God goes to the Super Bowl

Published February 22, 2024

By Sam Currin

Super Bowl LVIII has come and gone. The glitzy Las Vegas event drew some 123 million viewers with a reported 68 million Americans betting more than 1.3 billion dollars on the game.  

 The big game is certainly more popular than attending church. Week in and week out, there are roughly 25 million Americans at church each Sunday, far less than the Super Bowl audience. The American church — at least its evangelical branch — understandably frets about the precipitous decline of religious belief and jumped at the opportunity to share Christ on such a large stage as the Super Bowl.   

Enter the “He Gets Us” campaign, promoting an effort to remind people of “the example that Jesus set” by airing a 60-second ad during the game. The ad, titled “Foot Washing,” featured still photographs of people washing another person’s feet in various situations.  

While the ad was panned by the usual irreligious suspects, it also received its share of criticism from Christian apologists. Some thought the ad offered a shallow and incomplete picture of true faith — and I tend to agree. 

The ad’s singular focus on foot-washing, a common practice in Biblical times, but unknown to most Americans, limited its message. Ignoring the problem of human sin was another shortcoming.  

For my part, I probably would have produced a commercial that focused more on the message of John 3:16 and the necessity of repentance, faith, and works for living an abundant Christian life.  

But I wasn’t paying and, frankly, there is only so much you can say in sixty seconds. 

Actor Mark Wahlberg teamed up with actor Jonathan Roumie from “The Chosen” to influence others to pray more during a commercial for the Catholic app Hallow. 

“God, we take this moment just to give you thanks,” Wahlberg said in the ad, which urged viewers to take part in prayer during the Lenten season.  

The game’s opposing quarterbacks, the Chiefs Patrick Mahomes and 49ers Brock Purdy, have long spoken about the importance of their Christian faith and routinely kneel for prayer on the field. 

Mahomes immediately thanked God after the Chiefs were able to edge out the San Francisco 49ers 25 to 22 in overtime with a fantastic pass to receiver Mecole Hardman for a 3-yard touchdown. 

“I just gotta give God the glory,” Mahomes said on live TV before millions of viewers. 

Meanwhile, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy took the loss in stride. Purdy reminded fans that his football career doesn’t make or break him. “My identity can’t be in football, it can’t be in the things of this world,” he said. “It’s got to be in Him.”  

Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker set a Super Bowl record with a 57-yard field goal.  

Butker, a genuinely faithful Catholic, previously said, “I never thought I’d ever be on a stage like this, but here I am and I need to glorify God for that.”  

Speaking earlier to a Christian men’s group, Butker noted, “Outside of the bright lights of the stadium, with the fans and the notoriety that come with being an NFL player, the greatest impact that I will make with my time on this earth is remaining dedicated to my primary vocation — helping my family get to heaven.” Amen to that! 

If indeed we are a celebrity-focused culture, I pray Butker’s message is taken to heart by the fathers of America. Too many of our families are broken, unchurched, and living in desperate situations. No football game can fix that.  

Dr. Sam Currin is a former judge, law professor, and United States Attorney who lives in Raleigh. An ordained Baptist minister, he holds degrees from Wake Forest University, UNC School of Law, and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.