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The Gospel According to Madison Avenue


As a 19th century theologian once warned, “Beware of manufacturing a God of your own,” who is “all love, but not holy.”

The latest “He Gets Us” Super Bowl commercial has been widely criticized, and for good reason. This article won’t plod through every objection that’s been raised — that’s a longer story for another day.

Instead, let’s zero in on what may be the campaign’s most subversive slice, one that’s gained little attention thus far.

But first, a quick skim over the controversy will set the scene for what should concern every faithful Christian.

“He Gets Us” is under the direction of a nonprofit called Come Near. Few know much about the people behind the group, but what we do know is alarming.

Internet sleuths have pointed out, for instance, that the CEO in charge of the organization reportedly is a pronoun warrior on social media — of the he/him variety.

Moreover, one of the marketing gurus hired to produce the commercial not only lists her pronouns but also brags about having a “fierce passion” for leftist diversity dogmas.

So, if you’re puzzled about how the act of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet — a symbolic act that represented the cleansing of sin and a summons to servant leadership — was used to pander to progressive cultural sensibilities, that should clear up the confusion.

Still, within the litany of misgivings regarding the ad, this hardly makes a dent, as you’ll see.

As their name would suggest, Come Near claims that its objective is to remind people of the “world’s greatest love story.” 

In their About section online, the group states:

“How did the story of Jesus, the world’s greatest love story, get twisted into a tool to judge, harm, and divide? How do we remind people that the story of Jesus belongs to everyone? These questions are the beating heart of He Gets Us.”

That paragraph itself is problematic, but if we take at face value that Jesus’ sacrifice is the “world’s greatest love story,” which it is, then why did Come Near drop millions of dollars to seize the attention of 123 million viewers, only to sidestep this epic narrative entirely?

There was no mention of what biblical love actually entails: “That while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Rather, the notorious foot-washing scenes left viewers with an incomplete conclusion — that “Jesus didn’t teach hate. He washed feet.”  

They are trying to push Christian ethical living (loving one’s neighbor, serving others, praying for enemies, etc.) without the redemptive atonement and renewed mind that empowers us to live according to this new nature.

Come Near has the entire equation backward.

You can’t love like Jesus unless Jesus is truly in your heart. And He can’t be in your heart if you only see Him as a great moral teacher rather than as the divine Savior.

Unfortunately, misleading portrayals of the “world’s greatest love story” are not new. Indeed, over a century ago, J.C. Ryle, a 19th-century Anglican bishop, offered a prescient warning about the dangers of diluting the full character of God to suit our comfort:

“Beware of manufacturing a God of your own: a God who is all mercy, but not just; a God who is all love, but not holy; a God who has a heaven for every body, but a hell for none; a God who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and bad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own…He is not the God of the Bible, and beside the God of the Bible there is no God at all.”

However, the concerns with “He Gets Us’” run deeper than just a watered-down message.

We must now turn to what might be the campaign’s most subversive element — its stance on the Church and its role in the spiritual health of a nation.

Let’s delve into that.

A common defense for milquetoast ads like the one featured is that it’s a kind of “soft” evangelism, a small appetizer that makes room for the main course of conversion that supposedly happens at some point down the line.

This argument, though, falls flat when you realize that Come Near seems ambivalent as to whether people even darken the door of a church.

In a FAQ twist, they’re asked, “Are you trying to get people to go to church?”

Their blunt reply? “No.”

“He Gets Us is not against the church,” their website reads, “but we are not a back to church campaign. We are hoping to help people consider who Jesus is and why that matters.”

If this counts as evangelism, I’m eager to observe what non-evangelism looks like.

Of course, attending church isn’t an optional accessory. It is a major component of walking out the Christian journey.

It is the Church that is called a “pillar and buttress of truth” and the very “household of God” (1 Timothy 3:15).

It is the Church that expresses “the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10).

And it is the Church that the “gates of hell shall not prevail against” (Matthew 16:18).

The Apostle Paul viewed the Church as the place to establish and strengthen believing communities, which is why his epistles were largely written to the saints collectively in specific geographic locations — Rome, Ephesus, Corinth, and Philippi, for example.

The Church was (and is) the place for discipleship. It is central to God’s salvific plan for mankind, a point that biblical author and educator Jeff Reed emphasizes often.

The Church is not akin to a piano hobby, where one starts playing the keys whenever one gets the urge. 

That cavalier attitude toward Christ’s “bride” is corrosive, for it nudges individuals and families away from God’s designed haven for fellowship and spiritual growth, particularly at a time when secularism is rampantly infiltrating every corner of society. 

Why would an organization, purportedly in existence to bring people closer to Jesus and heal “our deep cultural divisions,” take such a stance?

It could be because Come Near doesn’t even fully consist of individuals who are believers, as they openly admit:

“Our work represents the input from Christians who believe that Jesus is the son of God as well as many others who, though not Christians, share a deep admiration for the man that Jesus was, and we are deeply inspired and curious to explore his story.”

No wonder there isn’t any talk of sin and repentance in their splashy, multimillion-dollar ad buys — that would make all the people at the office who think Jesus was just a good dude feel a little uncomfortable around the water cooler.

The lesson here?

Let the pronoun pundits of Madison Avenue hawk something else.

When they mess around with the Gospel, you get what we witnessed on Super Bowl Sunday — a flaccid Christianity, one that winks at sin without invoking the transformative power of the Cross.

If you like this article and other content that helps you apply a biblical worldview to today’s politics and culture, consider making a small donation here.

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