My brother phoned this morning to announce the end of a long-running conflict, with the next door neighbor he calls “Reverend Bill.” Though Bill isn’t actually a man of the cloth, he exhibits the insufferable tendency to answer every question with one of his own: “What would Jesus do?” According to Frank, Jesus apparently does whatever serves Bill’s best interests.
Frank’s maddening interactions with the Reverend began nearly a year ago, shortly after Bill and his wife purchased their new home. Bill immediately planted a line of conifers between his property and Frank’s. Problematically, the trees actually rested on my brother’s land. When he raised the issue and politely asked Bill to relocate the trespassers, Bill trotted out his standard refrain: “Frank, what would Jesus do?” The Reverend proceeded to quote portions of scripture, all of which added up to … nothing. As best Frank could tell, Jesus preferred the trees to remain exactly where they were.
Over the ensuing year, a number of equally unsatisfactory exchanges occurred between Frank and his adjoining property owner. The ones I enjoyed most were the incidents involving Reverend Bill’s Great Dane, who enjoyed emptying his bowels on Frank’s front porch. Each time Frank complained and asked Bill to clean up the mess, the Reverend responded: “What would Jesus do?” In Bill’s view, Jesus would’ve picked up his neighbor’s dog poop without objection.
My brother’s passive acceptance of abuse delivered under the guise of Christian tenets surprised me. For one thing, Frank’s Jewish. He’s not particularly religious either. Consequently, I know he doesn’t give a rat’s ass what Jesus, Moses, or Mohammed would do in any given situation. Nonetheless, as he tersely informed me when I first questioned his milksop reaction: “The last thing I need is a reputation as a religious bigot!”
Luckily for Frank, he’ll soon be free of Reverend Bill once and for all. As he informed me this morning, Bill and his wife sold their house last week! She’s moving to an apartment in West Orange. Bill’s new location remains to be determined, so the Reverend informed Frank a few weeks ago when seeking his professional advice as a public defender. Mr. holier than thou revealed that he’d been indicted on three counts of wire fraud. The prosecutor had offered him a deal, but it was conditioned on Bill turning state’s evidence against his alleged co-conspirators. After laying out the situation, the Reverend had asked my brother: “Well, what do you think?”
Frank practically frothed at the mouth waiting for Bill to finish his question, before ever so smugly replying: “I don’t know, Bill. What would Jesus do?”
Not unexpectedly, as Frank learned on Friday, what Jesus apparently would do is sell out his trusted business associates at the first hint of a reduced sentence.