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‘He Gets Us’ Ad Reactions Prove Changing The Gospel Doesn’t Change Hearts



He Gets Us “Love Your Enemies” ad
Instead of transforming the life of Jesus to fit our culture, let’s tell the full story of Jesus — offensive and glorious as it is — to the watching world and see how it transforms them.

Author Jordan Boyd profile




“He Gets Us” is spending upwards of a billion dollars on an advertising campaign to expose millions of people, including those who tuned in to the 2023 Super Bowl, to Jesus. But its attempt to win over the world with a modernized version of Christ failed to endear some of those it sought to engage. The first commercial flipped through a series of black-and-white photos of children helping others in need. The 30-second clip ended with the tagline “Jesus didn’t want us to act like adults,” a reference to Christ’s teaching about childlike faith in Matthew 18.

“If I could see the world through the eyes of a child, what a wonderful world this would be,” the song narrated.

The second ad featured a slideshow of black-and-white photos depicting heated arguments — most of them political in nature.

“Jesus loved the people we hate,” the video concluded before plugging the He Gets Us campaign website.

These commercials offer the vaguest and most inoffensive and uncontroversial picture of Jesus possible, even to people who already have a distaste for Christianity. In fact, they are part of a larger campaign known for making radical comparisons between Jesus and the U.S. border crisis, which is harnessed by corrupt cartels for profit, and bold conflations of Jesus and his disciples with groups who roam the streets today, “challeng[ing] authority” and “ma[king] a lot of people uneasy,” in an attempt to appeal to current culture.

“We look at the biography of Jesus through a modern lens to find new relevance in often overlooked moments and themes from his life,” the campaign’s website states.

The hope in running these eyebrow-raising ads, campaign representatives disclosed, is to use an updated portrayal of Christ to sympathize with the plights of people who “are spiritually open, but skeptical” of organized religion.

In other words, the ads were deliberately designed to look, walk, and talk like the social justice agenda that has found its way into every American institution in the last decade in a last-ditch effort to appeal to a worldly culture.

Yet the universal messages communicated by these videos were still broadly rejected and smeared.

“Something tells me Jesus would *not* spend millions of dollars on Super Bowl ads to make fascism look benign,” progressive darling and Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quipped on Twitter shortly after the second “He Gets Us” ad aired, with her tweet garnering nearly 200,000 likes and more than 20,000 retweets as of this writing.

The people funding the campaign endured even more scrutiny from the corporate media, their mouthpieces, and outraged keyboard warriors than the ads themselves.

No matter how hard Christian campaigns — especially evangelical ones — like He Gets Us try to win over the world by twisting the Gospel to fit our culture’s standards, they will fail.

Jesus said, 19 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:19-21 (NIV)

Do Not Conform to This World

It should come as no surprise that even the tamest of ads that barely mentions Jesus was doomed from the start. Christian campaigns like He Gets Us operate under the premise that repackaging the Gospel to make our society think Christians and Jesus are cool entices people to consider following Jesus. Oftentimes, they go to great lengths to trash their own — faithful Christians — to be viewed and accepted by the same world that despises Christ-followers who hold Biblical views about marriage, sex, family, and life.

He Gets Us was born out of the idea that the Christians of today are not good enough at marketing Jesus. After all, an alarming number of Americans are abandoning church.

“How did the story of a man who taught and practiced unconditional love become associated with hatred and oppression for so many people?” organizers ask on the campaign’s website. As a result, they claim “many of us simply cannot reconcile the idea of that person with the way our culture experiences religion today.” They say:

Whether it’s hypocrisy and discrimination in the church, or scandals both real and perceived among religious leaders, or the polarization of our politics, many have relegated Jesus from the world’s greatest love story to just another tactic used to intensify our deep cultural divisions.

