John 3:16 Too Controversial?

The ratings are in! There’s a good probability that you were somewhere on Sunday watching the Super Bowl. Each year, advertisers with super sized budgets sink millions of dollars into Super Bowl commercials. After the game, discussion and analysis revolve around how amusing or interesting the commercials were. The ultimate goal being the same: to sell a product.

In a few regional markets throughout the country, just before the fourth quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers game, a 30-second biblically based spot popped up– to the surprise of many football fans.

Most of the larger urban markets were not part of the demographics chosen to view this ad. It was originally rejected by Fox Sports for containing too much “religious doctrine” and for being too offensive.

Wow! Offensive?! When I think of an offensive spot, I think about the Kim Kardashian’s Shape Up commercial, where sexual innuendo ran amok. But I digress…

The commercial I’m talking about starts with a group of friends watching a football game in a living room. They cheer when one of the players on defense tackles his opponent. Then a closeup is shown of the defensive player’s eye black where he has painted “John 3:16.” One of the viewers asks his neighbor what that means. After the neighbor shrugs, the viewer offers to look it up for them on his cell phone.

The commercial concludes with “ A Message of Hope.”

It needs to be noted that the commercial features no preaching but simply encourages curious viewers to look up John 3:16.

I knew about this ad controversy last week. Sadly, I wasn’t expecting to see it air in my hometown, where we have NO Christian bookstores– but instead have a Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and even a Hooters right off the interstate! We really needed to have it aired out here!

As a Christian I am neither surprised nor am I angry that this ad was not aired nationally. I know I probably should be outraged…but I’m not. I’ve just come to a realization that God’s ways are not ours. His timing is hardly ever understood. His methodologies are perfect and very exact and beyond comprehension.

Here’s and interesting fact: The first hour after the commercial aired in only some markets, the Look Up 316 website that the commercial advertised drew so much traffic that it was difficult to load the web page!

Don’t get me wrong, every year I look forward to seeing what commercials have been chosen to make their debut during this event. We always have watched the Super Bowl as a family. Advertisements for beer, in and of themselves, have never worried me. We eat Doritos and drink Coke. No biggie. But there does appear to be a new line drawn in the sand as to what is considered acceptable content on TV. That does worry me. Not because I keep my kids in a bubble, either. I think it’s the new level of lewdness and sarcasm that I find so disturbing.

Every year there were many ads that don’t make it to air for one reason or another. With today’s technology and the money making potential from sheer online exposure, it doesn’t really matter too much. All those non-aired commercials picked up zillions of hits on the Internet the past couple of weeks merely because they were identified as potential Super Bowl ads. Their companies got all the exposure that goes with placing an ad in the game, without the $3 million average cost.

While exposure is always a good thing, the people behind, at Fixed Point Foundation, weren’t just selling a product or service. They wanted to do something meaningful. With all the hype and zany commercials that we viewed on Sunday, can you pick even two that were meaningful? I can’t. Cute, funny, and even gross– but meaningful?

This morning there is hype behind the Lookup316 movement. There are online articles and several blogs which have been written on this subject. Check out Facebook! There is dialogue!– and that’s important! Because in the whole scheme of advertising, the plan is working. People are going to the website to satisfy their own curiosity. A curiosity which is probably even greater now than it would have been if the ad simply aired between the Budweiser and Doritos commercial on Sunday!

I think Green Bay Packers’ Greg Jennings said it best, after winning the Super Bowl on Sunday, “To God be the Glory!”

I’d really like to hear your feedback on the subjects of controversy and commercialism, and how you and your family deal with it. Please share your thoughts!

You can follow Lisa on twitter @lisastrnad and she blogs regularly at talking like a girl.

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