Keeping kids on the path laid out by higher power

September 20, 1998|By Susan Reimer

WHATEVER YOU believe about the divinity of Christ, it is tough to argue with his life lessons. Even the most determined agnostic might agree that Jesus didn't have any bad ideas.

A church youth group in Holland, Mich., came up with a trick to help themselves remember Jesus' talking points, especially when they feel pressured by peers.

"What would Jesus do?"

Answer that question, the young people reasoned, and you will know what decision to make, what path to take.

As a reminder, the kids found someone to make woven bracelets featuring the initials of that question: WWJD.

The bracelets are the religious equivalent of a string tied around a finger, but also serve to identify Christian young people to each other. At least 14 million of them have been sold.

Today, WWJD is not so much a moral talisman as a product line.

There are WWJD hats, backpacks, tote bags, jewelry, mugs, buttons and refrigerator magnets. There are pens, pencils, erasers, wall plaques and posters.

"This will be the second Christmas for us, and it is a total craze," says Shelly Bandy, general manager of Bibles Plus in Carroll County. "WWJD is on everything. We get products from about 30 different distributors.

"Mostly kids buy it. But adults who are youth leaders buy it, too."

It is not hard to imagine how Jesus would have responded to such a marketing plan, but I know what I am going to do: pirate the idea for a copycat product line.

I plan to use a slogan of my own devising: WWMS - "What would Mom say?"

Perfect for non-Christians and other young people still struggling with matters of faith, my WWMS bracelets will help teens facing important choices remember this: "If my mother finds out, she'll kill me."

Those initials, on a ball cap or a button or tattooed to their %J foreheads, will help young people remember how to behave outside their mother's field of vision. Sort of the parenting equivalent of those electronic bracelets issued to people under house arrest.

Even if I have not addressed the particular choice my child is facing with my own ferociously clear set of do's and don't's, these WWMS trinkets will keep me in the front of his mind. A reminder that he should just assume I will disapprove.

This notion of omniscience and omnipresence is a particularly useful tool for parents.

Assume I will know, I tell my two children, and make your decision from there.

In all seriousness, I have not given my children a list of commandments, because I would have more than 10 and they would never remember any beyond the first two.

What I have told them is this: If you are presented with a choice or an opportunity or an occasion of sin, remember that someone will talk. Someone always does.

Even the president of the United States could not silence the one witness to his bad judgment.

From that fact, it follows that I will find out. It might be months later, but I will find out. Mothers always do. Someone's careless whispers will reach my ears.

And then you will have to deal with me.

So, I tell my children, as you pass through your teen years on your way to responsible adulthood, use these four simple words to keep your feet on the path to righteousness.

"What would Mom say?"

If you have to ask, you know the answer.

Pub Date: 9/20/98

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