What Did You Learn from the ‘John 3:16′ Commercial?

Focus on the Family aired this commercial during the Tim Tebow-led Denver Broncos’ playoff game last weekend. What did you learn from it?

Here’s what I learned:

  • Children get indoctrinated by Christians at a young age.
  • Children will memorize anything you tell them to.
  • Children of a young age probably have no idea what they’re saying when you tell them to recite something.
  • When you don’t have logic and evidence on your side, just go for an emotional appeal. It might get through to the gullible viewers.

Can you imagine the uproar that would’ve ensued if the children of Muslims read a verse from the Koran in the same way? Hell, Focus on the Family probably would’ve called it indoctrination themselves.

I haven’t been able to verify it, but that ad supposedly cost Focus on the Family $700,000. (For God so loved the world that he gave… up on the starving children and presented his message to the drunken masses.)

Incidentally, my request to interview Focus on the Family president Jim Daly for this website is still being ignored.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://twitter.com/Mowgli3 Sarah

    Those poor kids. :(

  • Anonymous

    From this post, I’m learning there are benefits to Canadian simulcasting laws.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    As we all know, if there really was a god who really loved everybody, He wouldn’t have created a world where there is an in-group who gets to go to heaven and an out-group that perishes.  The idea that He sends a Son to define the in-group and out-group (through if you believe in Him or not) is irrelevant to the evil of having an out-group that perished for all eternity in the first place.

    The central concept of a perishing out-group is really sick and evil.  If you define God as Good and Just, then there would never be a perishing out-group and no need for a savior.  Christianity only holds together if you posit an evil God to start with.

    • Anonymous

      He could also be a bit more competent then sending himself to a rather backwards part of the planet so he can die for three days in order to satisfy his own ego. But considering that the previous attempt to keep humans in line was drowning almost all of them, that may be considered progress. Never mind that the whole reason people are bad is his own responsibility anyways. He gave humans the invisible sickness called “original sin”.

      The whole Jesus “sacrifice” story is blatantly absurd whichever way you put it.

      • Annie

        “He could also be a bit more competent than sending himself to a rather
        backwards part of the planet so he can die for three days in order to
        satisfy his own ego.”

        The first recorded drama queen!

  • BP

    It’s scary how much money they have. Couldn’t that be better spent on something constructive? It ruined my nfl watching experience when saw that. Luckily Tom Brady stomped the savoir Tim Tebow into the ground…so much for prayer

  • Jonathan Murphy

    What did I learn?  Nothing.  I think there are enough examples out there already which illustrate that there is no low too low for the high-and-mighty. 

    But hopefully someone else out there realized, “Hey, some of these kids aren’t old enough to even understand Santa Claus isn’t real…Santa Claus…Jesus…wait a minute!”

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      People that support FOTF do not teach their children that Santa Claus is real nor do they teach them about the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy, at least that is what I hear on the radio when I listen to them preach the good word.

      • Ubi Dubium

        Yes, I have a Fundie brother-in-law like that. They don’t push Santa because of the danger that the kids will get Santa mixed up with Jeebus, and then what happens when they find out that Santa isn’t real?  Can’t have the kids questioning, oh, no.

  • Dan Barker

    It looks like about 44 kids in that ad. Using today’s percentages of nonbelief among college-age and 20-somethings, we can expect 12 or 13 of those kids to grow up to be nonreligious. Won’t it be great to have some of them in our freethought campus clubs! What a story they will be able to tell.

    • Javier

      You could also expect 2-5 of them to be gay. Since Focus on the Family is so vehemently anti-gay, I wonder why they included those kids.

    • Bryan

      I also noticed that 90% of the kids were white, except for the one Asian-looking kid, a very, very light skinned Latino boy, and two or three black children in the back row of the group-shouting shot. Now that’s the America I know and love!

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    and yet, when we push our kid into asking Rick Perry why he doesn’t believe in science, or push our kid into telling Michele Bachmann gay parents don’t need fixing we genuinely believe the child is serious and not just being used as a tool.

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      Because those aren’t examples of indoctrination into a set of myths based on faith as opposed to evidence. Those are parents introducing critical thinking and questioning (and bravery) at a young age. False equivocation.

      • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

        Lol. I love how our side will spin it however they can to rationalize using children as our political pawns.

        • BobtheRobot

          I agree with Larry Meredith.

          When I read about every single one of those stories I found myself annoyed at the double standards.

          It doesn’t matter what the kid is doing. Whether he is doing what you think is ‘right’ or not. If he’s too young to understand, (and those kids were too young) then he is being used.

        • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

          If you go look at the video of the kid confronting Bachmann, there’s an early post from the comments in which the person who took the video says the kid wanted to ask the question.  Hemant blogged about it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

            and of course the person shoving a camera in real close to catch the moment on video is more convincing than the obvious discomfort the kid was going through. Even I gave the cameraperson the benefit of the doubt and the kid was just really shy, that’s no excuse for pushing the camera in his face to film Bachmann getting embarrassed. Even if the kid had pure motives, the cameraperson did not. It was purp0sely filmed to score political points, and using a kid to do it is just pathetic.

            • http://www.facebook.com/squeakyreaper Kenneth Armstrong Gould Jr.

              Everywhere I looked in that case had similar criticism. Using children to push your political agenda is terrible.

      • Andrew Morgan

        Depends on if those kids wanted to walk up to Perry and Bachmann of their own accord. Otherwise, yeah it’s pretty similar.

        If a parent taught a kid to be intellectually independent and they decided Jesus lived him, that wouldn’t be any different than if he decided Bachmann’s stance on gays was wrong.

    • http://lovejoyfeminism.blogspot.com/ Libby Anne

      I have a problem with this kind of behavior too. Putting your kid up to something like this IS using them as a political pawn. I won’t do that to my kid. She’s her own person not mine, and her views are hers not mine. That said, if she WANTED to ask such a question, and it was her idea and her initiative, I’d let her. Just like that little girl who wanted to ask Hitchens what she should read – that was HER idea, her mom had no idea she was even going to do it. Otherwise, yes, it’s using your kids as pawns and going for the emotional appeal. 

    • Bart Mitchell

      Not at all Larry.  When I saw that clip of the kid talking to Bachmann, I felt the same way I do about the kids in this ad.  It’s adults using kids to draw an emotional response, and it’s pathetic.   I pride myself on looking at the issues intellectually, and try to remove emotion from my analysis of the problem.  When I see the opposite approach, it makes me sick.  Your argument should stand on it’s merits,  not at the heart strings you can tug.

  • Richard

    I learned a new way to gag at horrific things.

  • Kristen B.

    I learned that one of my gay friends supports FotF. Thankfully I didn’t actually watch the game to see the commercial. I had time to mentally prepare myself before watching it on youtube. Hope there aren’t anymore.
    I agree that people would have been in an uproar had the religion been anything other than christianity. 

  • Annie

    As a species, there are certain things that really haven’t changed that much… children still want to please whoever feeds them.

  • Noodly1

    OMFSM! I learned that, despite growing up southern baptist, the whole premise behind xianity never ceases to creep me totally out: Some supposedly all powerful guy kills his son–his ONLY son (what kind of sick fuck does that?!)–just for me, even though the son was murdered way long before I was even thought of. Then, if I agree to believe that the zombie son is magic, I can become immortal, just like a vampire! 

    Watching innocent children happily recite that insane garbage is awful, but what’s really mind blowing is just how many grown human beings actually believe it. And have killed and died for it over the course of human history. 

    • Anonymous

      Actually he just killed himself. Temporarily.

      Of course the Trinity is even more obviously made up than the rest of the story. Centuries after it allegedly happened

    • Annie

      Well said, Noodly1!

  • Xeon2000

    Maybe they should do a commercial with Matthew 6:5-8.

    • http://twitter.com/Kahomono Kahomono

      “Verily I say to you, they have their reward.”

      THAT might be the most insightful statement in the entire Bible.

  • Noodly1

    True, true, Stev84. Even as a small child I had trouble wrapping my head around that shit. 

    Let me get this straight please, Miss Sunday School teacher. Jesus is god’s son, but he’s also god, but…but…you said god loved the world and gave his son…so that means Jesus is his son and he’s god, right? Huh? Jesus *is* god? But how does that work?What? Oh. Yes ma’am, I’ll stop asking questions.

    • Anonymous

      The Trinity is probably one big reason why my indoctrination didn’t work. I could sort of understand the father/son thing, but I never got the holy ghost. As metaphor it works, but they talked about it like it’s a real, distinct entity

      • Reginald Selkirk

        Ironically, the only Biblical reference to the trinity, the Comma Johanneum, was slipped into the text centuries after Jesus H. Christ’s alleged life and death.
        .
        Whenever I hear the stupid-ass bit about “separation of church and state doesn’t appear in the constitution” I like to come back with “tell me where “trinity” appears in your Bible.

      • Georgi

        Strange, I had no trouble with the illogic, after all it was a fairy story, it didn’t have to make sense.

        But it did have to have a moral, and the scapegoat/whipping boy mentality is just disgusting!

  • Anonymous

    Donate, Donate! Go to their website which has more than one donate button on it. Also if you open their last financial disclosure statement, it looks like they had a drop in revenue, oops I mean donations. I wonder what their 2011 statement will look like which might explain their need to advertise and “focus on the dollar”.

