Jesus was a refugee, at least in a sense. This was not a controversial statement until the last few decades when illegal immigrants began pouring across the American border with a growing number taking advantage of amnesty laws to extend their stay. The Left, seeking to allow the illegal immigrants to stay, claimed not only that they were refugees, but that Jesus was too — and Scripture says to take care of the refugee.
Jesus and his parents were instructed by God to flee from Bethlehem to Egypt because King Herod intended to find and kill the child. A person who flees one’s country to escape persecution is historically considered a refugee. With the Left’s embrace of every illegal immigrant as a refugee, many conservative Christians now refute what most Christians long embraced: Christ as a refugee. The justification for the denial is that he did not flee his native land for a foreign land but instead went from one part of the Roman Empire to another.
The truth is that Jesus was a refugee into the land of Egypt in a sense, but also, 2,000 years ago things were very different, and it is not really a comparison to say someone fleeing from gang violence in Guatemala is a refugee in the same sense Christ’s family fleeing a murderous king was. I get the distinction, but conservative Christians screaming that Christ was not a refugee are putting the political dialogue of the 21st century ahead of meaningful faith issues.
Of course, so too are those who play up Christ as a refugee to relate to people now. That brings me to a new campaign by He Gets Us. The organization says it is “an initiative of Servant Foundation,” which in turn says it is “an endowment fund controlled by Church of the Servant’s elected Foundation Board and managed by the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation.” It is the perfect campaign for the United Methodist Church, a denomination going through a crackup. A majority of its members, largely because of its African congregations, chose to reject gay marriage and gay ordination in 2019 in a special session of the denomination’s general conference. The progressive white leadership of the United Methodist Church chose to ignore the vote.
Now, as the UMC shrinks, Methodists are spending millions of dollars through the Servant Foundation to run an exceedingly silly campaign called “He Gets Us.”
Trying to be relatable, they have run ads during sporting events wading into the cultural fight with their declaration Christ was a refugee. As I mentioned, I am amenable to the argument, but they have planted a flag in a culture war issue that will immediately turn off some people. Just like the white progressive leaders of the UMC did not care a majority of their members did not want gay ordination, they will not care about this either.
Filled with hashtags and currently relevant branding and language, the dying denomination is trying to make Jesus relevant to modernity. They miss the point about Christ. We are supposed to change for him. He already gets us. We need to get him. Trying to make him cool or relevant to current cultural issues co-opts the Creator for the creations of others. It is a terrible waste of money to make Christianity culturally relevant when the faith has historically eschewed cultural relevance for eternal relevance.
If the Servant Foundation really wanted to serve, they could better spend the money on rescuing poor children from failing public schools. They could support the homeless population and run faith-based rehabilitation programs. They could actually get their hands dirty instead of running dumb ads during sporting events.
He Gets Us is the perfect missional effort for a group of lazy Christians who want cultural relevance without getting their hands dirty in culture. Some homeless person in America right now could use a few of the dollars spent on the multimillion-dollar ad campaign to rehabilitate his life. But hey, Jesus gets that guy — and that guy would find out if he could just turn on the TV dumped under the overpass.
To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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