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During Super Bowl broadcast, ‘He Gets Us’ ads featuring Jesus stand out with change of pace message

For the second year in a row, a religious ad campaign for the Super Bowl promised viewers that Jesus “gets us.”

Two ads aired Sunday evening focused on Jesus’ message of loving your neighbor, even across ideological divides. In one, people of different races, classes and gender expressions have their feet washed, including a woman outside a family planning clinic.

“Our goal is to really show that Jesus loved and cared for everyone,” He Gets Us campaign spokesman Greg Miller told The Associated Press on Monday. He said the campaign website had been viewed 715,000 times in the previous 24 hours.

Critics have noted that the campaign’s welcoming and progressive messages seem at odds with some of its Christian backers, who have also supported anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortion causes.

Last year’s ads were overseen by the Servant Foundation, also a donor to Alliance Defending Freedom, a leading conservative legal organization that helped overturn Roe v. Wade – the decision establishing a national right to abortion – and has represented clients challenging same-sex marriage and transgender rights.

The family behind Hobby Lobby also contributed to “He Gets Us.” They already won a Supreme Court case challenging requirements to cover part of birth control for employees on anti-abortion grounds.

The “He Gets Us” campaign is now run by a new charity, Come Near, meaning the Servant Foundation no longer oversees it. The nonprofit organization says it is “committed to sharing the life and love of Jesus in new and exciting ways.”

On its website, the campaign notes that “the most frequently asked questions” concern its stance on the LGBTQ+ community. “So let’s be clear about our opinion. Jesus loves gay people and Jesus loves trans people… No matter who you are, YOU are invited to explore the story of Jesus and think about what it means for your life.

The “He Gets Us” campaign says it plans to advertise at other major cultural moments over the next year, including the Paris Olympics, the NFL Draft and the Republican and Democratic conventions .

Other faith-based ads aired at this year’s Super Bowl included a spot by Scientologists, inviting viewers to “see for yourselves who we are.” An ad for the Catholic prayer app Hallow, featuring actor Mark Wahlberg, also aired in some markets during the game.

Within the NFL, Christianity has long permeated the culture, and regular fans are familiar with expressions of faith, from locker room prayers to Hail Mary passes to players pointing to the sky after touchdowns .

“One of the main goals of ‘He Gets Us’ is to try to invite anyone, regardless of their beliefs, to explore the story of Jesus,” Miller said. “The Super Bowl audience allows us to do this with the greatest potential for reach.”

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AP Religion News Editor Holly Meyer contributed to this report.

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Associated Press religion coverage receives AP support collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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