Skip to comments.Four letters that shook the world (WWJD)
Posted on 07/31/2003 3:04:03 PM PDT by Pokey78
The salesman is a little excitable, but forgive him his enthusiasm. His product could change your life, he says. Paul, from Worcestershire - it's first-name terms on eBay, the online auction house - is keen for you to pick up your personal invitation into the smart set. But before that, he has a few questions.
"The craze that has swept America has finally reached the UK," he announces. "Are you a trend setter? Do you like to be the coolest dude in your area? Would you like to be among the first in your area to be seen wearing one of these?"
Paul wants you to get your hands on the fashion accessory of the season. So what is it, this must-have item, this ticket to paradise? It is a brightly coloured braided wristband carrying four letters. Not FCUK, not Nike; not a brand name at all, in fact, but "WWJD". The letters stand for a message that would never get anywhere near either the catwalk or the advertising billboard: "What Would Jesus Do?"
If these bracelets are to become the hottest new fad - and they have a cheerleader in Heat magazine, which rarely misjudges the mood of Britain's youth - it will be the most unlikely craze. Which is why those who know about these things are so fascinated by it. Will the wristband make the transition from passing fancy to fashion icon? From happy-clappy churchgoer to teenage partygoer? From there, will it, like so many other fashion crazes, gain a grip on the rest of us? Or will the excitement dissipate as quickly as the fame of a reality TV show contestant?
It's a reasonable question, since the intrigue stems from a passing comment heard on this summer's Big Brother. Cameron Stout, the devoutly Christian fish-trader from the Orkneys who bagged the £70,000 winner's prize, is a proud Baptist. "If anyone asks me about my Christian beliefs, I will tell them. I am not shy when it comes to talking about God," he says. Given that he was imprisoned in the BB house for nine weeks, cut off from the outside world, it is not surprising that the subject came up. During one visit to the diary room, he happened to mention that young people in his church had taken to wearing WWJD bracelets and wristbands in an effort to make sense of the world.
Cue much excitement on the show's companion programme, Big Brother's Little Brother, when the presenter Dermot O'Leary began wearing one of the wristbands in tribute to Cameron and his church group. Cue a swooning reference in Heat about how O'Leary had been "pioneering a new look". Cue 500 readers' letters and e-mails to the magazine, begging for the chance to win one.
No sooner had Cameron made his comments than reports appeared in the Scottish press of a run on the bracelets at Christian bookshops. Little wonder that Heat's editor Mark Frith predicts that they could become the latest in "kitsch, ironic fashion".
So where did the bracelet appear from? In 1896, the Christian novelist Charles Sheldon wrote a book called In His Steps. It's the tale of a church minister, a businessman, a newspaper editor and a vagrant. One day the Rev Henry Maxwell is preaching at his pulpit when he is confronted by a tramp. He and his parishioners are thrown into confusion. The appearance of the stranger leaves them deeply shaken. How should they deal with him? A great amount of soul-searching goes on, until they alight on a solution. All they have to do when confronted by an ethical dilemma is to ask: "What Would Jesus Do?"
Fast forward almost 100 years and to real life. In the small beach town of Holland, Michigan, a place boasting little other than a factory making wooden shoes, Janie Tinklenberg, a youth worker at the Calvary Reformed Church, is recalling the book, which had been a family favourite since her childhood, with groups of young people. She is intrigued by its central question. One day in 1989, she finds herself in conversation with a congregant who works in the merchandising business. Might she and he be able to come up with a gimmick that could act as a prompt to young Christians to lead the good life?
Today, Tinklenberg is still spreading the word. Speaking from Toledo, Ohio, where she is on a mission trip, she recalls: "We looked at T-shirts and hats. But this was the time when kids were making braid friendship bracelets with coloured thread..." So bracelets it had to be. "And we just used the abbreviation because kids wouldn't have time to read the four words." The conversation was to have an astonishing outcome. Estimates about how many bracelets have been sold in the United States range from 15 million to 52 million.
But the whole thing started on the tiniest scale. Tinklenberg asked her friend to make just a few of the wristbands to see if she could interest her charges in them. They were asked to wear them for 30 days. "The first run, we had to order two or three hundred as a minimum order. Kids were coming back and saying that people wanted them. So we started giving out two at a time - one to give away, and one to keep.
"What would happen is that an aunt or uncle or neighbour would then come along and say, 'That's a really cool idea, where can I get those things?' and they would call me, and I would call the folks who manufacture them and we'd start getting those bracelets out. And it was just word of mouth."
