Tony Reinke of Desiring God Wants to Teach You how to Navigate Super Bowl Commercials; Plus Sovereign Grace and the Super Bowl

Tony Reinke of Desiring God wrote an article about navigating Super Bowl commercials prior to the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcon match. This looks at the issues being raised by Tony Reinke’s article. Plus this also looks at issues between Sovereign Grace and the Super Bowl. I wanted to do this article for the Super Bowl but other issues popped up, but I still want to review this issue from Desiring God.

“When you win, nothing hurts.

Joe Nameth

“Gentleman it is better to have died a small boy then to fumble the football.”

John Heisman

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh

Romans 13:14 NIV

kool-aidDrink it up folks you’re going to need it!

I have been sitting on this for a few weeks. I originally wanted to do this around the Super Bowl, but this is a busy place and other things happened. I had this on my pile and while the Super Bowl is recent memory I still want to discuss this issue from Desiring God. Before the Super Bowl Desiring God’s Tony Reinke’s published an article called “How Do You Super Bowl?” which offered advice on how to deal with Super Bowl commercials. Here is some background on Tony Reinke. Tony obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska in Omaha in 1997. He then got a degree in Liberal Arts in business and critical thinking in Bellevue University. After getting a degree in critical thinking he went and worked for Sovereign Grace Ministries. (Note…obviously the critical thinking degree didn’t work in the grand scheme of things especially if he became the research assistant for C.J. Mahaney. So much for critical thinking skills! ) By the way before I continue, Tony Reinke may want to read this post I wrote on critical thinking skills called, “I Want You to Think For Yourself, to Challenge What You Hear; and to Learn to be Skeptical.” Tony worked for Sovereign Grace Ministries from 2008 until 2011 and then he went and worked for Desiring God Ministries which is where he is today. There he is the senior writer, podcast host and producer. You know what is interesting…I have noticed that there appears to be an infusion of people from Sovereign Grace Ministries into Desiring God Ministries. Here is Tony Reinke, then there is also Jon Bloom which I have also written about before, go to the table of contents and look at the Jon Bloom articles.  When you stop and consider the corruption and decadence of Sovereign Grace it makes me wonder if I poked around at Desiring God…what would I find? Would I also find a lot of corruption given the problems of Sovereign Grace Ministries? If there were a number of people from Sovereign Grace who came on board did the corruption from Sovereign Grace culture follow as well?  I am just thinking out loud and connecting the dots, and being an analyst.  You can look at Tony Reinke’s webpage here. I have a lot to say about this Desiring God post. And what I will do is comment on the post below. My comments will be in red

Sunday night, the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons will shove each other around on synthetic grass for seven pounds of sterling silver. And millions will be watching.

Super Bowl 50 drew 112 million viewers. It’s a major cultural moment, and with that many eyes on the screen, it’s a once-a-year marketing opportunity. A year ago, 62 commercials were scattered during the game breaks. Major corporations plan and rehearse all year for one coveted 30-second spot ($5 million each!).

The ads are sometimes more entertaining than the game action, they certainly dominate the air in comparison to both the halftime show and the cumulative live action on the field (snap-to-whistle). Of the 60 minutes on a regulation clock, gameplay comprises only about 11 minutes of an average NFL game.

But in recent years, an increasing number of those pricey commercials also have proven sexually suggestive, or worse. Ads by Victoria’s Secret and GoDaddy are notorious examples, not to mention the latest efforts by the major beer companies, or this year’s inevitable racy movie trailer.

For Christians, sexually suggestive advertising in public has been a problem for decades, long before John Piper wrote “On Advertising Sexy Movies: An Open Letter to an Advertiser,” originally written in 1993 (later published in A Godward Life). All of his original concerns are relevant more than twenty years later.

If you plan to watch “The Big Game” with friends or family, how will you respond to the sexually suggestive or otherwise inappropriate commercials (or halftime shows)? We created a forum on Facebook to allow our readers to discuss the options, and this is what we heard.

