a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.
American Christianity has a problem
Last week, we began to consider the “He Gets Us” campaign.
The He Gets Us campaign’s animating question is: “How did the world’s greatest love story in Jesus become known as a hate group?” Everything the campaign produces needs to be accountable as an answer/solution to that question/problem.
So, the question addresses the same problem that Gandhi identified years ago: “I’d be a Christian if it were not for the Christians.“ (here)
Ads raising concerns from all sides
Last week, we started by refuting one “bait-‘n-switch” concern regarding LGBTQ folks.
Another thing some progressives and conservatives bemoan is the $20 million price tag of the two Super Bowl ads, “Oh, all the hungry who could be fed!” A significant problem with that argument is that the Signatry group has already distributed the lion’s share of $3 billion to doing mission with the poor. It’s reminiscent of concerns raised in 2016 when UM Church of the Resurrection built it’s new $90 million worship space (or see Matt. 26.6-11).
Key conservative/traditionalist concerns are that they find “a different Jesus” in the campaign — and many conservatives have never been comfortable with a “seeker-friendly” Jesus, either. For some, this is “unbiblical Jesus,” “familiar in his humanness,” but lacking anything about his “divinity.”
One fascinating video I encountered dealt with partisan-concerns. The Hill’s “Rising” is a weekday morning show with bipartisan hosts. Here, Briahna Joy Gray (“progressive”) and Robby Soave (“conservative”) talk about He Gets Us. [cued to the spot at 00:36 – 4:45 (end of relevant portion)]:
I found (progressive) Gray’s comments to be cringe-worthy overreach — e.g., the He Gets Us Super Bowl ads as “the bastardization of Jesus’ message.” What I found far more interesting — and why I shared the video here — is (conservative) Soave’s point of view. He states up front that he is not particularly religious and that religious messages do not typically resonate with him. And yet, he is the one who clearly understands the message in the Super Bowl ads (when read through the ‘problem-statement’ lens) and even agrees with it.
Most progressive concerns generally relate to the cost — and, chiefly, the ad-underwriters (the Signatry group) — and not the ads themselves (see exception below). The underlying dynamic of the concern over sponsors is a re-visitation of the ancient Donatist controversy, i.e., the argument that the sponsors are so tainted that no good fruit could possibly come from them, and the only attention they merit is suspicion.
Even this quickly gets confused and tangled in problems/contradictions, i.e., “extreme-conservatives” paying for ads that speak in distinctly “progressive” language.
As I was preparing to finish this piece, a clergy colleague shared a link to a piece that attempts to deconstruct the ads. So, let’s turn to that article now.
Argument: the ads are “fascistic rhetoric”
The article offers a “progressive” voice who employs extremist language/reasoning in making her claim that the He Gets Us ads are “spiritually abusive, white supremacist, fascistic rhetoric.” The article’s author, Deborah Leiter, purports to (somehow) know of a nefarious intention behind the ads, i.e.,
“Is it clear by now that these ads, while pretending to be DIVERSE! And about INCLUSION! And LOVING OTHERS! are really about white supremacy?”
“This is the co-optation of Jesus to defend white supremacy and bullying in the name of diversity.”
Leiter overreaches in the extreme when she claims that the campaign is fully conscious/intentional regarding the aim to play bait-‘n-switch involving diversity/inclusivity and White supremacy.
We’re familiar with unconscious by-products of internalized White-supremacy and intrinsic bias. However, Leiter seemingly makes no allowance for unintended consequences in the dynamics.
I find it interesting that A.O.-C.‘s Super-Bowl-day reading of the ads also used a “fascism” lens.
To the extent that I understand it, I am in sympathy with Leiter’s effort to counter the toxicity that some corners of the church continue to offer sanctuary. However, Leiter’s critique here is misguided.
Is it possible that a cabal of “evil Christians” have leveraged their wealth to defend and promote a “White supremacist Christianity”? Yes, but it’s not plausible in this instance. My sense: Leiter’s view of He Gets Us is more like a hammer seeing everything as a nail.
Perhaps Edward de Bono’s definition of a belief system may be instructive:
Texts I’ve been in conversation with regarding He Gets Us are Numbers 11.27-29, Mark 9.38-41, Luke 9.49-50 (also Matthew 20.1-16). Then, too, Scripture tells us that Moses and David were both murderers. If G-d were limited to only working with the righteous, then you and I are most definitely unqualified.
Some non-religious seem to “get it”?
My observation is that the campaign has provided us with a tool sufficient to appropriately interpret the meaning of the ads. They’ve provided the campaign’s animating question/problem statement with which we can judge the ads themselves.
Next week: (He Gets Us) “Trust Jesus…” .