“He gets us” is a campaign of ads, stories, aphorisms, etc., all related to the proposition that Jesus (the ‘he” of “he gets us”) knows us in all the confusions and difficulties of these times. It is an evangelical campaign, in that it challenges the listener to relate to Jesus as the campaign presents him. (www.hegetsus.com) One of their ads was shown during the Super Bowl.
To some extent it is a rebranding effort. Elizabeth Kaeton has an important take on all this on her blog, here; http://telling-secrets.blogspot.com/2023/02/he-gets-us.html
The “He gets us” branding of Jesus is one of several efforts now going on to bring us a fresh sense of who Jesus is and why he is important for all people. “The Chosen,” attempts to tell the story of Jesus “through the eyes of those who knew him. https://new.thechosen.tv/ A new film, “The Jesus Revolution” tries to tell the story of the encounter with Jesus in the 1960-70’s in a way that speaks to young people now. https://jesusrevolution.movie/ So whether you are binging on a streamed video series, a stand alone movie, or a series of quick take ad like video pieces, you can get your Jesus right here, right now.
And let us not forget the Episcopal Church’s very own rebranding of the Episcopal Church as “The Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.”
What is put forward in the rebranding “HeGetsUs” is most easily seen in the gear (hats and t-shirts) that one can get from the HeGetsUs website.https://hegetsusfans.com/gear
These proclaim that Jesus didn’t want us to act like adults, that Hate is loud (and/but) Jesus loved louder, that Jesus was wrongly judged, Jesus was an immigrant, Jesus was a refugee. The people wearing them on the website page are not in any way identified as refugees, immigrants, wrongly judged, loudly loving (however defined) or non-adults. The target group, at least as the visuals present it, are all young adults who get “gear” - t-shirts and caps - that connect them with this Jesus who was an immigrant, homeless, a refugee, persecuted, loving loudly, etc.
So the campaign is inviting young adults to an attractive, almost seductive, place of identification with Jesus and all those who suffer injustice without actually having to do anything at all. The gear is free for the asking.
The earliest missionary and evangelical motif was to fish for people. And casting nets and setting bait is essential to catching fish.. And people. So the gear is bait. The videos and ads are bait. The invitation to look at the “biography” of Jesus that is presented by the HeGetsUS folk is bait. Or maybe all parts of the same net. But the idea is these are all to catch people…young people apparently.
Rebranding is setting bait. And the agenda is not the bait - not the invitation to nibble or to put on the t-shirt and cap. The agenda is bigger than that.
The HeGetsUs campaign presents itself as an attractive way to invite people to take another look at Jesus. But the purpose is to make a catch.
And at that point it becomes important to understand just what the second level agenda is. And that is hidden from view. To be fair this criticism can be made of many campaigns, crusades, revivals, rebrandings. And I quite understand that the bait used by institutional religion is every bit as suspect as these ads are.
But that does not mean we should stop asking the question about the hidden agenda. After all, from the standpoint of the fish, it is not catching the fish that is the final agenda. The final agenda is lunch. So if the bait of the ad or the t-shirt is to catch the interest of some young adults, what’s next?
Who sets the agenda for those pulled into the boat? When do the actual immigrants, homeless, persecuted, and generally beat upon show up? When does the “Us” who get the hats and t-shirts begin to look old, beat up, smacked down?
HeGetsUs is apparently directed to media adept young adults. They know a lot about being hooked into schemes whose real agendas are hidden.
Hopefully they get the next level of the catch… the bait changes. The viewer is invited to check out the next level of engagement with this supposedly open exploration of just who Jesus is, and the links take you to Life.Church, and suddenly there is a community of faith that is glad to take you in. And, lo and behold, the whole thing is there - a full blown evangelical church experience.
But the original bait was “let’s look further into who this Jesus was.” Now the bait is, “there is a community that loves you and will help you get further into life in Christ.” Remember all those t-shirts and hats? Keep them. But now the fish is being hooked on a full meal of evangelical Christian belief.
The HeGetsUs campaign is just that… the first bait to draw people into a conversation. And then the bait changes… to catch them up in church that pretends not to be one of those institutional churches, but somehow open to loving them just as they are. But the story is not finished. The new community becomes also the “way” of Jesus as interpreted by those doing the fishing. Never mind that the first bait was that small tasty morsel…a hat, a t-shirt, a simple invite to see an ad. And how could one possibly object to that?
Well, here is the objection: this campaign is fishing for us, and when we are caught, what next? Only those doing the fishing know. And they aren’t at all up front about their agenda.
This HeGetsUs thingy is deceptive and dangerous. Don’t take the bait. Jesus draws all to himself not by a good ad campaign and great gear, but by being so present as God’s justice and mercy that WeGetHim.