Yep, if Jesus’ public relations committee were working for anyone else, they’d have been fired long ago. Anyone else with such a bad rep would disappear. The campaign would be over, the bus tour cancelled, the public appearances would stop…except for maybe Sarah Palin.
And we assume that it is this image problem that is leading to Christianity’s slide in influence. If only we could get our act together and show the people the real Jesus, then people would come back to us.
But maybe Jesus’ PR problem isn’t as simple as we think.
If you are a Christian, you probably fall into one of three groups in Jesus’ PR:
Jesus’ image problem is ambiguous and not quite defined. It’s just that many of us know it when we see it.
Is it the Americanization of Jesus?
The crappy riffs on pop culture or the endless Jesus accessories?
The televangelists and arenas full of rich Americans who lap up a prosperity gospel like they are the ones actually dying of hunger and thirst in a third world country?
Is it “missionary tourists” with matching t-shirts?
Is it the most zealous and misguided Christians who make the news?
Is it the Christians who use Facebook to publicly proselytize their (undoubtedly few) friends, or better yet, set up Christian alternatives to Facebook and Twitter?
There are a hundred definitions of what is wrong with Jesus’ public image. If you aren’t part of any of these groups, you may be a part of the next group…
A good chunk of the internet’s power is dedicated solely to mock and ridicule the failure of others. Whole sites dedicated to “fails” in wardrobes, family photos, parking cars, sports, dancing, singing, and every other conceivable human endeavor clog the internet, if only to make viewers feel better about themselves momentarily.
And like a typical Christian riff on pop culture, there are whole sites dedicated to mocking Christians who are part of “the problem.” Some are run by Christians, others by non-Christians.
Of course, Christians often make themselves easy targets for ridicule, in the same way that hillbillies attempting to “truck surf” make themselves easy targets of internet ridicule, as the dozens of Google results on such a query will show you.
Maybe the goal is to point at the Christians that everyone else is taunting and say, “Hey, not all of us are like those idiots!” The funny thing is, in our hipster era, where everything can be labeled “ironic,” we’ve probably all done something sincerely in the name of Jesus that another Christian would openly mock. There you go, you are part of problem.
I’m Not With Them
Last, there are the Christians who are really sincerely trying to fix Jesus’ image problem.
Maybe they’re trying to show people the “real” Jesus with compassion and love. They’re trying to help people strip away all the commercialism and culture and politics that cloud his face.
What if this last group succeeded? What if we brushed all the dirt off of Jesus, got the idiots away from him, and restored his image, just as it was when he walked around Israel?
Jesus would still have a major image problem.
Jesus himself created a lot of problems for his PR team in three years. His disciples asked him more than once if he even knew how offensive, how socially unacceptable his behavior in public was. They tried to keep Jesus away from people who would do embarrassing things in his name. They tried to exclude crazy people, but Jesus seemed just seemed too intrigued by weird. His disciples were constantly on damage control, until his rep was so bad that people would’ve rather seen him dead, and a guilty man go free.
Getting Jesus out of the way didn’t really help his image. People quickly assumed that the new Christian “cult” was full of incestuous ceremonies and cannibalism (thanks to ambiguous language like “love feasts” and “body and blood of Jesus.”)
Jesus’ PR problem isn’t going away. It’s a problem over two-thousand years old. And just like Trekkies and Ron Paul supporters, mocking weird or stupid Christians won’t make them go away. The more you strip away Jesus’ modern PR problems, the more you discover the original PR problems Jesus made for himself.
So what box are you in? Are you part of the problem, part of the solution, or part of the peanut gallery? Who do you think is the biggest part of the problem? Hey, I know I’ve been all three. I can’t say any of it has helped Jesus’ PR.
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