Okay…Tony Reinke, how should Christians respond to the sexually suggestive or inappropriate commercials? My words of advice….just deal with it. Grow up and just deal with it. You actually make the situation worse by elevating and acting this way. People need to learn how to deal with issues. You can’t withdraw into a bubble and you cannot avoid the world around you. People have to deal with the world… advertisements in shopping malls, how people dress in the gym, how people dress or what they say in public. You can’t be so sensitive that you jump  at these issues. You are crippling yourself for life if you can’t learn how to engage or deal with people in differing settings. 

The other issue that needs to be said is the following. Really…someone from Sovereign Grace are going to be so concerned to an extreme about sexual purity and not give a damn about child sexual assault or other elements of corruption? And what about the lewd and crass sexual comments from C.J. Mahaney himself? Is that okay? Remember when C.J. boasted of demanding sex from his wife Carolyn after she was vomiting due to morning sickness? C.J. boasted of that and thought it cool? Any man with an once of decency would have banged Mahaney on the head with a 4 X 4 and tell him, “That’s no way to treat your wife! Grow up!” 

Nacho Typical Event

First, an objection from a man named Claude:

These types of commercials are on all day, everyday, on every channel on TV. Why is it that every single year this discussion comes up from Christians about Super Bowl commercials? Most TV shows today are much worse than any Super Bowl commercial, and have been for many years. Please stop.

The conversation didn’t stop. Sara Maher responded. “Probably because it’s a family event, and even though these types of ads are on year-round, they aren’t usually aired during kids and family programming.”

Also, these ads are special, and commercials are becoming less and less a part of our viewing habits. Thus, the situation is rather unique.

“Probably because the majority of us frequent readers of Desiring God don’t watch regular TV except for once a year at a Super Bowl party. Our family and most other families I know have ditched regular TV for other things such as Roku, Netflix, Pureflix, etc. So commercials are something we are not accustomed to dealing with on an everyday basis” (Lisa Dawn Chandler).

Since the Super Bowl is unique, what are some practices to consider?

All of these responses indicate how fundamentalism cripples a persons social skills and how they function. Do you want to spiritual handicap someone for life and cripple them? Get them into this purity crap that prevents them from functioning in society. Tony, I would recommend you read “Because of Fundamentalism do Evangelicals Struggle with Social Skills?” 

1. Look Away

Scott Monroe says, “We always viewed it as an opportunity to teach filtering and discernment. You can’t always change the channel in the real world, but you can ignore and avert. Everything is a teaching moment.” This was the most liked comment in the discussion.

Take advantage of the moment.

“Living as a Christian doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We live in the world, but not of the world. If you don’t use ‘real life’ situations to teach people how to live a Christian life, then you aren’t being a teacher. All teachers explain the rules then give you examples on how to apply those rules. The best examples are the ones people can understand because it relates to their life. Everyone watches the Super Bowl, so using it as an example to teach discernment is a good choice. It’s an example of knowing your audience” (Melissa Clarke).

“As a young man, I do not pretend that I can take the sexuality out of television, and I recognize that in this pagan culture. . . . I simply avert my eyes when something is provocative, and silently pray that God would prevent me from taking it to heart. That’s the price of watching television. But it tends to be a good witness, I believe, even if it is a silent one. ‘I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?’ (Job 31:1)” (Dominic Maillet).

Very practically, “Look down or have something else on hand like an iPhone or iPad to look at it. This works anywhere, or anytime, whatever you are watching. Even in the street [around immodesty] with real people” (Vanessa Laura).

They want to talk about learning discernment and still like John Piper? That is a contradiction and that is an epic fail…if a person learns discernment they will avoid John Piper.  All of these comments come from people who I believe are spiritually handicapped by fundamentalism. If you can’t watch or deal with advertisements on the television then how are you going to deal with other pressures of life?

2. Find a “Jump Channel”

There are other practical steps to take. “We have a jump-to channel (even sometimes just changing the input to nothing). If we accidentally miss a few seconds of a game, it’s no big deal, but we especially protect our young ones. Sometimes we miss cool, fun, innocent commercials, too. We do this with any sporting event we watch. And we’ve stopped going to Super Bowl parties because none of our church friends, who graciously hosted the events, took our concerns seriously. We just politely decline” (Danielle Hoglund).

