FFRF censures Jeep’s divisive Christian Super Bowl ad

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The Jeep Super Bowl Sunday ad with Bruce Springsteen ostensibly encouraging Americans to find common ground has generated a lot of buzz. But, ironically, it flagrantly undercuts unity by assuming that Americans must all be Christians united under the repeatedly depicted cross.

That message is more than insulting. It actually perpetuates the Christian Nationalist narrative underpinning the Jan. 6 insurrection that this ad presumably was created to counter. Only 65 percent of Americans today identify as Christian, with religiously unaffiliated “Nones” standing at 26 percent. And even if 100 percent of Americans identified as Christian, that still would not make the United States a “Christian nation,” since our godless and secular Constitution ensures our government may not promulgate religion.

However, this point was evidently lost to the international corporation that owns Jeep and sought to religiously pander in a message on unity that actually further divides us. More than one-third of Americans do not bow down to a cross, and it’s impossible for us non-Christians to do anything other than take away from this ad that we aren’t true Americans.

The spot opens with a chapel and Springsteen’s narration: “There’s a chapel in Kansas standing on the exact center of the lower 48. It never closes. All are more than welcome to come and meet here in the middle.” The ad then shows the interior of the chapel with a wooden cross attached to the center of a red-white-and-blue plaque of the map of the lower 48 United States.

Springsteen’s narration continues: “Freedom is not the property of just the fortunate few. It belongs to us all. … It’s what connects us. … We need the middle.” Laudable words until the camera comes to rest on a large roadside cross.

The ad concludes with a shot of Springsteen outside the chapel, a cross in the background and then a shot of the chapel at sunset. Finally, there’s an image of the outline of the lower 48 United States, saying “To the ReUnited States of America.”

That geographical center of the United States is meaningless. It’s like saying that a word beginning with M is in the center of the dictionary. That Kansas “center” excludes Alaska and Hawaii. If you take all 50 states, then the center would be in South Dakota, close to the Montana border.

FFRF Co-President Dan Barker remarks: “The Pawnee tribe was originally in north-central Kansas. My tribe, the Delaware (Lenape) nation, had a reservation in Kansas in the 1830s-1860s. Before that, there were other tribes in the area. Why is there even a white Christian chapel at that spot? Why not a sweat lodge or longhouse?”

The Kansas Historical Society explains:

“In 1829, the Delawares were the first Indians to sign a treaty giving them land in what was to become Kansas. After 1830, nearly 30 tribes were given land in the areas. Among these tribes were the Cherokee, Chippewa, Delaware, Iowa, Iroquois, Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Munsee, Ottawa, Peoria, Piankashaw, Potawatomi, Quapaw, Sac and Fox, Shawnee, Stockbridge, Wea and Wyandot. Although these emigrant tribes were assured by the federal government that they would not be moved again, Kansas Territory opened for settlement in 1854 and once again forced the removal of native peoples. Many settlers moved into Kansas Territory after the Civil War, accelerating the movement of Indians off the land.”

This was displacement by white Christians citing “Manifest Destiny” — Christian Nationalism. Placing a Christian chapel there has no purpose other than staking a territorial claim to religious (white) supremacy.

Our nation does need to find common ground — that we live under a secular Constitution and in a country predicated on the aspirational motto of “liberty and justice for all.” There can be no “middle ground” with those who cannot and will not accept that. White supremacists and Christian nationalists pose a clear and continuing danger to our nation’s future.

Shame on Jeep for an ad that makes it appear that the United States is indeed a “Christian nation.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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