Culture

What “He Gets Us” Doesn’t Get

Richard Henry

Super Bowl advertising is the most coveted space in the marketing world, with millions of dollars spent each year. A shadowy evangelical non-profit spent an inordinate amount of money (for the second year in a row!) to tell the world that, “He Gets Us.”

First airing a Superbowl commercial in 2022, He Gets Us reserved a 30-second commercial featuring a string of AI-looking art pieces (that were apparently, real photographs) of people washing others’ feet. Clearly, the images were meant to present a flipping of power dynamics. For example, one frame displayed a suburban white woman washing the feet of a young Latina migrant who has just gotten off a bus in an upper-middle-class cul-de-sac. The ad ends with the words, “Jesus didn’t preach hate. He washed feet.” Then the non-profit’s tagline: “He gets us. All of us.”

At first glance the campaign seems intriguing and fresh – something all Christians can be excited about. After all, unbelievers may ask, who is the ‘He’ and who is the “us” that “He” is ‘getting’?

Christianity Today stated in a 2022 article that the campaign represents the “biggest-ever Christian advertising campaign [to] go national. Television commercials, along with online ads and billboards, will target millennials and Gen Z with a carefully crafted, exhaustively researched, and market-tested message about Jesus Christ: He gets us.”

Assuming He Gets Us is an evangelistic endeavor, the 30-second commercial played during the 2024 Superbowl represents the most viewed evangelistic TV spot, as the football game managed to break the record of the most watched telecast of all time.

A Surface Level Analysis

There are many possible angles to run with in analyzing the He Gets Us campaign. For clarity, let’s keep it surface-level. We can start by looking at the marketing of He Gets Us. Their marketing showcases poignant images and emotive stories that at the very least, appear “culturally engaging.” This marketing technique outshines most ‘church’ attempts at engagement, which are incredibly cheesy and/or dated. But as diligent Christ followers we cannot dwell on appearances alone: what are they saying, and in this case, what are they not saying?

The premise of the He Gets Us ads is that Jesus was a man just like us and that He understands, He knows, He Gets… Us. Jesus is depicted as a moral teacher, one who might be divine, but yet still human, and maybe even more human (at least that’s what the focus seems to be as of February 2024). The emphasis is overwhelmingly focused on Jesus as a man, not as the God-man. No clear mention of Christ also being God is found anywhere in their advertising; neither in commercials nor their social media. Do they deny Jesus’s divinity? Not exactly, but it’s not mentioned either. This is clearly an intentional ploy to avoid diving headfirst into Christian doctrine.

Sadly, millions of Americans don’t know that the Bible clearly teaches Jesus is both man and God, the fulfillment of hundreds of prophecies, “the way, the truth, and the life, and God in the flesh (John 1:1-4,14. 14:6). At a very minimum, this would seem like a massive oversight. So, what is the He Gets Us media machine doing? Here are two things:

First, they are likely attempting to show the ‘authentic Jesus’ and how He is as approachable as any other moral teacher. When a hostile world sees Him and His true nature, they will be open to His divinity and thus repent of their sins and follow him. Perhaps. This is what Michael Knowles, a Conservative Roman Catholic from the Daily Wire recently postulated.

Second, likely their primary goal: to lure the public into mistaking this idolatrous and liberalized Jesus as the historical, orthodox, and most importantly biblical Jesus. The way they portray Jesus is indicative of this motive.

Sadly, this is not an evangelical mission to the left side of society, but a polished marketing scheme to reframe Jesus for the right side of society, particularly pointed towards the American conservative church. The latest Super Bowl ad displaying a variety of people engaging in foot washing is the most blatant evidence of this “rebrand” of Jesus. One image showed a priest-looking man washing the feet of another very effeminate man sporting short-shorts, a yellow beanie, and a green sleeveless t-shirt.

To be fair, a variety of ethnicities were depicted doing the washing and receiving, so it may not have been as “woke” as it could be, but the most confusing part was how the ad ended with the words: ‘JESUS DIDN’T TEACH HATE’, ‘HE WASHED FEET’. Much more ink could be spilled on this false dichotomy, but for now, let’s focus on the implications of the two statements.