Anyone who reads his Bible, however, knows our society will never welcome the Good News with open arms. That’s because the Gospel, in its truest form, is offensive to the world. It announces unequivocally that every person is a vile sinner who deserves death and that even the so-called good works we do are tainted by self-interest and are filthy in the eyes of a holy God. It tells of a loving Father who gave up his only Son Jesus to live a perfect life and die the most brutal death imaginable as a sacrifice for the same sort of people who murdered Him. It proclaims that this Jesus miraculously rose from the grave, and it demands that anyone who follows Him must lay down his own comfort and desires and even his very life every single day.

Nothing about this offensive message conforms to our culture. In fact, the written Word of God demands that we “do not conform to the pattern of this world.”

Dressing up the Word of God to appeal to the masses is the exact opposite of what Jesus and the apostles did and what Christians are commanded to do. We are told to sow the seed of the Gospel everywhere and to everyone, to preach Christ crucified — not water down the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of the incarnate God, who detests sin, into someone who perfectly embodies the modern culture.

Jesus Doesn’t Need Rebranding

There is nothing wrong with bringing Jesus to the masses — it’s what we’re commanded to do — but we have to do it well.

Jesus wasn’t “only human after all,” as the song in the first He Gets Us campaign suggested. He was fully human and fully God, and Scripture tells us it’s only because of this glorious truth that Jesus was qualified to be our Savior.

Jesus’ mission from God to die for the sins of the world cannot be reduced to a few choice words he said. We care about what Jesus said, but we can’t separate that from what He did. Jesus didn’t just preach love your neighbor or love your enemies or have childlike faith. He rebuked sin, cast out demons, and promised eternal life for those who repent.

That alone is great news that doesn’t need editorializing or tweaking or watering down. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”

He Gets Us sends a different message: that maybe the pure Gospel is something to be ashamed of because maybe the power of God, absent fresh aesthetics and modern social justice narratives, isn’t enough to save.

That doesn’t mean we stop sharing the Good News on whatever platforms we can. There’s certainly a space for Christians to share the love of God — and the gift of new life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ — to the millions watching the biggest sporting event of the year and everyone else. But let’s not squander that opportunity by peddling convenient narratives.

Instead of transforming the life of Jesus to fit our culture, let’s tell the full story of Jesus — offensive and glorious as it is — to the watching world and see how it transforms them.

Jordan Boyd is a staff writer at The Federalist and co-producer of The Federalist Radio Hour. Her work has also been featured in The Daily Wire, Fox News, and RealClearPolitics. Jordan graduated from Baylor University where she majored in political science and minored in journalism. Follow her on Twitter @jordanboydtx.


In Case With Global Implications, Finland Puts Christians On Trial For Their Faith

Reported By Joy Pullmann | NOVEMBER 23, 2021


In Case With Global Implications, Finland Puts Christians On Trial For Their Faith
Photo Image courtesy International Lutheran Council

Meet the man who appears to be the first in the post-Soviet Union West to be brought up on criminal charges for publishing long-held Christian beliefs. Juhana Pohjola wouldn’t be cast to play his own part if Hollywood made a movie about a bishop put on trial for his faith. The Finnish pastor has inherited a place in the church of Martin Luther, but it appears none of Luther’s pugnacity or vitriol. In person, Pohjola, 49, is forthright but unassuming, and gentle. Stereotypically, the Finn is thin and tall. He often pauses while speaking to carefully consider his next words. He listens attentively to others with far less impressive resumes.

In more than two decades as a pastor, Pohjola has ministered to congregations as small as 30. He has spent his life building a network of faithful churches across Finland, many of which started with a few people gathered for prayer, Bible study, hymn-singing—and communion, if they can get a pastor. In an in-person interview with The Federalist, Pohjola urged fellow Christian leaders to be willing to seek out “one lost sheep” instead of crowds and acclaim.

This is the man who appears to be the first in the post-Soviet Union West to be brought up on criminal charges for preaching the Christian message as it has been established for thousands of years. Also charged in the case that goes to trial on January 24 is Pohjola’s fellow Lutheran and a Finnish member of Parliament, Paivi Rasanen. Rasanen’s alleged crimes in a country that claims to guarantee freedom of speech and religion include tweeting a picture of a Bible verse. Potential penalties if they are convicted include fines and up to two years in prison.

