Who’s Behind Those Jesus Ads You’re Gonna See During the Big Game

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In a video last week I admitted that I am an expert in nothing. That was a very slight little lie. Technically, the American educational system has decided I do have an expertise in one thing that I spent a lot of money “studying” in college: advertising. That’s right, I have a bachelor of science from Boston University’s advertising program, where, essentially, I learned how to bullshit people. That’s why it’s called a BS in communication. Talking bullshit.

With that in mind, I’ve been very interested in some ads I’ve seen lately, or as we say in the biz, “tv spots.” See? I wasn’t BSing about that BS. I know the lingo.

Here’s one I saw the other day.

I’ll admit, I laughed out loud when I realized I was watching an ad for…Jesus. And honestly, when I saw this one, my first thought was Buddy Christ, the satirical rebranding of Jesus by the Catholic Church in the movie Dogma. I mean, you’ve gotta be kidding me…my man went out for cigarettes 2,000 years ago and hasn’t even sent a postcard, and someone out there wants me to invest myself in his brand? No thank you!

But hey, not all ads are for me, right? In fact most ads are explicitly not for a skeptical anti-consumerist asshole like me and these ads are SUPER not for a skeptical anti-consumerist ex-Baptist atheist asshole like me. But it seemed weird that I was seeing those ads more and more often, when I hardly ever even watch TV that has ads at all. So clearly, whoever is running this campaign thinks that I watch the same shows as the target demographic, and apparently the largest TV audience in the US is about to see these commercials during the BIG GAME in two weeks, so I decided to look into what exactly is going on, here.

The ads all link to, a slick little site that offers people the opportunity to follow Bible reading plans, join a group of fellow Jesus fans, or even sign up for free text-based prayers. So it seemed like this was an attempt to get “casual Christians” (as we used to call them in Youth Group) to become more engaged with whatever church they want. And sure enough, I found an article in Ad Age from 2021 that says the group behind the campaign found “54% of American adults are unsure about their faith or have a nominal faith in Jesus. More than half of skeptics are open to exploring more about Jesus, and nearly all skeptics and cultural Christians believe the world would be a better place if everyone lived Christ’s teachings on peace, love and forgiveness.”

And you know what? I agree! From what I’ve read, Jesus seemed like a pretty okay guy: he was anti-capitalism, pro-immigration, anti-death penalty. And it’s not like one of those things where you can read into it and pick and choose verses to support whatever you want. Jesus literally Hulked out on people selling their wares in a temple, he WAS an immigrant, he was put to death by the state, you get it. For anyone who has read the Bible, which I think includes most ex-Christians and very few current evangelicals, we know that if the Jesus of the Bible were to come back to Earth right now he would fucking hate the Republican party. Not to mention the site of all those people wearing jewelry of the thing he was nailed to. He probably wouldn’t be a huge fan of that. Especially if they bought it at a Church bazaar. 

My point being, if a group wants to convince more people to get excited about Christianity, I would prefer it to be based on the fuzzy, nice, welcoming, progressive Jesus and not the, well, the Nazi Jesus that a lot of Republicans like to think about these days.

But of course when it comes to religion, it’s never quite that simple, is it? Because religion is more complicated than just picking up the good things and dismissing the bad things. Picking up the good things and dismissing the bad things is a privilege for freethinking nontheists. Religions by definition come with sets of dogma, leaders who establish that dogma, sermons that reinforce that dogma, and congregations that normalize dogma.

And so that’s when I wondered, when people go to and ask to join a group, what group are they joining? When they text to ask for prayers, who is replying to the text?

So. The group paying for the ads is, to give you a very quick summary, a shadowy group of Christian billionaires. Well. That sounds…normal and not at all concerning. Join me as we jump down the rabbit hole.