  • Anonymous

    I would love to see this ad remade with one of the less desirable passages from the Bible. Imagine all those children reciting, “Happy those who seize your children and smash them against a rock” or “If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her
    husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his
    private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.”

  • http://diff-path.blogspot.com/ Stargazer

    This reminded me of yesterday’s post on Love Joy Feminism about kids brought to the Ohio Statehouse with teddy bears to lobby for the (anti-abortion) “Heartbeat Bill”  http://lovejoyfeminism.blogspot.com/2012/01/little-child-shall-lobby-them.html

  • Reginald Selkirk

    He gave his only son
    .
    But – I thought we were all God’s children. And he only gave him for a weekend.
    .

    • http://thefloatinglantern.wordpress.com/ Tim Martin

      Even if Jesus was special, it’s not like God couldn’t have made more! He’s God! They say he gave his “only” son like he’s fucking limited somehow?!

    • Anonymous

      Right….. it’s about time to come to grips with the fact that we are all really lesbian women.

  • Kimpatsu

    It’s just an assertion. There’s no evidence that any of it is true, and as the late and sadly missed Christopher Hitchens said, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.feller Matthew Feller

    When I was 19 I was an “investigator” of the Latter Day Saint (Mormon) church. An investigator is what they call someone who is interested in joining their church. I’ll never forget the first Sunday I was sitting in one of their sacrament meetings and a little girl, no older than maybe 6, was given a piece of paper and ushered to the front of the congregation to walk up the steps to a podium and read off the paper about how much she believed in the teachings of their church.

    All of the adults around me “oohed” and “ahed” about how adorable it was. One lady behind me even said, “I can’t believe she feels the spirit so strongly at such a young age!”. The little girl looks up from the podium at all of us, smiles in a nervous way, and walks back to her seat.

    Then to my unpleasant surprise, an adult pulls a young (similar in age) boy up, and HANDS HIM THE SAME PAPER TO READ.

    I remember feeling physically ill. Indoctrination is a past time for Christians.

  • John Karper

    It is a lot of money to spend for an organization that has is constantly laying off employees and has cut it’s workforce in half.

  • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

    There was a great post on Joe My God a few days ago, that commercial with subtitles explaining what the 750K could have bought: vaccinations in Africa, feeding the hungry, but it’s much more important for FotF to spend money on commercials, because that’s where they focus on the family, except gay families, because two guys together is gross.  

    FotF had YouTube take it down as a copyright violation.  Clearly it’s both satire and commentary, both of which are permitted under Fair Use, but YouTube isn’t going to take the time to question it.

    • http://tch3.com C High

      I had that video bookmarked, but as you say, “copyright violation” although, I think it was totally done well within fair use. 

    • Demonhype

      Corporations have been ignoring fair use laws for a long time, since it would cost about as much to defend your rights in court as it would to pay them some kind of royalty.  Which is why I have little to no sympathy for them and their equivalent-to-shoplifting piracy woes.

  • Alex

    Is it okay that I don’t even want to watch this crap? Can’t stand children advertising anything.

  • Flawedprefect

    When are we going to finally re-write that passage to what it really means? And God so wanted to be worshipped by his fallen creation, that he impregnated a virgin with himself so he could grow up and sacrifice himself to himself, and come back to life just to show off?

    I always think of how self-centered this act is. It’s like god is saying “sorry, mankind, I’d ask one of you to perform the ultimate sacrifice, but I’m afraid you’d just cock it up. Also: you’re not gods, so you won’t resurrect like I can, so it’ll be the same trick but without the prestige.”

  • Piet Puk

    Video needs more ‘Dislikes’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anique.vanberne Anique Van Berne

    You can coach a kid to say just about anything with conviction:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loDMRzPiCic&feature=share

  • Georgi

    If they have to do something like this why can’t they use Matthew 7:12?
    In fact, while one is about it, forget the rest of the book, Matthew 7:12 is all you need.

  • Anonymous

    God loves the world:  Well, except for (according to Focus on the Family) the gay ones, and the liberal ones, and the Muslim ones, and the atheist ones and….well, let’s just say God loved some of the world. Mainly the Focus on the Family ones, really.

    He gave his only son: Two options;He was his son, in which case he sacrificed himself to himself so he could forgive mankind for sins he himself set in motion. The other option is that he is not his son, in which case he, as a father, sent his son to be tortured and killed as compensation for the sins of others. That’s some real family values, right there. I wonder what Focus on the Family thinks of the women and girls who get raped or beaten as punishment for the crimes of their brothers?