Finnish Authorities: The Bible Is Hate Speech

Rasanen and Pohjola are being charged with “hate speech” for respectively writing and publishing a 24-page 2004 booklet that explains basic Christian theology about sex and marriage, which reserves sex exclusively for within marriage, which can only consist of one man and one woman, for life. The Finnish prosecutor claims centuries-old Christian teachings about sex “incite hatred” and violate legal preferences for government-privileged identity groups.

Writer Rod Dreher pointed out the witch hunt nature of this prosecution: “Räsänen wrote that pamphlet seven years before LGBT was added to the national hate-speech law as a protected class. She was investigated once before for the pamphlet, and cleared — but now she’s going to undergo another interrogation.”

Rasanen and Pohjola both have adamantly affirmed “the divinely given dignity, value, and human rights of all, including all who identify with the LGBTQ community.” Christian theology teaches that all human beings are precious, as all are made in God’s image and offered eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In advance of the trial, Rasanen and Pohjola have been interrogated by police for hours about their theology. Pohjola told me in the interrogation police treated Christian beliefs as thought crimes. In a statement, Rasanen noted that the police publicly admitted their interpretation of Finland’s law would make publishing the Bible a hate crime.

“It is impossible for me to think that the classical Christian views and the doctrine of the majority of denominations would become illegal. The question here is about the core of Christian faith; how a person gets saved into unity with God and into everlasting life though the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus. Therefore, it is crucial to also talk about the nature of sin,” Rasanen told Dreher. “As we are living in a democratic country, we must be able to disagree and express our disagreement. We have to be able to cope with speech that we feel insults our feelings. Many questions are so debatable and contradictory that we have to have the possibility of discussing. Otherwise, the development is towards a totalitarian system, with only one correct view.”

Major International Implications

Humans rights lawyer Paul Coleman, who spoke to The Federalist from his Alliance Defending Freedom International office in Vienna, Austria, says Pohjola and Rasanen’s cases are a “canary in the coalmine” for freedom of speech across the West. ADF International is providing legal support for Pohjola and Rasanen’s cases.

“Although all European countries have these hate speech laws, and these hate speech laws are increasingly being used against citizens for things that they say, this is the first time we’ve really seen Christians face criminal prosecution for explaining their biblical views,” Coleman said. “…It’s unprecedented. We’ve not seen attacks on free speech on this level in Europe, and that’s why they are extremely important cases, not just for the people of Finland and Paivi Rasanen and the bishop themselves, but for all of Europe. If this is upheld in one jurisdiction, we will no doubt see it in other jurisdictions as well.”

Such “hate speech” laws exist in every European country and Western countries such as Canada and Australia, and descend from Soviet influence. Coleman called them “sleeper laws,” saying that in other countries “they could be used any time just like they are in Finland. People need to mobilize against these laws and overturn them.”

Legally privileging certain sexual behavior has thus broken western countries’ promises of equality before the law for all citizens, as well as enabling government discrimination against citizens who exercise their free speech and religious liberty, as in the Baronnelle Stutzman and Jack Phillips cases in the United States.

“Establishing standards of identity” also lets government meddle in theological controversies that are none of its business, said the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Shaw, who directs church relations for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and has known Pohjola for decades. Pohjola’s church is an international partner of the LCMS.

From a natural law and historic Western perspective, “the government isn’t supposed to get into people’s brains and tell them what’s right and wrong to believe and say,” Shaw noted in a phone interview. “That’s not their realm. Their realm is in externals, things like protect people in their bodies, go to war when necessary, and punish criminals… This is really what’s at stake [in the Pohjola case]. Government has lost its moorings and doesn’t know its purpose.”

From Part-Time Pastor to Bishop

After theological study in Finland and the United States, Pohjola’s first congregation in Helsinki started with about 30 members, he says. It was only able to support him part-time at first. He remembered his wife accompanying the congregation’s hymn-singing on a piano while their firstborn daughter, a baby at the time, laid on a blanket on the floor nearby.

