A Missed Opportunity

Apparently they are marketing Jesus.

There is a $100 million advertising campaign underway funded by private donors.

From a purely pragmatic vantage point, it makes sense.  

There is little question the “Christian brand” has been horribly maligned.

‘We’re haters.’ ‘We’re racists.’ ‘We care for the unborn but ignore or mercilessly judge the poor.’

Too many of our church leaders preach fidelity and are having affairs. 

Too many pastors call for their congregation to be generous while building fortunes for themselves. 

On CNN, we see people carrying signs of faith in Jesus while spewing hatred for elected leaders and storming the Capitol.

If ever a brand needed refreshening, it would be Christianity. 

The theme of the campaign is, “He [Jesus] gets us.” I watched one of the spots. I admit, it was well executed.

The ad was a series of quick edits of black and white photos of young street kids, mixed race, and heavily tattooed; the very sort of images that to most white suburbanites would signal danger .

As the photographs transition from Latino and Black youth hanging out on corners, to driving down city streets in jacked-up cars, or running down an alley, there’s a narrator who tells the story of a young rebel. It’s not quite a rap, but it has an almost lyrical, spoken performance quality to it that’s pretty effective.

“He called people to follow him. The leaders thought him dangerous and the religious leaders hated him because he upset their hold on the people. But, they weren’t part of a gang or spewing hate and violence. They were preaching love. Jesus was misjudged. He gets us.”

Okay, I guess. But to what end? 

As a white suburbanite, I have a hard time believing that some misunderstood city youth will see this ad and think, “Wait…Jesus was a brother? Maybe I should check him out…”

But who knows. I hope the ad is successful and builds inroads to those who have never before considered a life of faith.

My problem is that any campaign that seeks to accurately portray the true essence of what it means to follow Christ, must first confront the reality this narrative of the hate-spewing Christian is not a baseless attack. 

The accusation by many that Christianity is identified more with accumulating political power than with loving our enemies is out there because we put it out there. 

The narrative we will fight for our rights and demonize those who disagree with us v. praying for our enemies, exists because its so often true. 

A casual perusing of social media reveals video after video, post after post, of squeaky clean pastors who use their pulpit to rally the troops, demonize the left, exhorting their congregations to stand up for our faith and “take back America.”

What has been the accumulated effect of decades of scandal laden pastors, angry, defiant rhetoric, and unholy alliances with elected leaders?  

Should we feel misunderstood and victim-like because the word “evangelical” has taken on a more negative overtones, particularly among millennials?

Or do we honestly come to grips with the possibility that the life of humility, mercy and service that Jesus lived and we are called to emulate has been overshadowed by our fear of losing our status and becoming increasingly irrelevant? And that we ourselves are guilty of presenting a false caricature of what it means to follow Jesus?

That’s an ad I’d not only like to see, but would happily help fund.


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