Gavin Calver, an evangelical worker for British Youth for Christ, was what a marketing executive would call an "early adopter" of the product, having spent many of his early years in America. He says the bracelets were enthusiastically received in the church. "For the young person growing up, it was an excellent way of reminding them of the personal commitment to Christ and of their behaviour as a result." They were also "a great conversation opener: not as threatening as carrying a large Bible under your arm. It's a way in. It's there to remind me how to behave and also to share my faith with those around me."
Things bubbled along relatively quietly until, one day, the manufacturer sent samples of the bracelets to a Christian bookshop convention. Soon, word had spread across the US. From a few hundred bracelets a week, the factory was churning out 20,000 a week by 1997.
America was spellbound by this simplest of inventions. It had moved into the very mainstream of secular life - into politics, and sport. Baseball, gridiron football and basketball players made sure they were never without their faithful reminders. On the international scene, Hansie Cronje, the disgraced former cricket captain of South Africa, who died in an air crash last year, wore a wristband.
If it was good enough for the private morality of public figures, it was also good enough for an American politician to appropriate for his public persona, in a country where Christianity is not so much a badge of honour for those seeking high office as the price of entry. In 1999, Al Gore, fighting the presidential election, told a newspaper reporter that there was one question that guided him. You guessed it - "What Would Jesus Do?"
For some, the question was a little restricting. A pressure group got in on the act. Last year, television commercials appeared in four states beseeching people to abandon the gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles that are so popular in the US. The ads asked: "What Would Jesus Drive?"
The Rev Jim Ball of the Washington DC-based Evangelical Environmental Network, which paid for the commercials, said: "We take seriously the question of 'What Would Jesus Do?' 'What Would Jesus Drive' is just a more specific version. What would he want me to do as a Christian? Would he want me to use public transportation?"
This was only a prelude. The slogan and the wristband were moving out of the church and on to the streets. T-shirts appeared featuring a picture of Michael Jordan, the basketball star, and the question: "What would Jordan do?"
Americans without the remotest interest in religion enjoyed the enigmatic charm of those four mysterious letters. The Christian message was becoming muffled by a commercial one.
You could pick up your WWJD trinket at the same time as you were filling up the car. "Probably the thing for me that was the most uneasy was the first time when I went into a gas station and there, next to the can-openers for beer and all this other stuff, was some cheap, dangly something that had WWJD scrawled on it," says Tinklenberg. "It was clearly just getting in on the action while it was hot. For me, WWJD should not be some sort of fashion deal, with people saying, 'I'm going to buy a blue one because it matches my jeans.' It was meant to be a reminder for church people."
WWJD is threatening to become a brand like any other. Look on the internet, and you can pick up WWJD pens, pencils, travel mugs, lunch bags - even teddy bears and cutesy knick-knacks known as "snow buddies". For $20 you can buy What Would Jesus Do? - The Boardgame. ("Challenge yourself as you put yourself in Jesus's shoes and explore 600 thought-provoking questions.") It has shifted more than 100,000 units since its launch at the height of the WWJD boom.
So could it all happen here in Britain? Evangelical Christians have - unnoticed by the rest of us - been enthusiastic supporters of the wristbands ever since they arrived in British churches a couple of years ago. To them, according to Hazel Southam, the editor of the Baptist Times, the bands are already "slightly passé". She says: "It was huge with the under 25s, the kind of people who would go to ordinary rock festivals as well as Christian rock festivals." Now, in church circles, "it's not the new trend, but they are still quite popular".
You know that something is aiming for the mainstream when it becomes the subject of satire. A couple of months ago, a stallholder at the National Christian Resources Exhibition in Surrey was selling WWJD boxer shorts. With the fly sewn up.
Gavin Calver no longer wears his wristband. "You don't replace the Bible with a bracelet," he says. "I wore one as a teenager because I felt I needed one. I would now like to think that I would immediately go to the Bible anyway."
Though he views them as "an excellent way of reminding young people of their personal commitment to Christ," he is concerned that wearers should not lose sight of the meaning of the four letters. "To wear the bracelet is not about a fad, it is about developing a relationship with Jesus. They are not a fashion statement. They are there to remind us how to behave and share our faith with others. If they are used for any other purpose, that is wrong."
And Janie Tinklenberg? She is the registered trademark holder of the WWJD bracelet - in theory the only person allowed to market them. But she has had nothing to do with the product since the early days. In practice, she says, she would never go to law to prevent someone else using the letters for their private gain. "All the money that was made from it was made by other people. I have never made a penny."
What would John Wayne do?
(What Would Brian Boitano Do?)
Would he want me to use public transportation?"
I was glad that an idiot like the "Rev" Jim Ball asked this question because it shows the fallacy of the whole WWJD program.
"It was huge with the under 25s, the kind of people who would go to ordinary rock festivals as well as Christian rock festivals."
