Subliminalism & The Anti-Progressive Book Hijacking Jesus

Subliminalism & The Anti-Progressive Book Hijacking Jesus May 11, 2024

subliminalism anti-progressive

Columnist, pastor, and founder of Stand Strong Ministries Jason Jimenez has written a new book called Hijacking Jesus: How Progressive Christians Are Remaking Him And Taking Over His Church. Jimenez is one of a growing number of evangelical leaders taking up the anti-progressive agenda. Much has been written on Patheos about people like Alisa Childers who is perhaps the loudest in the crowd of protestors shouting and pointing fingers. But Jimenez is a newer voice that is becoming louder each day as his book slowly moves up the charts.

This article is not a review of Jimenez’s book as much as it is an example of the issue of subliminalism. This is a new concept I have created which I discuss in greater detail in my forthcoming book, The Kingdom of Man: Evangelicalism and the Distortion of American Christianity. Subliminalism is a concept that revolves around understanding how some evangelicals use deceptive language to push a theological or social agenda.


What is Subliminalism?

Subliminalism is the use of deceptive language meant to subconsciously induce specific beliefs or behaviors within an individual. Subliminal messaging has been used for years in marketing as a way to force consumers to make decisions they otherwise might not make after viewing an advertisement. For example, product placement in movies such as a McDonald’s in the background are often subliminal attempts at getting the consumer to go out and grab their favorite sandwich.

Subliminalism within the Church is nothing new and it is not exclusive to evangelicalism. With that said, they have certainly perfected the art. Subliminal language in the Church is often characterized by using terms like “Biblical”, “The Word of God”, “God’s Will”, or my favorite “God told me”.

These subliminals in particular are examples of pseudo-authoritative terms. Pseudo-authoritative terms are meant to invoke a false sense of authority within an individual towards the person using the language. Ultimately, the person using the terms means to give their statements more authoritative weight than they should. In a sense they are borrowing someone else’s authority and using it as their own – in this case Gods.

Although there are some who use subliminalism intentionally, probably most do so subconsciously. It has become subconscious in large part because certain terms have become cliché and as a result, people use them even though they don’t think about what they are actually saying. Nevertheless, words should matter for Christians and we should be intentional about the words we choose.


Has Jesus been Taken?

I chose to use Hijacking Jesus because it serves as a perfect example of subliminalism. The pages are littered with subliminal messaging that when taken together creates an inaccurate characterization of progressive Christianity.

Let me be clear, unlike some in progressive Christianity, I generally don’t care when people critique it. Some critiques have value and we should learn from them in order to grow. What I find intolerable is mischaracterization and a lack of humility.

It is certainly possible that Jimenez and others like him just don’t understand progressive Christianity and so their mischaracterization is simply a result of that ignorance. This was the case in the 80s and 90s with the mischaracterization of Postmodernism. In that case, you would be hard-pressed to find a single evangelical who understood what Postmodernism was trying to do. Their modernistic worldview too often got in the way of their elucidation.

You don’t have to go far in Hijacking Jesus to see subliminalism. In the Preface when discussing why he wrote the book Jimenez says:

“I wrote Hijacking Jesus to help biblical Christians defend their faith while making a convincing case for those who might be falling for the elusiveness of progressive Christianity to change course.”

Outside of the fact that the word “elusive” was used incorrectly, we see the phrase “biblical Christians”. Despite being a completely non-sensical phrase it is full of subliminalism. Jimenez uses it as a contrasting element to progressive Christianity at the end of the statement. The subliminal message being conveyed here is that progressives don’t care about the Bible and therefore are not Christians. Jimenez uses this juxtaposition throughout the book.

Jimenez also uses the term “new” in referring to progressive interpretations of Jesus. Terms like this are meant to communicate that progressives don’t care about the “biblical Jesus” (by which of course he means the evangelical interpretation of Jesus), instead, they are trying to invent something new for the sake of being fresh and hip in culture. Additionally, it also communicates that progressives are not defending the “historical Jesus” (by which he means the orthodox version of Jesus, not the real version of Jesus); implying that progressives are reimagining a fake Jesus.

What makes language like this so dangerous is that its deceit is shrouded in bits of truth. However, when it’s placed in a particular sentence that creates a new context it becomes a mischaracterization. For example, I hold to a “biblical Jesus”, if by that you mean a common sense version of Jesus as portrayed in Scripture. I also hold to a “historical Jesus” if by “historical” you mean who he really was in his time instead of how the Church has understood him. But of course, he is not referring to progressives like myself when he uses those statements – he is referring to his own brand of Christianity, which is the height of hubris.

Subliminalism also employs the fallacy of false equivalency. Just as the term implies, a false equivalency is creating a relationship between two disparate ideas where none exists.  Jimenez uses this brilliantly in appealing to various unorthodox scholars throughout history in order to draw a comparison between them and progressives – even if he doesn’t explicitly state it. Using loaded language like “liberal” helps to stir emotion in the reader as a way to undermine the appropriate distinctions between liberals and progressives. In addition, Jimenez knows that his readers will believe his statements as facts and won’t fact-check his quotes or characterizations. This gives him the freedom to mischaracterize philosophers and theologians throughout history.

For example, there should be no reason for Jimenez to bring up German Idealists like Kant and Hegel. They have no relationship whatsoever to the discussion. Not only does he mischaracterize them but merely using them in the discussion creates a subliminal false equivalency. Their inclusion alone creates an inaccurate relationship between their atheism and progressive Christianity in the reader’s mind.

Ultimately, Jimenez is dishonestly postulating that Progressives are purposely distorting Christianity. But his ideas are akin to conspiracy theories. One gets the image of progressives meeting around a table whose sole purpose is to destroy evangelicals and their faith in God. Jimenez does not care about the truth of progressive Christianity but instead creates something worse than a strawman to argue against.


Our Debate

Proof of Jimenez’s disdain for the truth became obvious to me recently. As many of you know I have a podcast that corresponds to this blog called UNenlightenment. I reached out to Jimenez’s publicist and had a podcast debate tentatively scheduled for sometime around the end of May beginning of June. However, as time progressed Jimenez decided to cancel the debate. His cancellation despite the fact that I was willing to hold the debate at any time that was convenient for him. I can only surmise that when presented with the prospect of debating an intelligent progressive, he got cold feet.

The unwillingness of certain evangelicals to avoid accountability for their ideas has become commonplace as the same was true for Alicia Childers. Moreover, until they begin debating progressive intellectuals they cannot ever be taken seriously.

Subliminalism is a dangerous tool that evangelicals use within their religious discourse. These tactics are what hold many evangelicals captive to evangelicalism. Subliminalism is a way to create distance, differentiation, and fear. It’s a way for leaders to express to their people that they are either in or out; one of us or one of them. Whether these leaders explicitly state it or not many evangelicals equate this either/or option as a choice between being or not being a Christian.


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About Eric English
Eric is a rogue philosopher, theologian, author, podcaster and ninja. He is a father of three, husband of one, and a poet unto himself. Eric’s main areas of thinking are in philosophy (specifically, Soren Kierkegaard), theology (Narrative Perspectivism), and culture. Eric also hosts the podcast UNenlightenment.  You can read more about the author here.
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