‘He gets us’—but nobody gets it

*Here follows some thoughts about a Super Bowl ad that I drummed up while I was pinned beneath a sleeping baby for a few hours, in which I bitterly rant against something in which I have little stake nor control*

Everyone’s buzzing about the Super Bowl ad for “He gets us,” an evangelical movement aimed at spreading the message of Jesus to a secular audience. 

That by itself shows the advertisement worked, in a way. Of course, it seems the discussions are mostly negative; but there’s no such thing as bad press in marketing. If the ad was for McDonalds, even if everyone was talking about how they hated it, it would be a win for McDonalds…because everyone would be talking about McDonalds. 

There’s many angles to the advertisement’s criticism, but I’m not all that interested in the “intra-Christian” takes. Maybe it used the metaphor of washing feet incorrectly. Maybe it unfairly implies something negative about conservative Christians. Etc. Yes, if I was in charge I’d probably run the ad differently, but to focus too much on these critiques is to miss the main point. This is clearly aimed primarily at a secular audience, aired during a huge secular holiday, and is receiving most of its coverage/flack from secular media. 

So it’s this secular response that I find interesting, and honestly more disappointing than I expected. The ad is a basic (so basic), apolitical kerygma message. The main critiques from conservative Christians, in fact, is that it’s too basic. It avoids any real theology or politics or moral teachings. It seems to be aiming for only one point—Jesus loves you. Even if you belong to one of the groups traditionally marginalized by mainstream Christianity, Christ doesn’t marginalize you. In sum: “Jesus gets us.” 

The secular criticism of it, by contrast, does not get it (or us). The opinions expressed in social media comments and (nominally) legitimate publications are in six strands:

  1. It’s covert manipulation to try and inject evangelicals right-wing, “MAGA” political policies into peoples brains. 
  2. It’s an unchristian use of funds that should’ve been spent on the poor. 
  3. It’s unchristian hypocrisy by broadcasting your faith in public, against the words of Jesus—go to your room in secret, and all that. 
  4. It’s so expensive that if Christians can afford to broadcast the ad, they shouldn’t be tax exempt. 
  5. It’s a waste to preach a message everyone already knows. 
  6. Christianity especially (and religion in general) is an irrational, evil, manipulative tool for hate. 

Each one, and all combined, should be enough to make us weep for the state of our culture—regardless of whether we think this particular ad was done well or not. Because the responses alone indicate a deeply troubling rot. 


First, the idea that this is a long-con for right wing politics. The prevalence of this narrative shows one of two really bad things (probably both). Our culture can’t think past politics, and/or our culture can’t distinguish Christianity from a political message. 

The ad’s content is either apolitical or anti-political (let’s all get along); the creators have explicitly reaffirmed their goal to separate Jesus from politics; and the ending beat gives no action point besides “feel good about Jesus Christ.” If even something so banal, so minimally Christian (hell, even just minimally civil) is steadfastly assumed to be a politically psy-op, there’s no hope for dialogue. Sure, one of the donors (the Hobby Lobby guy) has done political things before. But most donors are anonymous, and even the Hobby Lobby guy presumably does some things that aren’t secret plots to establish Trump’s monarchy. He presumably takes a dump and buys a hamburger sometimes—should we interpret those as his political messaging, too? Or is it reasonable to think even politically active persons do other kinds of activity?

Has Christianity really become synonymous with Trump’s political platform in the eyes of the world? If so—shame on the world. (Shame on Christians too, I suppose, except I don’t actually blame us too much for that, considering how much of Christian America—even the Christian right—opposed and still opposes Trump)

This critique is unfair either way it goes. If certain political positions really are ingredient in the message of Jesus, then don’t be mad at Christians for trying to spread their legitimate religious beliefs. If those political positions aren’t ingredient in the religious beliefs, then don’t get mad at Christians for trying to separate their religious message from politics. It’s unreasonable to think this ad is a long-con for the pro-life movement unless you think following Jesus necessarily includes being pro-life. Otherwise, it’s much more naturally viewed as saying “Jesus doesn’t care if you pro-life.” So if a secular person thinks being pro-life is hateful, his beef is either with 1) Jesus or 2) the Christians who this ad seems to reject. Either way, to politically critique the ad as anything other than “dishonest about what Jesus really taught” is unfair to it. 


The second line of criticism would be funny if it wasn’t perhaps the most common. It’s essentially Judas Iscariot’s criticism of Jesus’ followers in John 12: “why wasn’t this ointment sold and the money given to the poor?” Jesus rebukes him, and John gives us a helpful editorial of where this kind of criticism comes from. Almost always, it comes from people who really just want a piece of that money for themselves. This is especially clear to me on social media. People say the money for this ad could’ve been given for the poor—and then launch into the student loan programs or healthcare subsidies or whatever else such an amount could fill. It’s not so much feeding the lines at the soup kitchen (those always get filled)—it’s more vast governmental social programs unpopular with the right. 