“We have been watching more football games due to a child’s growing interest. It isn’t just the Super Bowl with bad ads. We always have a jumpchannel set on the remote, so pushing one button changes to a ‘safe’ channel. We usually set it to some channel about food or houses or animals. The kids have seen enough commercials to know and will themselves say ‘jump.’ So they are aware and can discern, but we don’t leave it on to increase exposure” (Sara Engle Anderson).

“We always have a ‘safe’ jump channel to which we will go (as much as there can be in this era). One of the news stations (CNN or Fox) is usually okay. Or HGTV. If something questionable appears, we hit the ‘Last’ button on the remote and go back after a time. Sadly, some commercials are in your face before you can get to the button” (Keith Pond).

Yup…these comments further indicate how fundamentalism cripples people and handicaps them for life. So Danielle Hoglund writes that she is willing to throw away a friendship over a commercial. Plus I would like to know what were her concerns? What is sexually suggestive for a fundamentalist? A female wearing shorts when she should be wearing a skirt? A car advertisement that makes references to swimming at the beach and people wearing bathing suits? Definitions are everything in this culture and they are sorely needed. On the last comment its kind of nice as someone who consumes a lot of news and reads newspapers to see a positive reference to CNN for a change.  

3. Go Commercial-Dark

Some viewers simply bypass the commercials altogether and catch the best ones online the next day. “I simply change the channel and return to the game two minutes later. No huge strategy necessary to solve such a minor problem” (Jack Pietrzak).

“We switch it to a blank screen and guess when it’s back on after commercial break. We do that with all the football games we watch” (Courtney Groover).

Once again Courtney illustrates how people are going to be handicapped for life. If they can’t deal with a television commercial how are they going to deal with being out in public? Going to a shopping mall? Playing sports in a sports league? Going to the beach? Should people just crawl into the cave and withdraw from the world? Is that what is being taught here? I’m sorry if parts of this are repetitive.

4. DVR Fast-Forward

For tech savvy DVR owners who can easily record the game, there’s another option.

“We DVR the game so we can zip through the nonsense” (Shawna Caron).

“We record the game and start it about 40 minutes in so we can skip any inappropriate commercials. We generally skip halftime altogether and have our own football game outside then come back in and start the recording again!” (Milissa Kaufman).

“We haven’t watched a halftime show in years because of the provocative stuff! We either pause it and fast-forward or turn it off until the game starts again” (Sarah Stackhouse).

“We generally do the DVR/pause thing. We try to catch a few cute ads in the beginning, but usually give up and just watch the commercial highlights online the next day. It’s too risky to keep it playing, unfortunately!” (Heather Brandon Tucker).

When Shawna says she DVR’s through the non-sense what does she mean? How is non-sense defined for a fundamentalist? Then stop and consider what Heather Brandon Tucker says. They try and catch a few cute adds but give up? Again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, this also states the problem with fundamentalism as people are crippled for life in developing the right social skills and needs that are essential for facing conversations. It encompasses a number of things from having difficult conversations, meeting people outside your bubble and listening to other points of view. Another point I would also add is that by making these decisions for her kids they are failing to learn and engage and respond themselves. That is also destructive.

5. Hit Mute

Several viewers hit the mute button and talk with one another or continue a game that’s been started. Simply muting the television seems to be the cue that breaks the gaze toward the television, and many of you find it powerful.

“Super Bowl commercials have taken on a life of their own, often pitting against each other some of the funniest, creative works of major advertising minds. We usually designate one person with the primary responsibility tolower the volume during the commercials. During the ads, folks use the time for bathroom breaks, restocking on snacks and drinks, or chatting. Few lazy folks actually sit through the commercials. Probably 99% of the time, the ads are no more salacious than regular programming. If no one draws special attention to the commercials, most of the people at the party won’t even see them” (Steve Bravo).

6. Don’t Feel Compelled to Watch

This discussion is somber for many of our readers. “Some of us watch very little television because of these issues” (Bob Wiegers). “Exactly! That is our situation” (Aimee LeBaron Whittle).

You don’t have to watch the game at all.

