(OPINION) The TikTok profile Daily Believer (@believerdaily) has 70 videos with computer-generated Jesuses looking directly at the viewer, beseeching them to stop scrolling and watch the next minute’s worth of content.
All these Jesuses are long-haired and bearded, recalling artist Warner Sallman’s ubiquitous 1940 painting “Head of Christ.” Some wear the crown of thorns, some look alarmingly like the actor Jared Leto.
Nearly all promise a surprise or “good news soon” in exchange for the viewer liking, commenting “Amen” or sharing it with their friends and family. With this digital outreach, the Daily Believer has gained, as of Nov. 13, 2023, 813,200 followers and over 9.2 million likes.
As a scholar of religion in the U.S. and its intersection with popular culture, I have been studying the ways American Christians use media and popular culture to perform religious work and evangelical outreach for the past 13 years.
@believerdaily Welcome Jesus into Your Home 🙏🏠 This video brings a special visitor to you, straight from my home. He is someone I know very well, his name is Jesus Christ. He is ready to enter your life, bring protection to your family, and cleanse your heart with His love. #lordjesus #praise #jesusislord #orar #jesuschristislord #biblia #bible #jesusisking #jesuschrist #christ ♬ Emotional – Bang Nono
I argue that this TikTok phenomenon, in which viewers are promised good luck for sharing, liking, and commenting on videos of a computer-generated Jesus, is close to what is known as the prosperity gospel – that is, a Christian belief that God will reward faith with this-worldly comforts, like health and wealth.
“Welcome Jesus into Your Home” is among the Daily Believer’s most popular videos, with over 22.2 million subscribers. According to the computer-generated Jesus, if the viewer believes in God, they must share this video with their friends and family and comment “I believe.”
If they do, they will receive a blessing within an hour. If they do not, computer-generated Jesus issues a thinly veiled threat of damnation by quoting Matthew 3:10, which has John the Baptist saying, “Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
It is a TikTok chain letter – one whose creator can be monetarily compensated, by TikTok, between 2 cents and 4 cents for every 1,000 views. For example, “Welcome Jesus into Your Home” could have earned the creator $900 from TikTok views alone, with the possibility for additional money earned on sites like Facebook Reels.
It is simple and effective. While the Daily Believer’s views are dwarfed by TikTok megastars like socialite Kylie Jenner and social media personality Khaby Lame, its engagement percentages are much higher, receiving some form of engagement from about one out of every four viewers.
Whether or not there are religious motivations underlying the Daily Believer’s desire for viewer engagement, there are monetary benefits for sure. The TikTok Creator Fund pays creators who have over 10,000 authentic followers based on the number of views, comments and sharing. (CONTINUE)