Following up on my previous posts:
New York Times Op-Ed: By tish harrison warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer at night: for those who work, watch or cry (2021) (Christianity Today’s Book of the year 2022)):
About a year ago, I noticed a “He Gets Us” ad on a billboard. I deduced that the “he” in “He catches us” was referring to Jesus, but beyond that I didn’t pay much attention to it.
Since then, I have closely followed the advertising campaign, which includes TV commercials, online ads and billboards, and which Christianity today describes in 2022 as targeting “millennials and Gen Z with a carefully crafted, extensively researched, and market-tested message about Jesus Christ.” In the ads, Jesus is portrayed as an impoverished refugee, an immigrant, and a radical revolutionary committed to justice and love.
“He Gets Us” commercials have aired during broadcasts of several high-profile events in recent months: the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the Grammys, and, of course, the Super Bowl. The times described the campaign videos connect “Jesus to contemporary issues like immigration, artificial intelligence and activism.” Jason Vanderground, president of Haven, the agency behind the ads, hopes the campaign will increase “the relevance of Jesus in American culture.” Billboards and commercials invite viewers to visit the “He Gets Us” website Learn more.
As a Christian and a pastor, I care deeply about religious speech in the United States, but to be honest, it’s hard for me to care much about “He Gets Us” ads, not primarily because of some issue I have with their content (although I may quibble here and there), but because, by their very nature as commercials and billboards, they tend to be trivial.
Christianity is a 2,000-year-old global faith that is complex and perplexing. People misunderstand it, scapegoat it, co-opt it, debate it, and deeply believe it. People live and die by it. Reducing your message to 30-second clips sandwiched between snack, SUV, and beer ads will inevitably be reductive. How can it not be?
God can make use of whatever he wants, but I don’t think many people’s lives are transformed by a TV commercial. I think this campaign will be largely forgotten in a year or two. Overall, I think the “He Gets Us” campaign is a huge waste of money. The billion dollars that the campaign says it will spend in the next three years could be used to fund schools, reduce poverty and homelessness, plant churches, end disease, or build other healthy, faith-based institutions that could transform lives and deepen the perception of the “relevance of Jesus in the culture.” US”. …
What I’m interested in, however, are the public’s responses to ads, which often reveal something much more destructive in our culture than the ads could possibly be.
The online reaction to “He Gets Us” after the Super Bowl, for example, was intense. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “Something tells me Jesus wouldn’t spend millions of dollars on Super Bowl ads to make fascism look benign.” …
Not to be outdone, many on the far right were equally outraged. Charlie Kirk, the founder of the right-wing university group Turning Point USA, saying the campaign was “one of the worst services to Christianity in the modern era,” calling the ad producers “woke up the tricksters.” …
Almost 20 years ago, in my first class on my first day of seminary, my professor paraphrased Simone Weil: “To always be relevant, we must speak timeless things.”
To this day, I regularly think about this simple but tough commission he gave his students. What our society and our souls need most is not the roar of fashionable topics or fleeting debates. We need the slow wisdom of the eternal things that, though always relevant, are often overlooked, but quietly seed the world with redemption.
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Other New York Times Op-Eds by Tish Harrison Warren:
- Want to get into the Christmas spirit? Face the Darkness (December 22, 2019)
- Why You Should Give Your Money Today (December 22, 2019)
- Why we need to start talking about God (August 29, 2021)
- What I believe about life after death (October 24, 2021)
- Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and the Shocking Privilege of Life (November 26, 2021)
- I’m not ready for Christmas (December 12, 2021)
- What Mary can teach us about the joy and pain of life (December 19, 2021)
- 10 New Year’s Resolutions That Are Good For The Soul (January 9, 2022)
- Why Churches Should Abandon Their Online Services (February 6, 2022)
- How Faith Communities Can Respond to the Opioid Crisis (February 20, 2022)
- Grief and covid stole my love of reading. This is how I got it back. (February 27, 2022)
- Ash Wednesday forces us to face death, but also offers hope (March 6, 2022)
- We are all sinners, and accepting that is really a good thing (March 13, 2022)
- Three Habits to Maintain After the Pandemic Ends (April 3, 2022)
- Tim Keller: How a Cancer Diagnosis Makes Jesus’ Death and Resurrection Mean More (April 17, 2022)
- How To Cultivate Joy Even When It Feels Little (May 8, 2022)
- We Are In A Loneliness Crisis: Another Reason To Put Down Our Phones (May 22, 2022)
- Healing the Political Polarization Destroying America with Humility and Joy (May 29, 2022)
- Uvalde needs our prayers (June 12, 2022)
- I married the wrong person and I’m so glad I did (June 26, 2022)
- Dobbs, Roe and the myth of ‘bodily autonomy’ (June 26, 2022)
- How churches can better respond to sexual abuse (July 3, 2022)
- Do Christians have a moral duty to tweet? (July 17, 2022)
- A Model for an Evangelical Christianity Committed to Justice (August 14, 2022)
- The God I Know Is Not a Culture Warrior (August 21, 2022)
- Why Rich Mullins’ Christian Music Endures, 25 Years After His Death (October 9, 2022)
- Why Religious Freedom Is Important, Even If You’re Not Religious (October 16, 2022)
- How to keep the Sabbath and fight the inhumanity of modern work (October 30, 2022)
- Black, Christian, and Transcending the Political Binary (November 6, 2022)
- Even Your Political Enemies Deserve A Piece Of Thanksgiving Pie (November 24, 2022)
- Shopping and Isaiah 6:5 (December 4, 2022)
- 303 Creative, Gay and Religious Rights (December 11, 2022)
- Advent, poetry and Christmas (December 18, 2022)
- Did you have a difficult Christmas? Jesus did too. (December 26, 2022)
- The Stunning Moral Beauty of Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the Black Church (February 12, 2023)
- The wages of idolatry (March 5, 2023)
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