Ad Age reported that the campaign is “funded by an anonymous group of billionaire donors from the faith-based nonprofit the Servant Foundation.” Who’s that? Well, sources like Christianity Daily say that the Servant Foundation is this endowment fund run by the Church of the Servant, a wealthy Methodist church in the Oklahoma City suburbs. While the fund is also overseen by the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation, the Church of the Servant is currently attempting to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church, which has been happening quite a lot in recent years thanks to the UMC’s ongoing refusal to condone same sex marriages and other basic human rights for the LGBTQ community.

So! That’s not too bad, right? About half of the people attending the church funding these ads would like to be inclusive to LGBTQ. Could be worse! Well, hold on, we’re not at the bottom of the hole yet. I saw one article refer to the Servant Foundation as being based in Missouri, which made me realize that these are just branches of the Servant Foundation that is actually just a “DBA” of The Signatry. “DBA” stands for “doing business as,” and it’s a way for a company to come up with an alias that lets them brand themselves in a different way for different audiences. So really we’re talking about The Signatry, which is run by these guys. Oh, sorry, hold on, let me turn up the contrast a little. That’s better, there they are.

The Signatry is a “donor-advised fund” or “DAF” dedicated to spreading evangelical Christianity until they can write “the last check to the last missionary to be sent out to the last unreached people group so the last person can hear the gospel” which I’m pretty sure is going to be that tribe that murders people who try to contact them. That’s really the only thing on their website that isn’t generic feel-good lorem ipsum text, and there’s a reason for that: the entire point of “donor-advised funds” is to set up a way for wealthy people to funnel money towards their pet causes with zero accountability.

As I mentioned in a video in 2021, conservatives are using DAFs as a way for the Fossil Fuel Industry to pump money into climate change misinformation, and the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that same year that DAFs “push extremism into the mainstream” by becoming the “dark-money ATM of the conservative movement.” For The Signatry, they’re all that with a distinct Christian flavor: in addition to the He Gets Us campaign, The Signatry has also given money to creationist kooks Answers in Genesis and SPLC-designated hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, as reported by Chrissy Stroop at Religious Dispatches, who I was glad to find as my eyes immediately crossed while skimming the list of hundreds of “ministries” the Signatry’s godly gazilionaires support.

Because of the way DAFs operate, we have no way to know who the billionaires are who are funding this campaign tax-free, and therefore what their ultimate motives might be. Luckily, many billionaires are incredibly stupid, which is how I know that at least one of them is David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby. Green went on Glenn Beck’s show last November to brag that we are about to see the “He Gets Us” ads he funded on the (BIG GAME), right after he talked about winning the court case that allowed his company to stop their employees from using their insurance to pay for birth control pills. He literally segued from celebrating denying women healthcare to complaining about being hated for being a Christian to bragging about paying like $14 million for 60 seconds of airtime during the (BIG GAME).

So yeah, the touchy feely ads for Jesus have a dark underside. Shocking, I know. Next up: why those Cool Ranch Doritos aren’t actually as Cool as you’d like to believe. 

While researching all this, I came across a lot of people who think this is all going to backfire for the Religious Right, mostly because “if you have to advertise for Jesus that means Jesus has already failed.” I’m not quite that optimistic: I think in general, people (especially “smart” people who think of themselves as freethinkers) underestimate the power of advertising. I assure you that Doritos and Bud Light and Coca Cola are not in financial trouble, but they still have a healthy advertising budget and you’re going to see them during the Super Bowl. You aren’t immune to marketing just because you notice it when it’s something that you find repugnant. I suspect that these ads WILL draw in a certain subset of people, namely people who have a low-level belief in God but who lack community and connection, especially these days as loneliness and social isolation become really serious barriers to good mental health. Religion and other forms of magical thinking and superstition succeed when fear and uncertainty reign, and I think we’re in a time where that’s true. According to Christianity Today, “He Gets Us” doesn’t vet what churches sign up to be the ones answering those calls for help, so a commercial about how Jesus “invited everyone to the table” could easily lead an at-risk closeted gay teen to a church that sponsors conversion therapy, to pull the first worst-case-scenario that came to my mind.

And just that one slight possibility is enough for me to not be able to easily dismiss this as a waste of some billionaires’ chump change.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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