That's the message of the $100 million dollar campaign to "re-brand" Jesus. The target audience of this effort is young people and those who are skeptical about organized religion.
I've seen a couple of TV ads. You probably have, too. I didn't watch The Super Bowl, but I understand $17 Million was spent to air two He Gets Us ads during the game.
Which doesn't surprise me. The campaign is a natural fit with the NFL. Players often pray on the field and point to the heavens after touchdowns. Fans often hold up signs with "John 3:16" written on them.
A little bit of poking around on some of the research that has been done by those who have followed the money shows ties with all the usual suspects: Right-wing Evangelical Groups.
More specifically, the campaign is a subsidiary of The Servant Foundation, also known as the Signatry.
According to research compiled by Jacobin, a left-leaning news outlet, The Servant Foundation has donated tens of millions to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group. The ADF has been involved in several legislative pushes to curtail LGBTQ rights and quash non-discrimination legislation in the Supreme Court.
Surprised? I'm not. I'm sure you're not, either, not if you've been paying attention (or to use a word loathed by the Right: "woke").
Although most donors choose to remain anonymous, no one will be surprised to see that some of the big money comes from Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-a. Indeed, Hobby Lobby co-founder David Green claims to be a big contributor to the campaign’s multi-million-dollar coffers.
Hobby Lobby, of course, has famously been at the center of several legal controversies, including the support of anti-LGBTQ legislation and a successful years-long legal fight that eventually led to the Supreme Court allowing companies to deny medical coverage for contraception on the basis of religious beliefs.
So, they would know best that the Jesus they have hijacked and whose reputation they've tarnished now needs some "rebranding".
This quote from Green is so thick with irony you could choke on it. So, warning: Put down your beverage before reading it:
“We are wanting to say — ‘we’ being a lot of different people — that he gets us,” Green said. “[Jesus] understands us. He loves who we hate. I think we have to let the public know and create a movement.”
I mean . . . . seriously? "Jesus loves who we hate"? Do you think he even knows what he's saying or is he preaching mostly to himself?
“Be assured … we’re not ‘left’ or ‘right’ or a political organization of any kind,” the “He Gets Us” site reads. “We’re also not affiliated with any particular church or denomination.”
What they do have in common is the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, which is an important unifying document in evangelical Christian churches.
The Lausanne movement itself was started by evangelical Christian leader Billy Graham. Documents and decisions that have come out of the movement’s summits have decried the “idolatry of disordered sexuality” and focused heavily on the impact of the devil and sin on national cultures.
But, you know, He Gets us.
In my experience, the churches in the Lausanne Movement all adhere to pretty much the same theology. I call this theology "King Jesus" AKA "He who must be obeyed."
King Jesus has his own "Princes" (AKA "ministers," "pastors" and "reverends") and other members of His Royal Court (*His* church) who enforce all his "rules".
You know, like the 10 Commandments. And, every single last one of the 613 laws in Leviticus. Well, except the ones we don't pay attention to like touching pig skin, or tattoos, or mixing fabrics in clothing, or holding back the wages of an employee overnight, or . . . .
But, wait, you say. Jesus didn't say any of those things. Yes, the argument goes, but *His Father* did. And, besides, it's right there in Matthew where Jesus said, "I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose."
None of that is the point of the movement; it's the defense of the movement. And, the point? From where I sit, this is the second iteration of Mary Daley's logic. Daley famously posited:
If God is male, then male is god.
In this manifestation, the working hypothesis is: If Jesus is King, then Christians are sovereign.
And, if Christians are sovereign, then Christians rule the world.
And, if Christians rule the world, everyone has to follow Christian rules. See also: The 10 Commandments, the 163 Rules of Leviticus (well, the ones we like), The Five Fundamentals of Christianity (biblical inerrancy, nature divine of Jesus Christ, his virgin birth, resurrection of Christ, and his return), and the Lausanne Covenant.
So, with one, simple, three-word slogan campaign, the downward slide of Christian membership can be reversed, women brought under control, LGBTQ people abolished, and no more Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Ba'hi's, etc.
We'll all be one, even as Jesus and *the Father* are one. It's an answer to the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus.
Brilliant, no? Um, no. I think young people are pretty savvy about the difference between slick marketing and authenticity. And skeptics are, well, skeptics for a reason, this being a good reason to continue to be skeptical.
There are lots of articles about He Gets Us that you can google for yourself. I hear lots of alarm bells going off about this movement - especially when I read that the campaign has a goal of raising one billion dollars to "rebrand" the name of Jesus that they, themselves, have tarnished.
The irony is almost overwhelming when it's not laughable.
I have more to say about the theology of this movement which I will address in another piece. Much of my thinking has come out of a conversation I had earlier this week with a gathering of clergy who were talking about The Transfiguration - which we'll be observing this Sunday, the last Sunday before Lent.
There's something about the emphasis on the humanity of Jesus in this "He Gets Us" Campaign that is in stark contrast with the mystery of the divinity of Jesus into which we are invited in The Transfiguration. I need to sit a bit more with this thought - maybe a long walk when it stops raining - to find the right words.
There are lots of videos you can watch from He Gets Us. This one "The Rebel" has netted 122 million views on YouTube in 11 months https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0z0J-2P8a3s
Their web page is pretty slick, too. Check it out. It's pretty slick. https://hegetsus.com/en/he-gets-us-has-an-agenda
I don't think there's any question that Jesus gets us. The question is: Will this campaign really lead people to Jesus and, if it does, what path they will be encouraged to take?
I'll try to answer that question in my next reflection.