Why in God’s Name Would Anyone Advertise Jesus on the Super Bowl?

Well the Doc opened up the old mailbag today and here’s what poured out.

Dear Dr. Ads,

There I was, minding my own business and tooling around Google, when I came across this Fortune piece by Chris Morris (which I had to read on Yahoo Life, since I haven’t ponied up for a subscription to Fortune).

Mysterious donors are paying millions to run commercials for Jesus during the Super Bowl

Does Jesus need an ad campaign?

A group of anonymous donors seems to think so and will run two ads in Super Bowl LVII, paying the millions of dollars that Fox is asking for each ad spot. It’s the latest in a series of commercials that have run for the past 10 months under the banner “He Gets Us.”

The ad series spotlights Jesus as someone who is patient and loving and understands the human condition, especially as society gets more divided.

Wait – selling heaven during the Big Game? What the hell, Doc.

– Bowled Over

Dear Bowled,

Lots of head-scratching going on here, the least of which is why you’d mix a Jesus ad in with the endless procession of beer, blondes, and bros that populate your average Super Bowl ad.

But let’s start with that question anyway, which the website Christianity Today tries to answer in this unbylined piece posted yesterday.

“A large part of this movement is to call upon Christians to reflect Jesus by demonstrating the unconditional love and forgiveness he exemplified,” says [Jordan Carson, spokesperson and director of communication for He Gets Us]. “It’s a reminder for us, as Christians, to reflect on our own actions, and to align ourselves with how Jesus wanted us to treat and love one another.”

In order to further empower believers to reflect Jesus, He Gets Us Super Bowl ads center around a theme called “The Third Way.” This theme encourages Christians to reject the divisive and polarized nature of our cultural moment and to choose respect, kindness, and love in their interactions with others, just as Jesus did. He demonstrated unconditional love to everyone by rejecting both anger and apathy in favor of agape love, that sacrificial love that unites and heals.

Not sure agape love will play a big part in the action that occurs between Super Bowl commercials, but why get technical about it.

Regardless, here’s a representative spot from the He Gets Us campaign.

And here are some social media posts via Religion News Service.

The much larger question, of course, is who exactly is bankrolling the Come-to-Jesus campaign, which has been running throughout the NFL playoffs and has a reported budget of $100 million. Here’s how the Fortune piece described the funding.

The website for the campaign says the campaign is backed by Servant Foundation, a Missouri nonprofit whose donors have largely remained anonymous.

In November, however, Hobby Lobby founder David Green told talk show host Glenn Beck that his family was helping fund the ads. That has raised concerns that the far right could be using the ads as a recruitment campaign.

The He Gets Us campaign rejects those theories, however, saying on its website “We’re not ‘left’ or ‘right’ or a political organization of any kind. We’re also not affiliated with any particular church or denomination. We simply want everyone to understand the authentic Jesus as he’s depicted in the Bible—the Jesus of radical forgiveness, compassion, and love.”

Not to mention the Jesus of radical spending: “Organizers say they hope to spend $1 billion over the next three years to continue the pro-Jesus ads,” the Fortune piece reports.

Good lord.