“In a spirit of humility before God, sacrifice the whole game to his holiness. Just don’t watch it. Give it up for Jesus. Fast from the game as you desire to seek the kingdom of God above the pleasures of this world. Not for the sake of practicing asceticism, of course, but just because you love God far more than the things of this world. What better way to demonstrate it than by fastingfrom a pleasurable event we have looked forward to for a whole season? Just a thought” (Scott Carpenter).

“Since it is the Sabbath, how about not watching it at all?” (Courtney Groover).

This, of course, sparked a lively debate.

“Honest question: Do you really think watching the Super Bowl on Sunday is wrong for a Christian?” (Brian West).

“Yes. In our household we set TV, movies, travel, shopping, and working aside on Sunday. It’s one of the Ten Commandments, and we seem to have forgotten this one is there. We set the day aside for worship and family time” (Corrie Jelier).

“Like Corrie said, to honor the Sabbath Day and keep it holy is a command God has given us. This is one way we can honor his day . . . and how all professional sports players should honor the Lord’s Day, by not working on the Sabbath” (Jean Ruth Bylsma).

“Yes, I’ve never heard a remotely convincing argument for how watching the Super Bowl (or anything else) honors the Fourth Command” (Jennifer Hughes).

It should be said that strict Sabbath-keeping would fall on Saturday. Yet many Christians see the principle of Sabbath-keeping having application to “the Lord’s Day,” Sunday. As John Piper has explained, “I cannot escape what seems to me compelling evidence that the Lord’s Day remains till Jesus comes, and that it is set apart for the glory of Christ and the good of our souls. May the Lord give you wisdom and freedom and joy as you display his work and his worth on his day.”

In that freedom, it’s not unreasonable to think of the Super Bowl as part of personal soul refreshment, fellowship, family time, or evangelism — but at the same time we must use discernment. Whether we’re better off ignoring the game altogether is a consideration we should never brush off quickly.

In the light of what Scott Carpenter said in the Spirit of Holiness lets sacrifice the game itself. Why stop there? Let’s also sacrifice friendships. If education causes people to doubt, lets give up learning.  If food causes people to stumble lets give up many aspects of that as well. (I’m being sarcastic as you need food to eat.) But here is another thing I would suggest…I would propose that Scott Carpenter’s thoughts are sinful in the end. If the Lord gave freedom to mankind, and man invented football, what could be the harm in that? Its like taking medicine for asthma or a heart condition. If man was created by God and man invented the medicine isn’t that also healthy and glorify God as well? By the way in response to Corrie Jelier’s comment about not watching the Super Bowl because it violates  the 10 Commandments can one also say that this is poor theology as well? Didn’t Jesus come to fulfill the law? And don’t we live under the New Testament as well? Why go back to the Old Testament then and live under those requirements as well?

By the way when Jean Ruth Bylasma says that sports players should honor the Lord and not play sports. This thinking is quite warped as it implies that they should not work on Sunday. Let’s stop and expand upon Jean Ruth Bylasma says after all where else should this apply to?  Should an Emergency Medical Technician at a major urban hospital not work on Sunday? Should an engineer for Union Pacific Railroad stop driving his train the moment the clock hits midnight and its Sunday? What about a pilot for American Airlines? What about a nurse in a hospice center?  Should she stop helping people in the end stages of terminal disease because she is also working on a Sunday? Can you imagine a Lance Corporal in the United States Marines Corps telling his supervisor that because of what is being taught in Desiring God he can’t work on a Sunday? In the culture of the Marine Corps let’s see how well that works!  Where do you draw the line with this crap? Maybe this is too harsh but you know what popped up in my mind when I read this? Its the story of the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus by asking him if a person can be healed on the Sabbath day. Its in Luke 14:1-6 I believe. But here you have something similar…you have a group of people trying to dictate what a person can or cannot do on the Sabbath. This is just garbage and it illustrates why Desiring God pontificates crap into the modern church.

7. Go to Church First

Here’s an interesting approach that aims at the good of the soul and mutes a bulk of the concerns. “We go to evening services at church. We miss the first half, the halftime show, and get home for the second half and the end of the game” (Tom Betty Gavin).


Finally, mixed into the discussion came two proposals for us.