Anyone under 25 without proper teaching are not fully capable of knowing what Christ did let alone what He would do. Hence you have these WWJD braclet wearers blaspheming Jesus by not only convincing themselves, but teaching others that Jesus would go to a rock concert. What happens is that they strap on WWJD jewlery and then go about with legalism du jour, morality based on what they want, and all along they tell everyone that Jesus would engage in sin.
The Boardgame. ("Challenge yourself as you put yourself in Jesus's shoes and explore 600 thought-provoking questions.")
Situation Ethics redressed.
But then again, the American Religion has very little to do with traditional Christianity. The only thing in common is that believers have with your garden variety WWJD devotee is a character named "Jesus" in the religion.
I believe Jesus WOULD go to a rock concert, if that's where the people were that needed to hear the message, and I can't think of people in any more need than those at a Marilyn Manson or perhaps a rap concert.
Jesus would go to a rock concert. Why wouldn't he? He went to a lot of places that the "righteous" wouldn't go, as in, say, to a tax collector's house. Remember? It's not the healthy who need a doctor...
But then again, it's not a sin to go to a rock concert, although there are a lot of people who go to rock concerts who have problems. But I'm sure there are lots of people in lots of different places who need Jesus.
Besides, WWJD is at least enough to get people to even think about Jesus, which is more than many people do nowadays.
You also don't need to be over 25 and have "proper teaching" to know what Jesus did.
I thank you for pointing out what could only be made by those who support WWJD. Eve in the garden fell to temptation. She succumbed to the the lust of the eyes, the flesh and the spirit. Jesus Christ did not fall to temptation. In fact he never sinned because he acted in total obedience to God. So it is fallacy to say because Jesus did, I can or should to. (Jesus didn't go to rock concerts but he did go to the homes of repentant sinners, not sinners who celebrate their sin.)
But then again, it's not a sin to go to a rock concert
I thank you again for providing the opportunity to show that the WWJD phenomina is blasphemy and rationalized hedonism on parade.
2 Cor 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
The problem is that people think that their hearts are pure just because they accept the apostate American Religion.
Jer 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? It doesn't matter to the WWJD person, because their hearts have convinced them that they are exempt from temptation, exempt from bad decisions, and have a particularly dissonant philosophy that simultaneously is antinomian yet legalistic. Antinomian in that biblical principles are said to be "nailed to the cross", in that whole ideas like "Jesus would go to rock concerts, so I should go too."; yet are contradicted by a self-righteous legalism that projects the corrupted nature of the sinner onto the perfect God/Man that was Christ. The concept is pure evil to pretend that corrupt man can speak for Christ outside of clear biblical principles.
You also don't need to be over 25 and have "proper teaching" to know what Jesus did.
Interesting. Empirical evidence dictates otherwise, or else there wouldn't be a need for seminaries. Even in the article there was the claim that older people didn't need the WWJD crutch. Why do you suppose that is? Did you know that a jewish priest could not enter the ministry until he was thirty years old? Why do you suppose that was? When it says in Scripture that the older should teach the younger, why do you suppose that is in there for? Or like the WWJD crowd, the Bible is a dust covered relic that has been replaced by hackneyed vapid chants in the form of "choruses"? Why is it the youth and the nominal "Christians" who wear their entire knowledge of Scripture summed up in a bumper sticker or T-Shirt?
But I'm sure there are lots of people in lots of different places who need Jesus.
This is as lame an excuse to go to a rock concert as I have heard young girls rationalize "missionary dating" a pagan boy. The people chased Christ around. He even had to take boats to get away from those following him. Jesus Christ's ministry was to his own people - that fulfilled prophecy. His people were utter reprobates, so to fulfill prophecy he had to deal with them. He taught at the temple, and ministered to those who would repent. He taught those who followed Him. But the WWJD crowd says that they should chase the pagans, to convert the temple into a rock concert to lure the pagans in with promises of free entertainment and food. Jesus had the crowds before he fed them - He didn't say, follow me and I will feed you food, the price is to listen to what I have to say. Besides, I fail to see how effective any "ministry" will be when the people are at a rock concert for the noise, not the message.
Good trolling, except that it is a little too obvious that you aren't serious.
The American Religion believes that people can be manipulated by man's will into heaven. It is the eptiomy of arrogance to believe that someone who slapped down full admision price to a Manson concert would care to listen to some punk wearing some vapid "Warn The Brothers" T-shirt to repent. (Does the American Religion even teach "repentance" these days, or has it just degenerated down to a "choose Christ" thing?)
Besides, if it was so easy to just walk into a topless bar, a Manson concert, a gay bath-house, or a crack den and convert the lost, why destroy the Church by converting it into a place so worldly that the "seekers" feel unthreatened?
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