search
Joshua Hammerman
Rabbi, award winning journalist, author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch-Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi"

Why the ‘He Gets Us.’ Jesus ads get Jews nervous

The billion-dollar Super Bowl ad blitz aims to unify all Americans under the banner of the cross – including me
Montage of images and slogans in screenshots from the 'He Gets Us.' ad campaign (The Times of Israel)
Montage of images and slogans in screenshots from the 'He Gets Us.' ad campaign (The Times of Israel)

Get ready for a Super Bowl Jesus Blitz that just might put the December Dilemma to shame. The “He Gets Us.” ads have been around for several months now, and on the surface, a little proselytizing is expected and inoffensive. It comes with coexisting with neighbors professing an evangelizing religion. I’ve always felt Judaism can hold its own quite nicely in the marketplace of religious ideas. Christian proselytizing has most often – and most vociferously – been directed toward Jews; this pitch is no exception. As usual, It has been cleverly cloaked in the language of inclusiveness and love.

What’s different this time is the scope.

The “He Gets Us.” campaign looks to spend a billion dollars to reach the broadest possible swath of Americans. The Greatest Story Ever Told meets The Greatest Ad-Buy Ever SoldTwo Jesus ads will be shown during the Super Bowl, which means that the Good News will officially be in-our-face.

Jason Vanderground, a spokesperson for the campaign, stated in an interview on CNN, “We are trying to unify the American people around the confounding love and forgiveness of Jesus.”

Unify?

No offense to Jesus, or to campaign sponsors like the Servant Foundation, but on Super Bowl Sunday, I’d rather be unified under the flings and dashes of Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts. I would think that a truly “confounding love” would include respecting the views of those who choose not to accept your truths. Notice that Vanderground did not say “unify American Christians.” He wants to unify all Americans under the banner of the cross. That includes me.

Unity is admirable and needed. That’s what the Super Bowl, at its best, accomplishes, with a hundred million Americans watching the same thing at the same time. But as a recent Pew survey demonstrates, unity under a Christian banner is a fleeting dream. America’s Christian majority is in steep decline. If the sponsors are looking to recapture lapsed Christians, there are a number of places they can look where Jews may not be as prevalent. But no, if you look at the content of the ads, the prey here is not exclusively lapsed or young Christians, but all progressives, among whom are the approximately three-quarters of America’s Jews who voted on the left and center-left side of the spectrum in 2020. Just look at the ads themselves, and see the hashtagged topics featured on the campaign’s home page:

#Refugee

#Inclusive

#Women

#Relationships

#Judgment

#AboutUs

#Hope

#Justice

#Struggle

#Activist

The hashtags could not be more baldly geared toward piquing the interest of progressives, and in particular, Jews. I half-expected the next hashtags to be #Wokiest, #Vegan-but-can’t-resist-lox-&-a-schmear and #taking-a-knee-during-the-national-anthem. I have no proof that those designing this campaign are specifically targeting Jews, but only recently, Ric Worshill executive director of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship, expressed concern over the rise of antisemitism, and his suggested response was not to support Jews unequivocally, but to love-bomb them with scripture. “There needs to be an urgency in us to share the Gospel with every single person we meet,” he said.

The evidence of historical precedent is overwhelming. Do we need to remind the sponsors about #Crusades, #Inquisition, #Supercessionism (the original “Great Replacement” theory) and #Forced Conversion? Proselytizing is a sensitive topic for us.

So we must understand that those behind this campaign are not looking for a real unity based on tolerance and mutual respect. A “unity” that excludes over a third of the country is not unity. A “unity” that threatens an already jittery minority at a very precarious time is not unity.

It’s more like the old Beatles’ lyric, “Come together, right now…over me.” Yes, we want everyone to join together, but only under our banner, on our terms. Whatever happened to #Pluralism?

Hey, we get it. Jews have also prayed for a come-together-over-me distortion of unity. But that’s the key. We prayed, in the privacy of our own synagogues, that people would ultimately come around to believing in the One God. We don’t buy Super Bowl ads, spending a billion dollars that dredge up old nightmares of Torquemada. Notably, the medieval prayer that promoted this chauvinistic, false “unity,” Alenu, which trumpeted God’s ultimate defeat of those who “bow to vanity and emptiness,” was softened considerably in subsequent versions.

I would perhaps not be as perturbed about the campaign if acts of vandalism hadn’t recently desecrated Jewish-sponsored billboards attempting to spread our message. The goal of that campaign was not to evangelize, but simply to bring people together to combat hate.

What would Jesus say about that, or about the synagogue in New Jersey that was firebombed last week? Maybe his marketers could add the hashtag #endantisemitism-homophobia-and-racism to the home page. I bet Jesus would be okay with that.

Hey, Hobby Lobby co-founder David Green and the rest of the campaign’s big-ticket sponsors. Is your intent truly just to reach out to lapsed Christians from Gen-Z? Or is it to make a religious minority feel like we are being targeted yet again, insidiously love bombing us on the one hand while simultaneously isolating us, evicting us from the tent of “unity?”

Face it, we’re just not that into him. Deal with it and accept us as we are. We’re fine with being a minority. Our kids are proud of who they are (I hope). We know how to stand up to bullies who want to make us feel that we are strangers in our own land. We can stand up to the powerful and the wealthy.

Just like he did.

About the Author
Award-winning journalist, father, husband, son, friend, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and rabbi of Temple Beth El in Stamford, CT. Author of Mensch-Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi – Wisdom for Untethered Times and "Embracing Auschwitz: Forging a Vibrant, Life-Affirming Judaism that Takes the Holocaust Seriously." His Substack column, One One Foot: A Rabbi's Journal, can be found at https://rabbijoshuahammerman.substack.com/ Rabbi Hammerman was a winner of the Simon Rockower award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism, for his 2008 columns on the Bernard Madoff case, which appeared first on his blog and then were discussed widely in the media. In 2019, he received first-prize from the Religion News Association, for excellence in commentary. Among his many published personal essays are several written for the New York Times Magazine and Washington Post. He has been featured as About.com's Conservative representative in its "Ask the Rabbi" series and as "The Jewish Ethicist," fielding questions on the New York Jewish Week's website. Rabbi Hammerman is an avid fan of the Red Sox, Patriots and all things Boston; he also loves a good, Israeli hummus. He is an active alum of Brown University, often conducting alumni interviews of prospective students. He lives in Stamford with his wife, Dr. Mara Hammerman, a psychologist. They have two grown children, Ethan and Daniel, along with Cobie, Casey and Cassidy, three standard poodles. Contact Rabbi Hammerman: rabbi@tbe.org (203) 322-6901 x 307
Related Topics
Related Posts