Photo by John Torcasio on Unsplash

Jesus Scores A Multi-Million Dollar Touchdown At Super Bowl LIV

Phil Garber
6 min readFeb 13, 2024

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Right up there with the Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement is the Make America Christian Again (MACA) movement, most recently demonstrated by the $100 million campaign that included the “He Gets Us” Jesus Super bowl ads.

The promotional campaign is largely funded by far right organizations including the notoriously anti-LGBTQ craft store Hobby Lobby craft chain and its multi-billionaire owner, David Green.

Sandwiched between ads for Oreos and McDonald’s, were the “He Gets Us” ads designed to help everyone to “rediscover the love story of Jesus.” The millions spent on the Super Bowl ad to spread the message of Jesus and Jesus’ poverty, “unconditional love, kindness and generosity” would be better used to help the homeless, feed starving children, help people defeat substance abuse, and help to battle the many other critical issues facing Americans.

The irony is not lost of spending millions to spread a message of the Savior and his disciples washing the feet of the needy and the downtrodden. What Jesus doesn’t need is a diamond studded marketing campaign. Jesus does need people to live out his commitments.

The Super Bowl and its young, multi-million dollar football titans battling for the silver chalice in the most watched sports event in the nation, in a time of increasingly hateful Christian nationalism rhetoric, and far right evangelical support for trump’s reelection, was the background for the 60-second ad called “Foot Washing,” and a 15-second ad called “Who is my Neighbor?”

“Who Is My Neighbor?” showed people from different backgrounds, including a homeless woman begging for money. The ad ends by describing the neighbor as the one you don’t “notice, value or welcome.” Another segment of the ad shows an anti-abortion protester kneeling before an apparent patient of a family planning clinic, with the tagline, “Jesus didn’t teach hate. He washed feet.”

“Foot Washing” showed people, who would otherwise be antagonistic, washing others’ feet, including a police officer washing a young Black man’s feet, and a protester washing the feet of a woman outside a family planning clinic. It ends with the slogan, “Jesus didn’t teach hate. He washed feet.”

The foot washing ad is based on the Biblical account in the Gospel of John (John 13:1–17). Jesus is with his disciples at the Last Dinner Passover festival when he gets up from the meal and washes the feet of his disciples in a demonstration of profound humility and service.

Last year’s $20 million campaign included two Super Bowl ads that depicted Jesus as someone with empathy for immigrants and the poor, concepts that are anathema to many of trump’s MAGA supporters.

According to its website, the campaign is not affiliated with any particular sect or church. However, an outreach website intended to inform churches and other partners, states that it is inspired by the Lausanne Covenant, a July 1974 religious manifesto promoting active worldwide Christian evangelism. The document was written at the First International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, where it was adopted by 2,300 evangelicals in attendance.

The campaign takes a nod from the Republican woke efforts as it primarily targets younger people and religious skeptics with allusions to social justice movements. One ad refers to Jesus as “an influencer who became insanely popular” before he was “canceled” after he “stood up for something he believed in.”

The “He Gets Us” campaign claims that its social networking site has attracted more than 700,000 views since the Super Bowl and that many have signed up for the organization’s Bible reading plans. One of the campaign’s videos, titled “The Rebel,” has had 122 million views on YouTube in 11 months. The campaign has included billboards, sponsor placements, and television commercials, most notably ads in the 2023 and 2024 NFL playoffs and Super Bowls.

This year’s ads were funded by a new nonprofit organization called “Come Near,” which says it is not affiliated with “any single individual, political position, church, or faith denomination.” “Come Near” CEO Ken Calwell was previously chief marketing officer at Compassion International and most recently was the CEO of Papa Murphy’s Pizza, a pizza company based in Vancouver, Wash., which was sold in 2019 for $190 million to the MTY Food Group.

David Green’s son, Mart, is on the three-man board of directors at “Come Near,” a North Carolina nonprofit that took over the “He Gets Us” campaign, in place of the Servant Foundation. The Greens, worth an estimated $15.2 billion, previously led a successful fight at the Supreme Court opposing the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. The case led to a 2014 ruling finding that closely held corporations do not have to comply with the mandate if their owners express religious objections. Hobby Lobby also led an unsuccessful 11-year legal fight to block a transgender employee from using the women’s restroom at a crafts store in Illinois.

In 2020, a boycott against the store chain was created after a photo was posted of a sign in a store saying “USA VOTE TRUMP.” In 2021, Hobby Lobby faced a backlash after it ran a full-page advertisement in several newspapers across the U.S. that appeared to call for a Christian-run government. The ad, which ran on July 4, was titled “One Nation Under God,” and included the Bible verse “Blessed is the Nation whose God is the lord,” as the company also posted about its campaign on its social media pages.

“He Gets Us” was launched in 2022 and was formerly operated by the Servant Foundation before the campaign came under new leadership this year. In another tip to the MAGA crowd, one face of the campaign is Ty Gibbs of Joe Gibbs Racing in NASCAR events.

The non-profit Servant Foundation, a Christian grant-making organization, does business as The Signatry, which has received millions of dollars from Hobby Lobby. The Servant Foundation funds anti-LGBTQ legislation and supported Supreme Court decisions which allowed companies to deny medical coverage for contraception based on religious beliefs.

The Servant Foundation was founded in 2000 and was an affiliate of the National Christian Foundation until 2017. Since 1982, the National Christian Foundation, based in Alpharetta, Ga., has granted more than $14.5 billion to more than 71,000 causes and charities. The foundation is the sixth largest non-profit organization in the United States.

The National Christian Foundation accepts donor-advised funds, allowing people to send anonymous tax-deductible contributions and instructing where the donations should be sent. Between 2015 and 2017, the National Christian Foundation distributed $56.1 million to 23 organizations designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Most of the hate groups opposed LGBT rights; some were anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim.

The Servant Foundation also has donated more than $65 million to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been defined as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center reports the alliance was “founded by some 30 leaders of the Christian Right.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom has supported the recriminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults in the U.S. and criminalization abroad; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; has contended that LGBTQ people are more likely to engage in pedophilia; and claims that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy Christianity and society. The alliance also works to develop “religious liberty” legislation and case law that will allow the denial of goods and services to LGBTQ people on the basis of religion.

The alliance is a highly influential Christian legal interest group with connections with powerful far right figures, including its former lawyer, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., the current Speaker of the House. Others who have been associated with the Alliance Defending Freedom are Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, former Vice President Mike Pence,[27] former attorneys general William Barr and Jeff Sessions, and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has called the Alliance Defending Freedom an anti-LGBT hate group. According to the law center, in 2017, since trump’s election, the alliance had become “one of the most influential groups informing the [trump] administration’s attack on LGBTQ rights.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom gained national attention in 2014, with Hobby Lobby’ successful challenge to the Affordable Care Act. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the court ruled that the birth control mandate in employee funded health plans violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

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Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer