Finding Jesus in a Super Bowl ad

February 9th, 2018

Whether you rooted for the Philadelphia Eagles or the New England Patriots, if you were among the over 103 million people who watched the Super Bowl this past Sunday, then you saw the almost 70 commercials targeted just for us. From cars to beer, from Coca-Cola to Kraft Foods, companies were pitching their goods to consumers. But did you notice a change in the messages?

Approximately one-tenth of the ads had a socially responsible message. The metadata terms are “heartwarming”, “inspirational”, or “emotional”. When we take a closer look, we see the faith story.

Here’s a list:

  • Toyota: “Good Odds”, the story of Lauren Woolstencroft, an inspiring Paralympic Gold Medalist
  • Coca-Cola: “The Wonder of Us” celebrates our uniqueness
  • Kraft Food:  “Family Greatly”, viewer interactive commercial featuring diverse families
  • Hyundai: “Hope Detector”, honors customers whose purchase helped those in need
  • Verizon:  “Answering the Call”, thanking first responders for their service and sacrifice
  • Ram Trucks:  “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”, true servanthood
  • T-Mobile:  “#LittleOnes”, assuring the next generation that equality for all is attainable

Some may say these commercials are a reaction to the political situation in America, especially Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and other immigration issues. Perhaps, that was part of the motive. I don’t know. But what I see is the message of the Gospel: righteousness, peace, joyhope, and LOVE.

In his classic work Christ & Culture, Richard Niebuhr explores the tension between living in the world but not being of it. How do we as believers relate to society around us? Do we take our stance against, of, or above culture? Or do we enter in and become change agents? Niebuhr concludes that “The conversionist, with his view of history as the present encounter with God in Christ” lives with an “awareness of the power of the Lord to transform all things by lifting them up to himself” (195). As we pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done”, we are inviting Heaven to Earth. As Neibuhr says, “The kingdom of God is transformed culture…” (228). In Recapturing the Wesley’s Vision, Chilcote points out that “mission refers to the outward movement of God’s people into places where lonely people dwell” (101). Some of these lonely people may never step foot inside a church, but they will watch the Super Bowl.

I wonder how we believers can be more involved with the larger conversation sparked by media that influences the hearts and minds of viewers, shaping beliefs and actions? As Briner encourages us in Roaring Lambs, let us write, sing, direct and produce, being salt and light.

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