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The videos, sprinkled as they are between ads for fast food restaurants and luxury cars, always catch me off guard. Rather than advertise a new product, they shine a light on Christian teachings and, more specifically, the story of Jesus Christ.
Sponsored by a notable new campaign called “He Gets Us,” the videos are meant to make people see Jesus in new ways, whether or not they identify as Christian. And if you’ve been watching the NFL playoffs, you’ve probably seen several of them over the past two weeks.
“We’ve had three ads that have been running on a lot of the big sports networks leading up to the Super Bowl,” said Jordan Carson, spokesperson and director of communications for “He Gets Us.” “We are trying to introduce people, including some who might be skeptical of Christianity, to Jesus’ relevance in modern-day life and call upon Christians to reflect his teachings in the way they treat other people.”
As of Friday, Jan. 20, “He Gets Us” ads aired during the NFL playoffs had generated more than 166 million impressions, according to company data that was shared with me. A Religion News Service report on the campaign from October said that the “He Gets Us” team launched with a $100 million budget.
The overall goal of the “He Gets Us” movement, Carson said, is to ensure that people associate the story of Jesus with love, rather than hate. The ads may not bring people to church, but they’ll hopefully help them think about faith in new ways, she said.
Last week, Carson shared more with me about “He Gets Us,” including the campaign’s decision to run ads during NFL games. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Kelsey Dallas: What is it about the NFL playoffs that makes the games a good fit for your advertising?
Jordan Carson: “He Gets Us” is trying to leverage live events to amplify the campaign and turn it into a movement. We want to reintroduce people to the Jesus of the Bible and his love and forgiveness. We really believe (NFL games) are a perfect place to put that messaging out there for the world to see.
The campaign is designed to create a cultural change. We want to increase respect for and the relevance of Jesus. We want people to understand and relate to the authentic Jesus of the Bible. This is the stage where we can do that.
KD: Are you also planning for a Super Bowl ad?
JC: We are. We have two ads that will be running during the Super Bowl, and I think their message is very relevant.
I think people will see that the videos are very relatable. They’ll be conversation starters for a lot of people who are watching the Super Bowl.
KD: As you noted, these commercials can be conversations starters. Where do you hope those conversations might lead?
JC: Everyone’s journey is individualized. Everyone’s journey is different.
What we’re trying to do is be that bridge so that people can take a first step, whether that’s a reintroduction to the Jesus of the Bible and becoming a follower of Jesus or some self-reflection for Christians who would like to change and become more like Jesus.
Any way that someone becomes engaged and grows closer to Jesus in their journey — that, to me, would be a success story.
KD: And my understanding is that “He Gets Us” isn’t sponsored by a specific church or denomination. You’re not trying to get people to join one particular faith group?
JC: That’s right. “He Gets Us” isn’t sponsored by a specific church.
I’m personally very proud that this campaign is built for people of different denominations and different churches of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds. We have ads in English and Spanish.
We really believe that Jesus is for everyone, and so this is not a campaign around any particular denomination.
KD: Your campaign faced some criticism when it was first in the news as people questioned whether the advertising money could be spent in other ways, such as on charitable initiatives. How do you respond to that pushback?
JC: If you look at the Bible, during Jesus’ life, people took different steps and avenues to speak out about big issues. That’s exactly what this campaign is doing. We’re utilizing these resources to be able to reach more people.
Fresh off the press
Term of the week: Animal chaplaincy
I’ve connected with a wide variety of faith leaders through my work but I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting an animal chaplain. In fact, I didn’t know that “animal chaplain” was a possible career until earlier this month.
I learned about animal chaplaincy from a recent Religion Unplugged article, which described it as a “growing profession.” Animal chaplains most commonly minister to pet owners who are soon to lose or have recently lost a beloved pet, the article explained.
“Animal chaplains focus on relationships or concerns involving animals, from a family struggling with a pet’s illness to a veterinary tech overwhelmed with seeing animals die at work to an activist struggling over the loss of a species or habitat,” Religion Unplugged reported.
The article noted that the field of animal chaplaincy was created about three decades ago. Animal chaplains are not yet widely recognized or trained in most Christian denominations.
What I’m reading ...
It may be a new year, but last year’s debate about whether abortion bans violate religious freedom law is still raging. Last week, faith leaders who support abortion access filed a lawsuit against Missouri’s abortion ban, arguing that it “violates the state’s constitution by imposing one set of religious values on all residents,” Religion News Service reported.
Churches may be struggling in the United States, but religion is not dead, according to a recent piece in The Atlantic (paywall). The authors argue that “spiritual creativity” continues to bring meaning to Americans’ lives.
Odds and ends
Over the weekend, my husband and I brought our son on a bit of an adventure. We went to the children’s museum and then picked up lunch from a truly excellent bagel place that we stumbled on nearby. Those lovely few hours reminded me of how good it is to get outside and explore the world, even when part of you would really like to stay in your pajamas on the couch.