The Super Bowl ad about Christianity, showing scenes of people washing others' feet like Jesus did in the Bible, is facing attacks from the left over the campaign's link to the billionaire family that owns Hobby Lobby.
The "He Gets Us" campaign, dedicated to encouraging people "to rediscover and share the compelling story of Jesus’ life in a new way," according to its website, organized a 60-second spot that appeared in the first quarter of the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, as well as a 15-second spot in the second half of the CBS and Univision broadcasts, Rolling Stone reported.
The first ad, titled "Foot Washing," featured images shot by international fine art photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten, including one of a young man washing an elderly family member’s feet at the dinner table, a police officer washing a Black man’s feet, a woman washing a younger woman’s feet outside a family planning clinic and a White woman washing a migrant’s feet after arriving by bus from Chicago.
An oil worker is seen washing a "clean air now" protester's feet, and a priest is seen washing the feet of a presumed gay man.
It concluded with the slogan: "Jesus didn't teach hate. He washed feet." The shorter ad, titled, "Know Your Neighbor," which aired in the second quarter, showed several still images of people, including a homeless woman begging at a car window. It asked, "Who is my neighbor?" and then stated, "The one you don't notice, value or welcome." The ad ends simply with the word, "Jesus."
According to the "He Gets Us" website, this year's "Foot Washing" ad was meant to contrast the 2023 TV spot, "Love Your Enemies," which included politicians yelling in a debate or parents fighting at a youth football game.
The 2024 campaign was intended to "focus on the thematic inverse of last year’s commercial — one built on the premise of Love and Unity. And with an upcoming election year that will be filled with division and derision, we decided to focus on one of the most important directives given by Jesus — Love Your Neighbor," the website says.
Greg Miller, a spokesman for the campaign, told Rolling Stone that the campaign "will emphasize loving our neighbors like Jesus did, encouraging people to respect and serve each other."
Hobby Lobby co-founder David Green has told conservative talk show host Glenn Beck that his family and other Christian donors were financially supporting "He Gets Us," a national campaign devoted to reintroduce Jesus' brand as Christianity’s savior. Rolling Stone reported this month that documents show Green's eldest son Mart, Hobby Lobby’s "Ministry Investment Officer," is one of three board members at the new nonprofit managing the ad campaign.
David Green and his family are worth an estimated $15.3 billion, according to a Forbes projection.
Left-leaning commentators on TikTok and other social media platforms seemed to mock the ad and expressed displeasure with the Hobby Lobby founder being connected to the campaign.
They took issue with Hobby Lobby fighting the contraceptive requirement under the Affordable Care Act in federal court. The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for birth control and other contraception violated a federal law protecting religious freedom.
Reacting to the Super Bowl ad campaign on Jesus, other users also slammed Hobby Lobby as anti-LGBTQ, taking issue with the arts and crafts store forbidding a transgender employee, born a male, from using a woman's restroom. An Illinois appeals court ordered Hobby Lobby to pay $220,000 to that transgender staffer in 2021, ruling the arts and crafts store violated the state’s Human Rights Act.
Of all the 2024 Super Bowl ads, The Washington Post branded the "He Gets Us" campaign as "most controversial." According to the Post, the ads were meant to "promote the teachings of Jesus and unite different groups of people. But perhaps unsurprisingly, all they’ve done is foment hostility."
Last year, the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State similarly slammed the "He Gets Us" campaign, charging that "the ‘Jesus Ads’ are a front for Christian nationalism."
USA Today reported that the "He Gets Us" campaign was launched by the Servant Foundation, also known as The Signatry, a Kansas-based nonprofit, in 2022.
However, the "He Gets Us" campaign recently switched ownership to the newly-formed nonprofit Come Near in the past year.
Come Near, whose CEO is Ken Calwell, a former executive at Wendy's and Domino's Pizza, stated that the objective of the campaign is "sharing the life and love of Jesus in thought-provoking new ways."
The Signatry, a fund that describes itself as "a Christian ministry seeking to build the Kingdom of God by inspiring world-changing generosity," has made $50 million in donations to the Alliance Defending Freedom from 2018-2020, USA Today reported. Alliance Defending Freedom organizes lawsuits dedicated to protecting life, religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family and parently rights, according to its website.
Some of its recent litigation includes fighting to get the abortion pill taken off store shelves, defending pro-life centers, and defending the state of Idaho, for example, which was sued by advocates over a law recognizing boys and girls are different, and therefore, mandating that K-12 students should have separate bathroom accommodations.