    But whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life: Got that? It doesn’t matter if you are the kindest, most giving, most compassionate person in history. If you are all that and Hindu, fuck you, it’s worth nothing because you did not bow to his throne. Well, actually you will live forever, it’ll just be in Hell, along with all the atheists, gay folks etc. You know, because God “loves” you.

  • http://twitter.com/zenbuffy Buffy

    I think that what I learned from that video is that God inclusive ideals seem to be at odds with a lot of things that he (or people on his behalf) has said. It is odd to make such a big deal about how much God loves everyone and anyone, when the take-home point is ultimately that God only loves those who love him back (and do so correctly). It honestly baffles me that people, like those involved in the video, can’t see the logical flaw in proclaiming how God loves the whole world and *everyone* in it, except for those who are pro-choice, gay, engage in premarital sex, etc.

  • http://twitter.com/Kahomono Kahomono

    I love to watch NFL football games.  With the exception of one NFL game per year, I watch zero commercials.  I start watching a game about an hour after it begins but I have been recording it on my DVR – so I can work through the one-hour backlog by zapping past commercials.  

    I noticed this commercial as it zipped by in 8x speed.  I was SO happy that FotF dumped a bucket of the money they collected from rubes into ad time to support network broadcasts of a sport I enjoy watching.  

    Especially this one, in which their hero-du-jour (Tebow) was getting his butt ripped to shreds.  So completely, in fact, that at one point New England’s QB punted on 3rd down because even he was ashamed to run up the score any worse.

    Guess Jesus decided to take the Pats and give the points this time.

  • https://www.facebook.com/GentleGiantDK GentleGiant

    I’m conflicted. On the one hand I’d love for someone to make similar videos with other faiths (especially featuring kids of seemingly muslim parents), just to watch the fits of apoplexy coming from people like FotF. On the other hand I’d feel uncomfortable subjecting other kids to this kind of blatant emotional exploitation (even if done as mockery).

  • SystemsReady

    The only good thing about this ad is how it reminds me of how badly the Broncos got their asses kicked. Seeing the team starring one of the most obnoxious football players in recent member just get curbstomped warms the black, cold cockles of my heart. :3

    • SystemsReady

      …err…memory. Fucking typos, how do they work?

  • Anonymous

    John 3:16 “For God so loved the world”
    I do things for those I love.  I’m there for them when I need them, I make them soup when they’re sick and hold them when they are sad.  I talk to them and laugh at their jokes even when they aren’t that funny. I miss them when they aren’t near me and think fondly of the times we have shared together.  

    None of this applies to “God”.”that He gave”He “lent” his son.  “Gave” means to pass to another with no thought of getting back.  Jesus apparently died and returned and then went to live in heaven with his father.  There is no “gave” about this.”His only begotten Son”His deliberately manufactured son, designed specifically for the purpose of dying as a sacrifice to appease himself for a crime that he, himself manufactured.  That’s a revolting concept in itself.”that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

    People are still dying.  Not one person has ever shown that they are immortal.  We can conclude that this means that nobody really believes in this god or that the claim is false.  I know that really fervent believers exist (unfortunately) so that must mean that the claim is false.

    Think about that for a moment.  The sacrifice, no matter how brief, was to grant eternal life to believers but no believers have eternal life.  It was a pointless and revolting exercise that had no actual impact on reality.  Why do Christians hold this up as some sort of wonderful thing again?

  • Anonymous

    I learned the same things. And of course the waste of that money which could have went to better things.

  • Frank Mitchell

    I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again: the day a Christian cites Matthew 6:5-8 will be the day I’ll consider believing in Christianity (again).

    For reference: “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

    “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

    “Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”

    (King James Version.  Just like God wrote it :rollseyes:.)

    • Dmitri Sylvain

      The Southern Baptist church I grew up in does cite that passage, frequently. (or at least they used to — I don’t really know much of what has gone on since I left). And yet they still obnoxiously hold hands around the table for a meal prayer in restaurants. And the part about “vain repetitions” is taken as a jab at Catholics. Never mind that although they only serve communion once a quarter, they say the same words every time. Knowing the scripture doesn’t change behavior unless it serves the agenda.

  • Darke Mayer Goulart

    What did I learn watching Teebow’s game?

    That he can’t do 25% of what Tom Brady can do.

    BURN!

  • absent sway

    Ah yes, fond memories. I memorized my first verse at age three. THREE. I could have been one of those kids.

  • Frank Stone

    Wow!! I’d never heard of this business about God giving His only son so the world could have eternal life instead of perishing — whatever that means — but now that those children have recited it for me like that, its truth is totally self-evident! I’m a believer!! By the way, who’s “John 3:16″? Sounds kinda sci-fi.

  • Dreaaa

    Send this girl to college. She’s an atheist!  http://andreascollegefund.chipin.com/andreas-college-fund


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