A little-known organization paid $20 million for two commercials that are set to appear during the Super Bowl, starring none other than Jesus Christ – as observant Christians hope the group promotes the Biblical gospel instead of a cultural agenda.
The campaign behind the commercials is called “He Gets Us,” and was launched in March of 2022 and funded by anonymous donors and Hobby Lobby CEO David Green, according to the Associated Press. An ad will play during each half of the game; one will focus on “how children demonstrate Jesus’ love” and the other “deals with anger, and how Jesus modeled a different way,” the report states.
“We think Jesus is a big deal and we want to make a big deal out of it,” said campaign spokesperson Jason Vanderground. “What better way to do that than to put him in the biggest cultural moment that we have the entire year?”
The campaign’s advertisements all center around the idea that Jesus “gets us.” According to NPR, the “well-funded” campaign discusses how Jesus “was a refugee, had disdain for hypocrisy, and was also unfairly judged like other marginalized members of modern society.”
“The advertisements are part of an effort to shift away from a negative public perception of Christians, and towards Jesus, says Bob Smietana, national reporter for Religion News Service, in an interview with NPR,” according to the report. “Smietana says that the campaign is attempting to appeal to groups that may have felt excluded or repelled by the church in recent years, like members of the LGBTQ community, different races and ethnicities, those who lean more liberal politically, or people who have kept up with scandals of abuse.”
A Michigan creative agency called Haven is behind the multi-million-dollar Super Bowl campaign, according to Michigan Live. The Signatry, which operates under a Kansas-based nonprofit called The Servant Foundation, is organizing the funds, the report states.
“Most of our messaging has been about what Jesus modeled, what he taught and what he experienced,” said Bill McKendry, founder and chief creative officer of Haven.
“It’s not a back to church campaign,” McKendry added. “But we do believe we are heightening the interest in Jesus, and obviously one of the outlets where people can go is a church.”
McKendry told the outlet the campaign hopes to “raise the respect and relevancy of Jesus” in the United States and cause Christians to “reflect Jesus better in their life.”
“How did the world’s greatest love story become known as a hate group?” he said.
McKendry said 75 wealthy donors funded the campaign, which had a $100 million budget last year. The campaign hit $300 million this year, and the goal is eventually to become a $1 billion campaign. McKendry noted that the donors are active “across the political spectrum” and that “there’s no agenda here other than we just want people to see what Jesus modeled…”
The group’s website describes Jesus as “the world’s most radical love activist” and a “revolutionary figure who challenged the status quo of his time.” The group also paints Jesus as a figure who is “[open] to people that others might have excluded” and “stood up for the marginalized.”
The website reads in part:
So what could possibly be louder and more powerful than hate? Love can. But not just any love. Confounding love. Unconditional love. Sacrificial love. The love we see in Jesus. This shocking and even revolutionary figure — who challenged the status quo of his time, who spoke out against the religious and political leaders of his day, who advocated for the marginalized and oppressed, but who always, always, always loved others despite their identity, beliefs, or values. Jesus showed us the path to human flourishing and fulfillment was to love others as oneself, even if it costs you your life.
Online comments to news stories about the ads point out that words such as “sin” and “repentance” and “holiness” are found nowhere on the page, even though faithful Christians insist they are topics central to Jesus’ teachings and life on earth. For its part, the campaign claims that it is not left or right leaning and not affiliated with any particular church or denomination.
Online commentary suggests the Christian community does not know whether to be hopeful or apprehensive about the upcoming ads, knowing that the Jesus of the Bible is often replaced by what Bible-believing Christians view as a false social-justice-warrior portrayal of Jesus to further leftwing cultural and political priorities and discard biblical moral teachings. Ironically, Americans who regard the Bible as the Word of God and publicly proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior are often among those who are often among the marginalized in modern society that the campaign claims are its intended beneficiaries.
It remains to be seen if the estimated 100 million Super Bowl watchers will be exposed to a modernized “feel good” Jesus — all love and no holiness — who never speaks of sin or calls for repentance, or the Jesus that the Bible-believing Christian community evangelizes about: the Son of God who died on a cross for the sins of the world that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”