Joseph Backholm is senior fellow for Biblical worldview and strategic engagement at the Family Research Council. This article appeared in WORLD Magazine on February 16, 2023.
For the left, those who oppose abortion can never do anything commendable
The Super Bowl is the most watched event in America each year and has become a national holiday as much as it is a football game. In the same way that Christmas is now synonymous with trees and stockings, the Super Bowl wouldn’t be the Super Bowl without lots of food and people arguing about commercials and whether the halftime show is satanic.
This year’s commercials, which cost between six and seven million dollars for each 30-second segment, featured the usual beer ads and movie trailers and the unusual ads from a billion dollar campaign called “He Gets Us.” The ads, which have been running on television, YouTube, and billboards for nearly a year are apparently intended to change people’s perception of Jesus.
One ad called “Love Your Enemies” featured a montage of pictures depicting conflicts and anger. Though the images did not reveal what people were angry about, years of social conflict made the images feel familiar. The ad ended with text that read “Jesus loved the people we hate.” Ouch.
Another ad called “Be Childlike” featured images of children being generous, helpful, and kind. At the end of the ad, text read “Jesus didn’t want us to be like adults” a reference to Matthew 18 where Jesus said “Unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
While many viewers undoubtedly found the ads to be a welcome change from invitations to switch to T-Mobile, not everyone was amused. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez tweeted, “Something tells me Jesus would not spend millions of dollars on Super Bowl ads to make fascism look benign.” That escalated quickly. What is it about “love your enemies” and “be nice” that is fascist? The obvious answer is “nothing.” So what on earth is she talking about?
Judd Legum, a writer for an online publication called Popular Information helped make the connection. He tweeted, “The same group that is financing the ‘He Gets Us’ Jesus ads is also helping finance the lawsuit seeking to ban abortion medication nationwide.” For them, this is like reporting that these ads are funded by people who kick puppies and steal candy from disabled kids. You’re expected to immediately recognize that these are terrible people.
The objection from the left to the “He Gets Us” ads isn’t an objection to the message, but to the messengers. One of the few publicly identified funders of the project is David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby refused to pay for abortion drugs and sued the Obama Administration over abortion mandates, eventually winning the right not to pay for contraceptives that cause abortion. Positive messages at the Super Bowl notwithstanding, in the eyes of the left, these facts make people like David Green very bad people. Fascists even.
In today’s climate, the danger from acknowledging good things done by people you disagree with is that you risk humanizing them. If Ocasio-Cortez had tweeted “Shoutout to David Green for the awesome message about loving your neighbor. So important!” she would undermine the working theory that those who oppose abortion do so out of malevolence. So instead, she accused him of being an apologist for fascism.
The lesson for those of us watching at home is that there’s nothing we can do to please those who have chosen to hate us. Truth be told, it does not matter if the message comes from Jesus or His messengers: If you propose a worldview that doesn’t baptize every desire or inclination one has, in this culture you’ll aways be a danger to the republic. It doesn’t matter how inoffensive you try to make Jesus. Whether it’s gentle Jesus or Jesus on a white charger, He’s the same Jesus with the same message: Repent. Whatever the protests are against “He Gets Us,” they are disguised revulsions against accepting His Lordship.
In the minds of many, we will always be terrible people because we oppose abortion, and no good deed or kindness will make up for it. Our duty is to be misunderstood and misrepresented or risk never doing anything that matters.
Jesus promised us that we would have enemies, because He did. Thankfully, people like David Green and others have decided that doing things—even costly things—is more important than having everyone like you. As I think about it, that sounds an awful lot like Jesus.