Back in the 1980s David Jenkins, as Bishop of Durham, managed to become the story. It always dismays Christians when they want to point people to Jesus and find the press pointing at them. The problem was that the press got wind of the idea that his views on the main features of Christianity were not conventional (they were, but they were academically nuanced). Eventually something he said 'the resurrection is not just a conjuring trick with bones - it's far more than that' began to circulate as the exact opposite 'Bishop says resurrection a conjuring trick with bones.'
I heard the original interview on the radio and know what he said.
But for a few months, in the pubs, clubs, homes and workplaces where I wandered it was easy to talk about Jesus. You started with 'What do you think about the Bishop of Durham' and then moved on to 'So what do you think happened at the resurrection?' Easy. Good chats ensued.
As a naive ordinand/student in 1982 or so I suggested to a group in the Common Room that 'What Would Jesus Do' was a good way to approach an ethical issue. A lecturer, who spent a lot of time in the Junior Common Room because we had a snooker table and the SCR didn't, overheard and said, 'I don't think it's a valid question.'
Since one of the reasons we spent time in the JCR was to get away from theological discussions with lecturers for a while, and given that he had placed his view diametrically opposite to mine rather than letting me tease out dissatisfaction with my own position (a much better way to argue), I didn't rise to the bait.
He was right though.
Five years ago, when being interviewed for the post I currently hold, my final question was, 'What one word would five people who know you well use to describe you?' I answered that the thing I appreciated about most of my friends was that their response in such circumstances would be unexpected. I then listed the sort of words I hoped my friends would use if I bought them enough beer and promised them more.
What Would Jesus Do was being debated on the radio yesterday. I heard nobody say that having read the gospels they would not like to hazard a guess at how this most unpredictable of holy men might respond. For every 'Let the one without sin cast the first stone' there is a 'Let's go somewhere else.' For each compassionate gut reaction, 'They were like sheep without a shepherd' there is a 'Wipe the dust from your feet if you are not welcomed.'
So outside St Paul's Cathedral my Jesus, my saviour, the one like whom there is no-one (English O level, grade 3, thanks Mr Parry) would just as likely tear down the tents, ask how many people there had any credit cards, admonish the cathedral staff for not welcoming the poor or ignore the crowds and go down the pub and speak to some others because that was why he came.
So WWJD? What Would Jesus Drink?
Obviously WWJD. White Wine or Jack Daniel's.