Making Things Muddier

The ad leaves one asking, is this what Jesus did all the time? Did he meander around finding sinners’ feet to wash? Did he teach? Did he give explicit instruction? Are foot washing and teaching opposed to each other? Or is it only “hateful” teaching that is opposed to foot washing? And what does He Gets Us mean when they use the word ‘hate?’ Do they mean that Jesus never preached against people? In Luke 11:29, Jesus said, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Is it hateful to call someone evil? These questions arise with any cultural faith movement seeking to manufacture something new and novel. This is what leftism does– it complicates things, taking away clarity and making them muddier.

If someone viewing the commercial becomes curious enough to go to the He Gets Us website, what direction will they be put in?

In a brief article on hegetsus.com called  Jesus Loved Louder, the author describes Jesus as patient and kind, seeking to understand people as if this was the totality of His mission. Of course, Jesus was indeed patient and kind. But is that all he was? The framing and focus of what is said and what is not said is crucial to understanding who Jesus is and who He is not.

The article states, “Listening to the world around us, we couldn’t help but conclude that the volume is rising day by day.”  This is true. The volume is getting louder. The social-media-instant-access-age is the catalyst for this. The web article goes on, “Everyone wants to be heard.” Again, this is true and lines up with the biblical truth that we all are made in the image of God and should treat each other fairly. It continues, “Most of the stuff loud enough to be heard — is rife with hate, anger, and discontentment.” Again, a seemingly true statement. But the question remains, why? Where does this hate come from? Why is it in Jesus’s day and ours too? Is there a solution? Sadly, no biblical answer is given.

The article continues, “Everywhere He went, He was met with dissenting opinions, trap questions, and directed hatred. People were constantly trying to silence Him, discredit Him, or hijack His platform to amplify their own voices.” Sure, this happened! But why? What was He saying that led people to do this? What was his message? The article closes out with, “He didn’t give in and add to the noise. Jesus used his voice, but he didn’t shout.” How do we know He never shouted? Is shouting a sin or hateful? “He not only stayed on the path of preaching patience, selflessness, and love but more importantly, He also demonstrated them.”

We must ask, are these things true? What Bible does He Gets Us read? Jesus’ ministry is portrayed, but it’s only a narrow slice of one aspect of Jesus in his ministry. It’s assumed, for example, that “shouting” is bad, but there’s no reason given for these claims.

Red Letter Christianity

He Gets Us simply leaves Jesus in the ancient past, as if he’s a mere moral teacher–  a Stoic philosopher whom all the poor people loved and all rich people hated. He’s tucked away in the minds of many behind a white-picket-fence-red-letter-house on the cul-de-sac of history. Not a hint of Jesus’ death or resurrection anywhere in He Gets Us content. No mention of sin or shame. No glimmer of Genesis 1 or 3, nothing about Jesus being the second Adam, the Lamb of God, the Son of God, or God at all.

No atonement on the cross is seen. Nothing about the resurrection. And let’s not forget Paul’s apt words from his first letter to the Corinthians, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. …And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

With eternity at stake, the best He Gets Us can come up with is “Jesus Loved Louder,” and “Jesus never Taught hate, He washed feet.” But Jesus is far more than a moral example. He is the solution – His blood on the cross sets slaves to sin free from death because “by his wounds we are healed!” Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness for sin.” None. The resurrection is the crux of the Christian faith, not Jesus’s moral example. To avoid it is to avoid Christianity altogether.

He Gets Us is functioning as a branch of Red Letter Christianity seeking to appeal to a broader culture that is in abject rebellion against the Lord (2 Peter 2:1). Yes, the Lord had an earthly ministry that is seen vividly in the four gospels, but he also died for sins, the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

And the most glorious news is that He did not stay dead! He resurrected, defeating both sin and death, appearing to many and ascending after giving the great commission (Matthew 28:1-10) and anyone who calls on the name of this resurrected Lord will be saved from eternal death. The task for followers of Christ is to go and tell about His grace and provision for sin, that He alone makes mankind righteous, and that He reconciles the lost. He Gets Us leaves the most crucial part of Jesus out, the resurrection and the need for it. Jesus is no mere moral teacher, not just a wise sage who loved loudly, but He is the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

He saves us. 

He does not merely get us.

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