Finland’s state church began openly disobeying Christian theology concerning sex differences amid the global sexual revolution of the 1960s. So, Christians alienated by the state church’s embrace of anti-Christian cultural demands sought faithful pastors like Pohjola, who are known as “confessional” for adhering to historic Christian confessions. The resulting growth of his tiny congregation gradually led to establishing a seminary, then dozens of mission churches, which grew as the theologically unfaithful state church shrank. In 2013, 25 of these new confessional congregations formed the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Finland. Today, that diocese oversees 45 congregations and missions and is training 64 pastors.

That growth has been accompanied by suffering, including persecution first from Pohjola’s own church.

First Persecuted By His Own Church

In 2009, Pohjola was awarded the theological journal Gottesdienst’s Sabre of Boldness Award, which is granted “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity on behalf of the Holy Church of Christ, while engaged in the confession of His Pure Gospel in the face of hostile forces, and at the greatest personal risk.” The award honored Pohjola, with other faithful Finnish pastors, for standing firm as Finland’s state church sought civil charges against them for refusing to disobey the Bible’s commands that only men be sent to lead spiritual warfare as pastors.

Like Luther before him, Pohjola was expelled by his own church body in 2014 for adhering to God’s word on this matter. The notice of his discharge declared Pohjola was “obviously unfit to be a pastor.” At the time, he responded with grief but also by saying that he must obey God rather than men, lamenting: “Instead of the Church being purged with God’s Word, she is being purged from God’s Word.”

In the interview last week, Pohjola said being defrocked from “his baptismal church” grieves him to this day. On his mother’s side, Pohjola said, his family includes Lutheran pastors in that church going back to the 17th century Reformation. But he could not disobey God’s commands to retain his social status or employment.

Division or Unity? Yes

Pohjola’s separation from Finland’s state church also had the consequence of uniting him and his flock with other confessional Christians across the globe. The International Lutheran Council is a global network of theologically unified churches, and like the confessional churches in Finland, that network is growing.

Mathew Block, the ILC’s communications manager, noted that the heightened contradictions between increasingly unnatural pagan practices and historic Christian teachings are causing a global “confessional realignment.” It’s forcing people to make a real decision about where they stand rather than allowing them to inhabit the increasingly nonexistent, indecisive middle. This is affecting churches all over the world. While it means divisions in some areas, it also is leading to unity in others. For example, despite other important theological differences, all the world’s largest Christian bodies agree with the doctrines for which the Finnish government is persecuting Pohjola. That allows them to speak in chorus to government leaders.

Already many dozens of top religious leaders across the world have formally raised their concerns with Rasanen and Pohjola’s prosecution to the Finnish government and the United Nations. Several U.S. members of Congress have also asked U.S. agencies to take action against Finland for these human rights abuses.

“I encourage Roman Catholic ecclesiastical leaders and all those who care for souls to speak up and join hands and lock arms with us as we talk about the absolute necessity of our historic Christian values of one man, one woman, marriage, and the freedom to be able to believe it, to say it, to publish books about it, and find practical ways through hospitality, education, and other social engagement to make society strong that way,” Shaw said. “All churches—one could even say all religions but in particular the Roman Catholic faith—this reflects their historic commitments as well.”

The Shepherd Faces Wolf Attacks for the Sheep

In August 2021, the international Lutheran church recognized Pohjola’s steadfast leadership amid persecution by supporting his election to bishop of Finland’s confessional diocese. The ILC hosted Pohjola’s November 2021 speaking tour in the United States, and is raising funds across the world to raise awareness of his case.

“Our mission has been that, if the shepherd sees that one sheep is missing, he knows,” Pohjola said of the churches he oversees. He noted that many people coming to faithful Finnish churches are seeking love and connection from a church family as the secular world becomes increasingly isolated and family-less, in no small part because of pagan sexual behavior and beliefs.

“People don’t go to church for social capital now. This is a serious life and they want to be serious with God. So, churches have to build communities that stand on solid Lutheran, biblical doctrine,” Pohjola says.

