God at Super Bowl LVII?

By Kris W. Sky | Posted February 13, 2023

The Super Bowl is known as “the biggest TV event of the year” for Americans, consistently the most-watched program with “100 million-plus” viewers annually. 

Hence, it is also “the biggest megaphone TV marketing money can buy.” A 30-second ad during the Super Bowl currently costs anywhere from $6 to $7 million on average. 

This year, audiences were inundated with the usual deluge advertising alcohol, junk food, cars, movie trailers—and God?

Christian Culture in the NFL

Nonprofit The Servant Foundation forked over “about $20 million” for two ads as part of its billion-dollar, “three-year effort to reintroduce people to Jesus.” Its “He Gets Us” campaign aims to “[promote] the idea that Jesus understands contemporary issues from a grassroots perspective,” describing God the Son as “the world’s most radical love activist” on its website.

Some, however, are questioning the stewardship of the campaign’s spending millions “for 30 seconds of air time.” Could that money have been “better spent” for the gospel commission, they wonder? Others take issue with the ads themselves, which, they say, “powerfully communicate the human side of Jesus … [but] leave out his divinity.” That is, your salvation through Christ is completely missing. Is this an accurate picture of the Savior?

It’s no surprise that “religious-themed ads have been relatively rare at the Super Bowl,” but perhaps the reason isn’t as obvious. History shows that in the 1950s, Protestant denominations made a deliberate push to infuse the sports world with Christianity; “evangelical leaders recruited, trained and placed people with sports teams to walk alongside and serve coaches and athletes,” with the aim of molding the sport into a walking, talking Christian billboard. As The Associated Press put it, “Regular fans are accustomed to expressions of faith, from locker-room prayers to Hail Mary passes to players pointing skyward after touchdowns.”

Did these evangelical leaders succeed? The media has been quick to note the pervading Christian culture inside this year’s two competing Super Bowl teams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Chiefs’ chaplain (all 32 NFL teams employ one), Marcellus Casey, holds a regular Monday-night Bible study for his players; and perhaps you remember the “viral 2016 video of five Eagles players getting baptized in the team’s cold tub.” Front and center is the loud-and-proud faith of the two teams’ quarterbacks, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts.

Christ on the Field?

But is this what the Christian life is like?

When we examine the institution that is the NFL, what do we see? Statista states that the NFL “is the most profitable professional sports league in the United States. The total revenue of all 32 NFL teams has constantly increased over the past 15 years,” except when COVID-19 hit; last season, it sat pretty at more than $17 billion.

This cash cow has also produced its share of controversies: “player concussions,” “the national anthem,” and, recently, the consequences of legalized gambling in sports. In 2018, the Supreme Court’s historic case Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, thereby legalizing sports betting in the United States.

In the few short years since, sports gambling “ads have become ubiquitous during sporting events.” Upping the frenzy this year is Arizona, one of 33 states that decided to capitalize on the Supreme Court decision and the first of those states to host a Super Bowl. Its State Farm Stadium, where the game was played, even “has a retail sportsbook on its grounds.”

 According to The AP, “more than 50 million American adults are expected to bet on” “the most-wagered-on single-day event in the nation,” in “an increase of 61% from last year”; and “more than one-third of NFL fans say legalized betting on sports has made watching an NFL game more exciting.” All bets combined will likely total “a whopping $16 billion, or twice as much as last year.” The final amounts are as of yet unknown, though at least one record has been broken so far—the Super Bowl’s “largest reported wager” came in on game day at $2.2 million.

What else has come of this newfound “freedom”? Simultaneously, the National Council on Problem Gambling has found a 30 percent increase in people “[indicating] they were at risk of a gambling problem.” Jason Scott, vice president of trading at BetMGM, commented, “What hasn’t surprised me is the hunger and the thirst our customers had for sports betting. It was always there, but it was underground.”

Is this an accurate picture of Christ? An industry whose insiders promote glorifying the Messiah is also profiting off violent, voyeuristic entertainment, popularizing a culture of guzzling beer and gorging on junk food, and fueling the addictions of millions of souls. Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits. … A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:16, 18). He taught, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).

Are Christ’s professed disciples pointing people to the Christ of the Bible, who came to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21)? Do we even know who the Savior is anymore, or are we simply fashioning Him into an “imagination of [our] evil heart” (Jeremiah 11:8 KJV)? What kind of Messiah did the hundreds of millions of fans get on Sunday?

Learn how to become a true disciple of Christ in this convicting presentation “Is My Christianity Real? Part 1 and 2.” 

Kris W. Sky
Kris W. Sky is a writer and editor for Amazing Facts International and other online and print publications.

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