Likely by now, you have seen the marketing campaign known as “He Gets Us.” Much to my surprise, critical reviews are coming in from all sides.
Secular critiques include this one from CNN.com. As I read through their assessment of the campaign it came across to me as though they didn’t like the campaign and were fishing for reasons to be critical.
They did find one: their primary criticism was that those behind the campaign are evangelicals: “While ‘He Gets Us’ says it is not intended to be connected to any particular Christian ideology, it has theological ties to evangelical practices as well as financial ones.”
The article also cited criticisms of those from within Christian circles. For example, they cite Kevin Young who asserts, “Young people are digital natives who understand the difference between slick marketing and authenticity,” he says. “Megachurches, mega-events, and mega spending on marketing is seen as money that could have been used funding community programs and advocacy for the oppressed – such as refugees, LGBTQ+ individuals and abortion rights – and the poor.”
What is my assessment?
On the one hand, I have thoroughly enjoyed the commercials. I think they present a view of Jesus that is too often missing in the church today.
I think that the fact that such a campaign is needed is indicative of the problem that the Church must confront. We have a damaged image and it needs repair.
After all, shouldn’t the basic message of the lived community of God’s people be “He gets us”? The very fact that millions of dollars (the SuperBowl ads alone were several $million—apparently the organizers of the campaign plan to spend a billion dollars) are being spent on public advertising in an effort to reform the popular conception of Jesus demonstrates that the message of the lived community of Christians does not correspond well to the biblical message of Jesus.
I’m not sure the campaign is the solution
On the other hand, although I love the fact that Jesus is being well-represented and in such a high-profile manner, I am not sure that this is the best way to restore Jesus’ image. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the campaign might well be a poor use of resources—though I am not criticizing the campaign, I am simply suggesting that perhaps the money could have been used more wisely.
That is, would it not be more effective for the lived community of God’s people to be doing the work of Christ and thereby testify that “He gets us”?
My concern is that without a Church living out the message of Jesus in real ways, the money spent on slick advertising amounts to money wasted.
What good does such an advertising campaign do if the testimony of the Church is contradictory to the campaign?
Viewers might well say, “okay, He gets us,” now, what? Where do I go to find a community of people who reflect this message?
Now I do believe that there are MANY individuals and organizations that are living out the work of Christ locally, nationally, and internationally. In fact, that is my primary point.
It is my conviction that Jesus’ reputation would be far better off if the organizers of this campaign used their resources to fund the work of those individuals, churches, and organizations who are demonstrating that He gets us.
I am convinced that when the message of “He Gets Us” is lived, people are drawn to Christ—which, I suspect, is the primary agenda of the “He Gets Us” campaign.
So, while I love the campaign, and I fully agree that Jesus’ image needs to be restored in the broader western culture, I am not convinced that a well-designed marketing campaign is the best way to achieve the intended goal.
In fact, I am convinced that it is not.
I would much prefer that we fund the people who are actually living it out.
A word to evangelicals
I would like to add a word of exhortation to those who embrace “evangelicalism.” The fact that the CNN.com article’s primary criticism was that those behind the “He Gets Us” campaign are linked to evangelicalism should serve as a wake-up call.
Now, I am not saying that evangelicals need to abandon their convictions on any particular issue in order to placate the critics (It seems as though the critics are anti-evangelical because evangelicals are anti-LGBTQ+).
I don’t think the problem is the evangelical convictions (though I think the critics would say that it is), but the way evangelicals go about putting those convictions into practice. Evangelicals come across far too often as against the individuals instead of against the issue. One can oppose abortion and love those who procure abortions. One can oppose the gay and lesbian lifestyle, while still affirming the individuals. This, in fact, is even more vital when many people within the gay and lesbian communities consider their being gay or lesbian as something that they are and not simply something they do.
History tells us that when Christians rescued discarded Roman children, which eventually led to the formation of orphanages, when Christians took in widows, when Christians feed the poor, when Christians risked their lives during plagues to care for the afflicted when Christians began schools and institutions of higher learning, when Christians led the way for the abolition of slavery, when Christians started organizations such as the Red Cross, or more recently the International Justice Mission, and a host of others, when Christians did all these things and more, they were rarely criticized because of their views on abortion, LBGTQ+, and other such matters.
Too many evangelicals think that it is their views that are the source of criticism. Folks, people dying from hunger don’t care what your party affiliation is when you put a meal in front of them. Homeless people don’t tend to care much about the views of those who are sheltering and feeding them. The sick don’t ask those who are giving them aid for a position statement.
The problem is not that evangelicals have strong convictions on abortion and LBGTQ+ issues (whether you agree with such views or not). The problem is that evangelicals are more well-known for what they are against than what they are for.
Finally, I think that the critical responses to the campaign by some conservative Christians highlight another problem. Namely, there are some who are more concerned about preserving the integrity of their beliefs (orthodoxy) than they are living out their beliefs (orthopraxy). (I am not going to give those who are making such claims that nod by adding a link to their critiques but a simple google search is all that is needed).
Herein resides one of the problems. The very fact that some conservatives are leveling criticism against the campaign because its portrait of Jesus is “too liberal” is a problem. I have watched the commercials and I wonder, “what about the Jesus that is presented in these commercials is too liberal?”
The Jesus I read about in the Gospel regularly ate with, welcomed, and forgave the wrong people. If displaying Jesus as this kind of person, as one who “gets us,” is too liberal, then maybe the problem is not with the “He Gets Us” campaign, but with our understanding of Jesus.
NB: I highly recommend you listen/watch the NEME interview with Jer Swigart.
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 A good read on this topic is Philip Yancey’s classic work, The Jesus I never knew.