While he may not share Luther’s temperament, Pohjola’s response to his own persecution by church and civil authorities does mirror Luther’s simplicity four centuries ago: “Here I stand. I can do no other.” He adds a pastoral message to Christians watching governments turn on them today.

“We have to learn from the past, Christians who have suffered under persecution, and be prepared,” Pohjola said. “But it’s not something to be worried about, because Christ remains faithful to His church and wherever he is leading us, He will come with us. He will provide everything that is needed for the future of His Christians and His church.”

You can hear Pohjola talk about his case and its implications during his November visit to the United States here:

And watch a Federalist Radio Hour interview with Pohjola here:

Shake Off Our Sleeves

I was working here at my computer and listening to FOX CABLE, as usual, and once again I heard some things that stuck a chord with me. It is most unfortunate that our society has become one that is so “touchy-feely” with everything. Being “offended” has become something to avoid, or go into an attack mode to punish those that are guilty of doing the “offending.”  Those behind our social media, along with those whose life’s calling is to reshape America into their own Marxist-Socialist image, have work feverously to tear down our one time social sense of respect, and replace it with our present day mood of sensitivity to any opinion, theology or ideology we hold dear.

I was raised in a home where both of my parents seemed to have had the same upbringing. Their values were identical, and they passed them on to my sister and me with consistent regularity. We were raised in church (Evangelical), and from my earliest memory, I watched what we learned on Sunday played out in our home throughout the week. There was never a time that we did not know love, which made our strict upbringing tolerable, and now as a mature adult, thankful.

One of the many things I learned as a boy was respect for people in general. I was taught that any form of prejudice was wrong. From my earliest recollection showing people respect by saying, “Sir; Mam;  please; Thank You; etc. was commonplace. In fact, not long ago, a man I knew very well stopped me one day and exclaimed that we were not in the military ( because every time I saw him I would say things like “Good morning Sir”). I responded that I did not learn that in the Marine Corp, but by my parents and grandparents.  That was as much a part of my upbringing as anything else, including political perspectives; I was raised as a conservative Christian with a genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, not a religion or an ideology.

I also was taught to show respect to others who had a differing opinion than mine. Those lessons taught me that a differing opinion was not a rejection of me, my opinion, or beliefs. They were just different. We could have a discussion without argument, or “offending” the person. In fact, one such lesson, learned the hard way, regarded HOW we offend other people; (1) Our attitude toward them, (2) our reaction to them, and (3) the words (including phrases euphemisms, dysphemism and slur words) we use. Yes, words have meanings, and certain words have no place in any civil societal discourse.

As I got older, and got to know my dad better, on more than one occasion I would watch him discuss issues I knew were important to him. Even when opposed with great emotion, he remained calm and would not be confrontational. That was consistent with both my grandparents, and other role models around me.  I know that others were raised in the same way because we shared most of the same values I learned at home. No, we were not raised on another planet.

Out parents, grandparents and other role models were people who came out the Great Depression, two World Wars and the Korean “Conflict”. These were people who had learned these lessons from people who learned such societal conduct from hard times, and respect for what it took to survive. Being thankful was a lifestyle of appreciation for more abundance than most of their ancestors ever knew. Respect for life, respect for others, respect for social conduct, respect for education, respect for family, respect for your Spiritual Life and respect for self were ongoing lessons that knew no graduation.

As I listen to what people say every day, I could get very offended, IF I CHOSE TO GET OFFENDED. Yes, being offended is a choice, a deliberate act of the will. Tip-toeing through life has no pleasure for anyone, especially those that look for ways to be offended. What a miserable way to live. I can’t change them, but I can control my conduct, and my sensitivity.

As for me, I choose to be respectful, loving and accepting (accepting is NOT saying I agree with an opinion, ideology, theology or political spin).  A very wise person said that we need to choose our battles. True. In the mean time, why don’t we just shake off our sleeves, put our “offense gun” back in its holster, and decide to get to know the people we come in contact with every day. Who knows, we might find ways to get along, and make our society more pleasant.

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