part of a national conversation around questions of justice, race, and community. In the initiative Imagining Justice in Baltimore, the ICJS will contribute the perspectives of local Jews, Christians, and Muslims to the public conversation about justice, and injustice, in Baltimore. Each contributor represents her or his own opinion. We welcome this diversity of perspective and are not seeking a single definition of justice between traditions, nor denying the multivocal nature of justice within traditions.