Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 03/16/22

Jesus Gets Us. That’s the simple but powerful (and empowering) message of a national ad campaign that officially launched Monday across TV, digital, radio, outdoor, and experiential platforms. A 10-market, multi-million-dollar test over the last few months included ad placement in top prime-time shows and NFL games far exceeded expectations. The first round of ads garnered 32-million views on YouTube in just 10 weeks and nearly half a million people visited the interactive website

The above spot called Anxiety, for example, shows suffering and anxiety across various walks of life and culminates with a message that reads “Jesus suffered anxiety too.” Another ad, Wrongly Judged, follows a group of heavily tattooed youths as they roam the streets – bring food to the homeless. As the spot points out, like the young people featured in the video spot, Jesus too was wrongly judged. Dinner Party seems particularly relevant to our time as the commercial depicts diverse groups of people are invited to a gathering – but several of the invited guests choose not to attend because they can’t overcome the things that divide them. The ad suggests that Jesus, the organizer of the dinner party we call life, is heartbroken because He wants His people to let go of judgment and share in the food, drink and compassion He offers us all.

The nationwide effort, backed by a coalition of Christian donors, is a response to nationwide research conducted last year which found that many Americans associate Christianity with judgementalism, discrimination, and hypocrisy.

Haven Founder and Chief Creative Officer Bill McKendry, whose company created the spots, says that are “disrupting misconceptions by pointing out how Jesus identified with the marginalized, how he didn’t favor the powerful, how he often offended the religious by associating with social outcasts, how he was wholly disinterested in political power as a means of furthering his movement and how he actively challenged systems of oppression even though he knew it would cost him his life.”

Haven President Jason Vandergound adds “Maybe the most surprising aspect of this campaign is that it makes no attempt to recruit or convert anyone to a particular denomination or belief…This initiative is designed simply to remind Americans that, no matter what they believe, no matter what religious beliefs they hold — or don’t — Jesus’ life and experiences can serve as inspiration as they navigate their own situations.”

BAHNding together. One of the nation’s oldest advocacy organizations for the those experiencing homelessness, The National Coalition For The Homeless,  is set to host interfaith leaders, families, individuals experiencing homelessness, musicians, artists, and elected officials representing the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions in a national zoom launch of a new campaign aimed at finally ending homelessness once and for all. Called the Bring America Home Now Campaign (BAHN), the event will be held from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM (ET) in Washington, D.C.  The campaign seeks to address the  multiple system breakdowns that have contributed to the affordable housing and homelessness crisis.

NCH Executive Director Donald Whitehead, who has been interviewed before in this space and is one of the chief architects of Bring America Home Now, says The current tragic homeless crisis for the un-housed has many contributing factors. This includes the Covid-19 pandemic, the spiraling costs of private market housing, low wages for working people, strict eligibility requirements to get into private market housing, employment instability, the Supreme Court’s recent decision to lift the CDC’s moratorium on evictions, and the millions of working families and people who lack access to public or non-profit housing. This has caused untold and unnecessary suffering on families with children, working people, veterans, seniors, and the physically and mentally challenged who do not have access to housing in the wealthiest country in the world. We have witnessed a dramatic increase in people living on the streets, in tent cities, in cars, abandoned buildings. People are being turned away from homeless shelters, forced to live in temporary housing situations, or living doubled up with strangers, friends, or family members in conditions that are not conducive to human freedom, dignity, peace of mind, and the ability to become a tax paying member of the economic mainstream.”

Dr. Reverend Rodney Sadler, Associate Professor at Union Presbyterian Seminary and the Director of the Union Presbyterian Seminaryadds “In the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions, we are commanded by God to treat people fairly and with compassion. Psalm 140:12 reads ‘I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor, and upholds the cause of the needy.’ The time has come for the faith community to work to end homelessness in America.”

Interfaith Event Chair Pastor Michelle Bush concurs, declaring “We believe that every human being is a precious commodity to God and should never be without his/her bare essentials. Housing is a human right—a matter of dignity & self-respect. It is time that the most vulnerable of society are viewed as equals, having the same access to healthy food, good paying jobs, and shelter inside a dwelling that is clean, safe, and habitable.”

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
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