During Super Bowl Sunday’s array of ads, one campaign sought not to promote cars or sports betting or a snack food, but Jesus himself.
One ad, exhibiting black-and-white photos of civil rights protests, Covid-19 lockdown demonstrations, and numerous other nondescript confrontations, was marched forward to the tune of “Human” by Rag’n’Bone Man. Encounters that flattened everyone (whether protesting against wearing masks in a pandemic or against police brutality) into misguidedly angry individuals were paired with lyrics like “Take a look in the mirror, and what do you see, do you see it clearer, or are you deceived? … Cause I’m only human after all, you’re only human after all.”
The music faded, the screen cut to black. “Jesus loved the people we hate,” the screen read. Cue the music’s powerful return. “He gets us. All of us,” the ad continued, before “us” was then transposed to “Jesus.”
The stirring ad was part of the larger “He Gets Us” campaign bankrolled by the conservative evangelical group Servant Foundation. The ad, urging viewers to look beyond their apparently equally valid differences and instead find solidarity through the church, did not come from a group that even pretends to follow such hollow advice.
As Andrew Perez reported at The Lever, the Servant Foundation donated more than $50 million to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal organization that helped draft the Mississippi abortion law at the core of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Fresh off that victory, they’re seeking to block the abortion drug mifepristone.
The group is also leading a Supreme Court case that argues businesses should be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ+ customers. The organization previously argued in the 2018 Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission that involved a baker who refused to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples.
A 2020 tax return showed that the nearly $1 billion asset-holding Servant Foundation’s top contributions were to the Alliance Defending Freedom, according to Lever.
The “He Gets Us” campaign also received money from donors like Hobby Lobby billionaire co-founder David Green, who sued the government to overturn Obamacare’s contraception mandate for company coverage due to “religious objections.” The court ruled in 2014 that Hobby Lobby could in fact deny contraceptive coverage to its employees. Green’s Hobby Lobby warehouses were also ordered to return thousands of Iraqi artifacts “collected” by the tycoon to adorn the Museum of the Bible, which Green is a primary funder of and tax write-off benefactor of.
“He Gets Us” also ran an ad earlier in the Super Bowl urging viewers to be more childlike, since “Jesus didn’t want us to act like adults.” The Super Bowl ads are part of a larger campaign; another “He Gets Us” ad positions Jesus as an influencer “canceled” by the “establishment.”
Another ad produced by the billionaire-backed organization veers toward poverty porn, reminding us that “Jesus struggled to make ends meet, too.”