“How about a donation for a Desiring God commercial?” (Jason Hamilton). “Hey Desiring God, make an ad that shares the gospel, and raise funds to put it on during the Super Bowl” (Samuel Wilking).

Haha . . . doubtful.

“It would be awesome if Desiring God offered maybe a roundtable discussion or a live Q&A with multiple pastors and leaders that could last the duration of halftime” (Derek Sullivan).

Okay . . . now there’s a suggestion with traction.

A Desiring God commercial? If that is what is going to happen then I would propose that the Kool Aid needs to flow in generous quantities and that one should easily and greedily drink it up, and not leave a drop!

Remembering C.J. Mahaney’s Guidance on how to Hold a Handheld for the Super Bowl

You know what this ridiculous post from Desiring God reminded me of? It reminded me of an old C.J. Mahaney post in which he gave instructions on how to watch the  Super Bowl. It was one of the most BS pieces that I think C.J. Mahaney ever wrote. In that article Mahaney said four things to consider. As a refresher here  they are:

  1. Strategically assign the remote
  2. Don’t watch passively
  3. Foster fellowship
  4. Draw attention to the eternal

You can read the post and the response on SGM Survivors in From 2008 [And Today], C.J. Mahaney Gives Tips For Watching The Super BowlNow here is the other question I have as well. As we all know C.J. Mahaney is infamous for recycling sermons and he lacks the capacity to have an original thought. He keeps giving the same sermons over and over. Todd Wilhelm wrote a couple of good articles about this issue. The first one which shows how Mahaney struggles with original thought is in “C.J. Mahaney – Doing the Hard Work of Sermon Preparation?” and “C.J. Mahaney Once Again Displays Minimal Effort.” Now here is the question I have…Tony Reinke was the research assistant to C.J. Mahaney. Is he just following the lead of Mahaney and recycling old material? Did he help write that post about tips for the Super Bowl for Mahaney in 2008 and did he recycle those thoughts into this recent Desiring God post? I don’t know I am thinking a loud. It really depends upon when he started working for Mahaney at Sovereign Grace. If Reinke started in January of 2008 then yes I could say that is a possibility. If he started in February 2008 or later then this issue will be moot.

Plus Anon’s Story of an Alleged Sexual Assault Amidst a SGM Super Bowl Party with Commercial Control

This leads us to the final point I want to make. SGM and many Neo-Calvinists are into extreme methods of purity. Bounce the eyes, change the channel during the commercials, monitor the entertainment etc… How well does this work? Let’s not forget the story of Anon at SGM Survivors. Its the story of a 13 year old who was sexually assaulted and ignored while channel surfing took place at a Super Bowl party. Here is the post as it appeared on SGM Survivors.

I’m just going to share a little story and some minor commentary at the end.

One Superbowl Sunday, I was at a prominent SGM (then PDI) member’s house. There were dozens of others in attendance, lots of teens and younger adults. Remote controlling and commercial censoring were in full effect, snacks were in abundance, and everything was so biblical…as biblical as recently invented sports events centered around electronic devices can be. During a commercial break, I was sexually assaulted against an exterior wall of that house.

I was thirteen.

Not a single one of those appointed to ‘watch over’ anything, much less my soul, noticed a thing when I and the perpetrator went back inside the house. I doubt it would have mattered anyway. My family was in the outer circle, despite decades of $$$ and attendance. I started “rebelling” thereafter and refused to attend any church functions, and my parents surprisingly didn’t seem to mind (despite them not knowing the reasons for my rebellion). They severed ties with PDI/SGM 2 years later.

Why bring this up? I think it’s quite telling that despite the micromanagement of ‘biblical living’, horrible things have not only slipped under the radar of those ‘caring for our souls’ (etc., barf) but have been actively hidden, squashed, silenced. The pending lawsuit is long-deserved. I hope it ruins the entire organization financially and every single perpetrator and co-conspirator financially, mentally and physically.

