Over the last 50 years, the evangelical churches have largely taken one of two reactive approaches to the secularization of American society. One has involved a “seeker sensitive” mentality that emphasized the use of marketing techniques to present a vision of church that would be palatable to the felt needs of our unchurched neighbors. While for decades those promoting these church growth techniques claimed that only the methods, not the message, changed, almost anyone surveying the course of this history can see that they modified the message itself in significant ways, too often creating the result of a “Christless Christianity.” The other evangelical approach was a more politically oriented one making a strange case for “taking back America.”
Christian media outlets are awash with the news that Jesus will have a Super Bowl ad this year. The ad furthers a campaign designed to let America know that Jesus “gets us.” In order to get across that message, its designers created a modified version of qualities emphasizing those aspects of Jesus’ life that most of our secular neighbors would find agreeable. He was a migrant who suffered poverty and other forms of privation while also enduring racism. That he bore such griefs means that he empathizes with all of us who carry similar loads. Thus, he gets us. There is no mention of allegedly controversial notions that he was the Son of God or died bearing the punishment of people’s sins.
Reports indicate that those bankrolling this cause have committed $1 billion over 3 years. When people whom I would on many things agree with have shown their sincerity by giving so benevolently of their treasure, one can have no pleasure in disagreeing with them, but here goes:
It won’t work. And, if it does work, it will be a bad thing.
Promoters of the campaign, particularly as it regards placement of an ad during America’s seminal religious event (the Super Bowl), embrace hope in the presentation of a likable Jesus to a culture that is sprinting away from organized religious belief. It would seem relevant that in the New Testament the apostles faced a similarly hostile crowd and presented Christ’s claims in an entirely different fashion. Peter announced in the temple precinct in Jerusalem that God raised the One whom they had crucified. Paul told the Corinthian Christians that their leaders had “crucified the Lord of glory,” and the author of Hebrews, addressing a crisis resulting from a generation of Christians looking to abandon the faith, asserted that God had spoken by the Son, who had created, sustains, and been appointed the heir of all things. Thus, the biblical preachers and writers responded to unbelief by boldly proclaiming the claims of the one being rejected.
Modern evangelicals are riding down a well worn historic path of soft selling a Socinian Savior who can supposedly be believed in by modern Americans.