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A still from the He Gets Us Super Bowl ad. Video.

He Gets Us commercial kicked off conversation, which is what sponsors wanted

The He Gets Us commercials that aired during Sunday’s Super Bowl have drawn both local and national criticism but the producer is not backing down.

Jason Vanderground of BrandHaven, the marketing firm behind the ad, says the ads were meant to invite people intrigued by Jesus’ “unconditional love, kindness and generosity” to explore his message. The campaign also sought to disrupt preconceived notions about Jesus and Christianity, he told Fox News.

“Foot Washing” shows supposedly unlikely persons 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.” “Who Is My Neighbor?” shows images of people from various 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.”

Vanderground said this year’s ads, which cost $7 million each to run, were crafted with the election year in mind but were not intended to be political. “We see just a lot of divisiveness, but we also see isolation and anxiety running high,” he said. “As we look back through scripture, we were looking at what would be the unique message of Jesus into an environment like this.”

Some Christians have criticized the ads on social media, saying they missed the mark at best and were blasphemous at worst. The ads also faced attacks from the left, because the Green family that owns Hobby Lobby donated millions for the campaign.

Shawn Gray, who pastors Echo Church in the Kansas City suburb of Pleasant Hill, says believers should “scrutinize the potential repercussions of embracing what appears to be virtuous.”  He contends that the ads may lead viewers astray from scriptural truth.

Gray, who outlined his thoughts in a guest column for Metro Voice, says that while the He Gets Us website states it wants to “reintroduce people to the Jesus of the Bible,” it may do the opposite. The Jesus portrayed in the ads, he says, “appears to be divergent from the Jesus revealed in Scripture.”

Conservative podcast host Allie Beth Stuckey responded to the argument that Christians should “just be happy Jesus’s name is getting to millions of people” on Twitter.

“If it’s not the Biblical Jesus, then no. If you’ve got the money and opportunity to buy a Super Bowl ad slot, share the gospel,” she wrote. “Don’t waste it on some ambiguous mumbo jumbo that makes Jesus into our image rather than depicting Him as the King and Savior He is.”

While Vanderground said politics wasn’t the focus, many saw political overtones clearly, wondering why it only showed one side in each debate, such as a priest washing the feet of a transexual, or a pro-life proponent washing the feet of a woman outside an abortion clinic.

“There’s a reason the ‘He Gets Us’ commercial didn’t show a liberal washing the feet of someone in a MAGA hat, or a BLM protestor washing an officer’s feet. That would’ve been actually subversive,” conservative journalist Joel Berry posted. “Because they were strictly following oppressed v oppressor intersectionality guidelines.”

As the creator of the commercial, BrandHaven’s Vanderground still contends critics can see the Gospel if they look beyond the politics.

“A lot of times, we’re trying to put out such a disruptive message about Jesus where people are changing their understanding of who he was and what it means to follow him that many times we do get that reaction, that people from all sides are taken aback by it at the beginning,” he said. “But the more they really explore our message, the more they read about it on the website, I find that other Christians are saying, ‘That’s the gospel.’”

He Gets Us also addressed critics on the left who argued the millions of dollars spent on a Super Bowl ad would’ve been better spent helping the poor.

“The opportunity to put the message of Jesus on display in the middle of the biggest cultural event that we have and to make his love clear and then invite people into exploring more and reading the Bible,” Vanderground said. “We feel like that’s a great investment because that’s going to unleash all kinds of generosity.”

On its website, He Gets Us expressed optimism that their latest commercials “will stimulate both societal discussion and individual self-reflection about ‘who is my neighbor?’ and how each of us can love our neighbor even as we have differences and serve one another with more kindness and respect.”

Pastor Gray is not convinced, asking, “Is there a genuine necessity to reintroduce individuals to Jesus, or is it conceivable that they are promoting a culturally palatable rendition of Christ for their own satisfaction?”

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice


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