Tony Reinke how do I say this…your post at Desiring God was awful. I think its high time you actually get a real job and learned how to earn a paycheck and have a boss that does performance evaluations and more. I hope I don’t see a like minded post in the future but if I do, then I will tell you… expect it to be hammered. Since we examined the issue of Neo-Calvinism and the Super Bowl I want to close with a song to tie into the theme. At the Super Bowl Lady Gaga did the half time show.  In that spirit I am going to leave you with Lady Gaga. Okay that’s it guys, please know I love you.

11 thoughts on “Tony Reinke of Desiring God Wants to Teach You how to Navigate Super Bowl Commercials; Plus Sovereign Grace and the Super Bowl

  1. Okay…Tony Reinke, how should Christians respond to the sexually suggestive or inappropriate commercials? My words of advice….just deal with it. Grow up and just deal with it.

    Ever notice that Christians ALWAYS go for the SEXUAL angle first?

    One-track mind like a nymphomaniac on Spanish Fly.

    Remember when C.J. boasted of demanding sex from his wife Carolyn after she was vomiting due to morning sickness? C.J. boasted of that and thought it cool?

    Just like pornography. Because in porn, the woman exists ONLY to Satisfy/Service the Urrrges in the Man’s Arrreas. Whenever He wants It, Wherever He wants It, However He Wants It.

    (HUMBLY, of course — chuckle chuckle)

    Once again Courtney illustrates how people are going to be handicapped for life. If they can’t deal with a television commercial how are they going to deal with being out in public?



  2. I think this – the hang-up with suggestive adverts – is American cultural thing. Obviously the super bowl is!! The British are also somewhat prudish, but the Germans very much not on average. Some intersting culture shock for me on living in Germany.

    I can understand your point that with all that is going on in the world, and all that has gone on in some churches, worrying about this indicates the lack of having a life. Getting embarrassed over ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ is a bit cringeworthy. Yet I can’t blame Christians for wanting to deal with this in a way that promotes being holy. ‘Whoever looks at a woman lustfully …’. To inculcate in children old enough to understand the idea of not looking at people as sex objects is a good thing. The failure to do this is what can lead to the culture in which sexual abuse of children can take root, where sex has become lust. So I wouldn’t be too harsh with them for this.

    Neither withdrawal to a Christian ghetto like a kind of monastery nor indifference are the answer to this problem.


  3. Hmm… the sexually-suggestive aspects are a problem, yes. I do agree with Ken that we should be teaching our kids to treat people with honor and decency. That said, heck, I generally find Super Bowls and even their half-times — barring “wardrobe malfunctions” — to make for good conversation and potential opportunities to witness to friends, family and colleagues. Besides which, some of the commercials are just plain funny or quite poignant, and folks in the rest of our culture talk about them and even to a degree watch them in the days after the game. For example, this past Super Bowl, that was a pretty gutsy political ad put out there by 84 Lumber. Definitely a conversation piece for folks willing to discuss a real issue in our society.

    Now Eagle, I will admit: I just skimmed through this post. I just got to rolling my eyes a bit too much with the typical inane, “holier-than-thou” / “sexual purity” type remarks. But here’s some more serious food for thought: what about the human trafficking that is said to go on in association with the Super Bowl? What am I talking about? Rich johns meeting up with prostitutes, supposedly at the stadium or in some way connected to the event. What are we doing to put a stop to that practice? I honestly am not sure what to do about that, although in Virginia, we do try to get word out and get help for folks caught in human prostitution and other forms of human trafficking. For example, in Northern Virginia, we have the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Initiative working to go after the pimps when they can and help the prostitutes leave their lifestyle / work. Nationally, we have the End the Game curriculum to help prostitutes understand pimps, how they’ve been used, and how they can get out of that situation.

    Some churches are helping to stop human trafficking in our area; but how many of them are the churches that these commenters you quoted are attending?

    Liked by 1 person

      • Because that might mean they have to put their money where there mouth is and actually do something other than make Ex Cathedra pronouncements from their sin-sniffing comfy chair.


        Liked by 1 person

  4. So we can’t watch Superbowl commercials without a ManaGAWD here to tell us exactly how to navigate them and avoid SIN. Red Workbooks anyone?

    What does this Reinke guy think he is — a smartphone App? Bill Got Hard?

    Liked by 1 person

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