Jesus & The Super Bowl
The Super Bowl this past Sunday made history in a lot of ways. It was the first Super Bowl featuring two black starting quarterbacks and the first to feature two brothers on opposing teams.
It was also the first Super Bowl to feature a halftime show with a pregnant star performer (Rhianna), which was awesome.
This Super Bowl also made history by being the first to feature high-profile ads about Jesus.
The $2 billion ad campaign "He Gets Us" surprises viewers with modern takes on understanding Jesus in our current cultural climate.
One commercial shows a slideshow of black-and-white images of migrants fleeing their homes to avoid persecution. The ad revealed that the story is actually about Jesus, his mother, Mary, and her husband, Joseph.
The other ad displays black-and-white images of disputes between people over racial justice, pandemic lockdowns, and politics. The ad then states, "Jesus loved the people we hate."
Recently, it was revealed that the funding for the ads was through massive donations to a foundation that has in the past donated tens of millions in legislative pushes to curtail LGBTQ rights and quash non-discrimination legislation in the Supreme Court.
But the donors to this campaign had something else in mind, despite their political leanings.
One of the major donors for the ads was the Green family, who owns the craft and decor chain Hobby Lobby. The Green family are staunch, evangelical conservatives, but they believed in the broad message of the ads.
David Green had this to say in an interview:
“We are wanting to say — ‘we’ being a lot of different people — that he gets us,” Green said. “[Jesus] understands us. He loves who we hate. I think we have to let the public know and create a movement.”
Not all conservative Christians were thrilled about the ads or that they were primarily funded by the Green family and other evangelical organizations. Right-wing pundit Charlie Kirk had this to say:
The marketing group behind "He Gets Us" has done one of the worst services to Christianity in the modern era. The Green family are decent wonderful people who have been taken for a ride by these woke tricksters. So sad!
The ads themselves are not above critique, but I'm not going to parse the areas where I believe they could have been better.
Instead, I'd like to say this: You're probably on to something when you invite criticism from both the left and the right in our current culture.
Regardless of who funded them, these ads offer a path to a "third way" of thinking and talking about Jesus grounded in the example we see of him in the Gospels.
Jesus was a refugee. His parents sought asylum in a foreign country to escape a murderous dictator who would have killed them and their son.
Jesus did teach his followers to love their opponents and was not afraid to sit down to a meal with those who disagreed with him and forgive those who hated him.
Jesus did show grace, love, and acceptance to those on the margins of society. He even violated social norms and religious traditions and often rightly re-interpreted Scripture to show God's preference for those who have been forgotten.
Jesus did all of these things and more.
And these ads remind those of us who are Christians what following Jesus ought to look like. They also tell a better story than the one we've heard from the Church in our culture for a long time. A story that is truly Good News.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, now and forever. Amen.