Two political/theological groups held power during Jesus's day – the Pharisees and the Sadducees. These groups differed on a number of issues, most importantly on belief in a bodily resurrection. However, one thing that united them was their opposition to Jesus.
I could not help but think about those ancient divisions as I read the responses to the "He Gets Us" ads during the Super Bowl.
The first of the ads I saw was during the NFL playoffs and talked about Jesus's status as a refugee. While I agreed that this was technically true, I wondered if the group behind the ad was pushing for a public policy position on refugees. According to the group's website, I was wrong.
This brings us to the Super Bowl ads. Images and videos of children showing others kindness scrolled across the screen. After 21 seconds of these images and videos, the screen went black, and the phrase "Jesus didn't want us to act like adults" appeared.
In a second ad, black and white images of people arguing flashed across the screen, representing so much of the polarization we experience in our society. The ad drew me in because our culture's palpable hatred deeply bothers me. After 45 seconds, the screen went black, and six words popped up: "Jesus loved the people we hate." Talk about powerful and true.
Sunday night, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offered the most extreme criticism the ads have received. She tweeted, "Something tells me Jesus would *not* spend millions of dollars on Super Bowl ads to make fascism look benign."
Just to refresh everyone's memory, fascism is the political philosophy of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler which demands absolute allegiance to the state. In a fascist regime, a dictator exercises nearly total control and tolerates no dissent. It's difficult to discern how Ocasio-Cortez made the mental leap from loving your enemy to Adolf Hitler.
Ocasio-Cortez did not expand on her criticism of "He Gets Us," but she might be referring to some recent articles in left-leaning publications on the funding behind the campaign. Jacobin ran a piece on the ads last week. Andrew Perez, the author of the article, noted that the He Gets Us campaign is a subsidiary of the Servant Foundation.
The Servant Foundation has donated money to the Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF played a major role in the recent Dobbs and Masterpiece Cake Shop decisions. A significant number of Americans would say the ADF advocates for the protection of the unborn and religious freedom, among other issues. However, for AJ Willingham of CNN, the ADF is "involved in several legislative pushes to curtail LGBTQ rights and quash non-discrimination in the Supreme Court."
Willingham also drew attention to the campaign's connections to Wheaton College and donations from Hobby Lobby co-founder David Green. Progressives object to Hobby Lobby's role in a 2014 Supreme Court case in which the majority ruled that Obamacare's contraception mandate violated the religious freedom rights of privately-held companies. Wheaton raised Willingham's antenna because "Campus Pride also ranked it as one of the worst campuses for LGBTQ youth," and the school requires students to sign a covenant "stating that Christianity condemns 'sexual immorality,' including homosexuality."
To summarize, the criticism of "He Gets Us" coming from the left tends to focus on the campaign's donors and partners. These lead them to see the ads as a trojan horse for conservative social causes and the exclusion of LGBT people.
Turning Point USA President Charlie Kirk tweeted, "The marketing group behind 'He Gets Us' has done one of the worst services to Christianity in the modern era. The Green family are decent, wonderful people who have been taken for a ride by these woke tricksters. So sad!" When a user asked Kirk for details, he responded with a link to a piece from Revolver News.
The Revolver article accuses the campaign of "using Jesus to promote illegal immigrants and the LGBTQ agenda." Repeating their original thesis and expanding on it, the authors say, "These ads use the Bible and Jesus to validate and even promote the chaos at the border and also appeal to the LGBTQ/trans communities." In another place, they say, "In other words, they want to submit to the left's godless agenda."
Critics on the left and critics on the right both watch these ads and think there is an agenda. Liberals see conservatives pushing an anti-LGBT agenda, and conservatives see liberals pushing a pro-LGBT agenda. Either one of them is wrong, or they are both wrong. I'm going with both.
While these ads point us toward Jesus, they also tell us something about ourselves. If we hear the name of Jesus and start searching for a political agenda, we have made politics into an idol. Political victory has enshrined itself in our hearts as the thing that can save us. We owe our allegiance to our political tribe and must obey the compulsion to crush our enemies.
Politics can't save us. It offers us the world as we wish it was but only leaves us with disillusionment, frustration, and anger. Jesus can and does save us. He offers us hope in the better world to come, as well as peace and joy in this life. He also gives us something our political addictions will never give–love. Jesus reconciles us to our enemies and gives us the kind of love that prays, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
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Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”