Jim McDermott, writing in America magazine, offers an interesting breakdown of those much-discussed Super Bowl ads for Jesus. I like the ads, but I think McDermott is fair to question whether they will have much of an effect.
What I find odd in his analysis is his claim that the most effective of these ads are the ones that are least about Jesus because, “The point of being a Christian isn’t to make more Christians.”
Now, it is easy enough for anyone to pull a line out of context to beat up a writer. But, in this case, the line stands out all on its own. This is the idea of the piece, stated with brave clarity. The point of Christianity, he then informs us, is “to work toward that kingdom of friendship and mercy that Jesus himself was building.”
Is this right? Did Jesus not so much want to convert us to himself as to his work?
I suppose any good Catholic could find a way to answer, “both yes and no.” Certainly Jesus wants us to imitate him and join him in his work. But he also calls us “evil” and says deflating things like, “apart from me you can do nothing.”
He does want us to take up his work and imitate him in his manner of life, but he is devastatingly clear that we will fail if we try to do so without being firmly converted to him, personally, as the vine on which we depend.
McDermott is certainly correct that Jesus wants us to be workers for the Kingdom, and he is equally right that it is a kingdom of friendship and mercy. But Jesus needed no one to tell him what is in the hearts of men, and he made clear time and time again that men must come to him if they want to have hearts capable of living the Kingdom of God.
Jesus was more of a “Come to me” kind of guy than the “You can do it” kind.