Jesus will be at the Super Bowl this year – well, his slick, new commercials will be.
The “He Gets Us” campaign is a well-funded public relations strategy to rebrand Jesus – more so to rebrand the image of conservative Christians.
After decades of putting Jesus on the back burner and embracing radical right-wing theology and politics baptized by fundamentalist Christianity, activists are placing Jesus front and center to recast their image.
But what image are they recasting?
The campaign has over $100 million at its disposal. According to The Washington Post and Religion News Service, the campaign is funded by The Signatry, a Christian foundation based in Overland Park, Kansas. While the campaign has numerous supporters, it does not take long to find ultra-right activists connected to the ad buys.
The Oklahoma billionaire co-founder of Hobby Lobby David Green informed Glenn Beck that his family was contributing to the campaign.
Green said on Beck’s radio show, “We want to say — ‘we’ being a lot of people — that he gets us. He understands us. He loves who we hate. I think we have to let the public know and create a movement.”
Jon Lee, one of the chief architects of the campaign, told RNS, “Organizers hope to start a movement of people who want to tell a better story about Jesus and act like him.”
Lee continued: “Our goal is to give voice to the pent-up energy of like-minded Jesus followers, those who are in the pews and the ones that aren’t, who are ready to reclaim the name of Jesus from those who abuse it to judge, harm and divide people.”
Sounds very promising, right?
However, when pressed for specifics, there is not much to report beyond a slick campaign. Ads talk of Jesus being a refugee, confronting racism, being inclusive and combating hypocrisy. However, the ads offer no insights into what any of that truly means.
It would be like Jesus saying, “Love God and love neighbor,” without him identifying the neighbor and how to love them (Luke 10:26-28).
In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), immediately after setting forth the Great Commandment, Jesus identified “neighbor” as someone different from you and demonstrated going the extra mile with spiritual and financial support.
It was the details that got Jesus executed by the state. He was not a doughy-eyed prophet offering kumbaya conversations and a celestial afterlife. Jesus was about tangible specifics, demonstrating how heaven could be upon the earth.
That got him crucified.
The “He Gets Us” campaign has potential, but without any specifics I’m afraid it falls short. My fear is that it’s just a conservative ruse attempting to soften the image of fundamentalist Christianity.
Another fear is that if you looked at the belief systems behind this campaign, it would sound more like these unamusing quips:
- Jesus was a refugee, but he followed the rules.
- Jesus combated racism, but he did not make the powerful feel bad.
- Jesus was inclusive, but he demanded conversion and assimilation.
- Jesus called out hypocrisy, but he affirmed the elect.
Apologies for the cynicism, but after years of experiencing and evaluating fundamentalists, I’ve grown weary of slick campaigns absent any details.
As a Jesus-follower who believes and advocates for LGBTQ+ affirmation, women’s reproductive health, policing reform, dismantling systemic racism, creation care, keeping church and state separate, religious liberty for everyone, freedom from religion, overhauling rigid immigration policies, and other justice-based positions, I am not sure my ideas would be welcome at their table.
What I have learned over the years is that being welcomed to a table can mean nothing more than an invitation to listen, an opportunity to be converted and an offer to join the team.
While I am open to productive dialogue, my experience tells me something is not right about this campaign. I hope I am wrong. I hope it’s a group of Christians convicted by their past behaviors and mistakes.
Unfortunately, for now, I just can’t get behind “He Gets Us.”
CEO of Good Faith Media.