In other words, benefits that the commenter themselves want, which would only be achieved if there was more money thrown at it (money you right-wing Christians are hoarding for yourself). In this way it blends with the political criticism. 

But it’s even more disappointing. 

The argument displays an incredible ignorance of the Christian message, reducing it to a social program, while then having the audacity to call actual Christian teaching unchristian. Jesus asks his followers use their resources to help others AND spread his Gospel. Arguably, the second he views are more important. Christians in America spent BILLIONS annually on the first—they can’t spend $14 million, (a rather small amount in the national secular world) on the second?

This criticism is the most annoying one, I think, because it’s stupid reasoning even apart from questions of what Jesus would want. “Couldn’t this money be used for the poor?” is true for literally any spending. I guess we should cut art programs, turn off the heat and close all non-soup kitchen buildings, stop wasting money on running water and electricity, etc. Think of all the money we could save, and feed the poor with! Right?

The obvious answer to those charges is that such things are worth the money and the opportunity cost of what could’ve been done for the poor. And this was Jesus’ point. I could give a homeless guy a meal or I could have hygienic water for me and my family. Mary could feed someone for a year, or anoint Jesus’ feet. The poor will be hungry again. But the act of love and worship to Jesus is a priceless opportunity. And the maintenance of my and my family’s health is worth more than a meal. And so on. If the thing’s necessary or important, we don’t question the spending. Well, for Christians, spreading the Gospel is necessary and important. And a Super Bowl ad is a very cost effective way to at least get the message into people’s eyeballs ($14million/~125 million viewers). This criticism ultimately boils down to: “I don’t think Christian evangelization is important.” And fine, think that—but just as you spend money on things I wouldn’t say are important, be ok with people spending their money how they feel is right. It’s a free country, for now. 


This is by far the most ignorant way to criticize something like this Super Bowl ad. It’s an assumption that Christians are supposed to keep to themselves, otherwise they’re being like the Pharisees. But even basic awareness of Jesus proves this wrong. Jesus was a preacher. A very public one. So public, they killed him for it. And his last words before ascending to his disciples were to do the same. 

The attempts to use Scripture to make this criticism are most egregious, given what the rest of Scripture says about Jesus’ ministry (and those after him). 

TAX EXEMPTION! (In Patrick Star’s voice)

This is just a thinly disguised prejudice against Christianity. Tax status is not based on wealth of an organization, as everyone knows. And engaging in normal organizational activities is not a reason to lose a tax status, regardless of how expensive or cheap those activities are. The NFL, planned parenthood, United way, etc. all enjoy special tax status and all advertise heavily. You could try to argue there should be no tax exemptions at all, but that’s much broader than this ad, and a non-starter anyway when considering the burdens that would levy on ANY nonprofit organization. 

This objection also misses how donations work. It’s not like this Super Bowl as was paid for by a tax exempt church. Dave’s 7th Day Chapel isn’t spending $14mil on a Super Bowl ad. It’s sponsored by a charity that takes donations from wealthy individuals, who already paid taxes on whatever money they made and then donate (with commentary on tax loopholes for the wealthy left out here). Decrying church’s tax exemptions because of this ad is like decrying Microsoft’s budget because Bill Gates gave some money to a friend who ran a TV ad about climate change. 

It’s so loosely connected as to be practically nonsensical. 


There’s an assumption both secularly and in Christian circles that Jesus is well known in America. Some criticism of the ad was calling it wasteful for preaching to the choir—everyone in this country has heard of Jesus. 

However, all these previous objections showcase that they do not. Many, many people are profoundly ignorant of Christ, Christianity, the Bible, etc. This should stir us to greater evangelism. 


By far the most disturbing, however, is the overt Christian hatred on display in comments and news articles. People truly, deeply, hate Christian’s. Hate Christianity and the Church. Hate Jesus himself.

The fruits of the New Atheist movement are still around in more corners of this country than maybe we realized. People are anti-religious. Not even indifferent anymore—but burning with hatred for anything of God. This I think is thankfully still not the majority; but it’s way, way more people than I’m comfortable with. 

No matter how the ad was pulled off; what the message was; or who or what political platform was or wasn’t connected to the ad, a sizable group of watchers would have cursed out the TV for showing anything religious at all. 

Which is my main hope from this advertisement. I don’t have much of an opinion on how the creators went about it, nor what their ultimate message might be lacking. I think every Christian can get behind the fact that the name of Jesus was displayed in 120 million living rooms—in a world that sorely needs his Name. 

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