Though people complain that the upcoming Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad is divisive and controversial, the commercial is simply allowing a family to tell its personal story, contends a theologian.
Dr. Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, said there is a push back on the ability of someone to tell a personal story, or the right to free speech.
"Some people use the word hate speech [to describe the ad] and they haven't even seen it," Bock told The Christian Post Friday. "This is particularly odd in a society where all kinds of free speech that would be uncomfortable for a lot of people [are aired]. But someone tells a personal story and they try to cut that off."
Bock said the ad should be aired and be part of the continuing conversation about the issue of abortion.
Last month, Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus on the Family announced it would broadcast its first Super Bowl ad this year on Feb. 7. The 30-second spot from the pro-family organization will feature college football star Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam, who will share a personal story centered on the theme of "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life."
Though the exact content of the ad has not yet been revealed, many speculate the ad will recount Pam Tebow's refusal to have an abortion while she was pregnant with Tim despite having suffered from a life-threatening infection at the time.
CBS has taken a lot of heat from pro-choice groups who call the ad "anti-choice." They maintain the ad will alienate viewers and "ramp up the vitriolic rhetoric surrounding reproductive rights."
"The content of this ad endangers women's health, uses sports to divide rather than to unite, and promotes an organization that opposes the equality of Americans based on gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and reproductive freedom," expressed petitioners mobilized by the Women's Media Center.
In response to the outcry, CBS clarified last week that its policy regarding advocacy ads has changed over the past few years and that it now considers airing "responsibly produced" ones during its Super Bowl broadcast. A few years ago, a commercial such as the one by Focus on the Family would have been turned down because of its advocacy content.
Throughout the controversy, pro-life groups have been strongly supportive of the ad. Many pro-life groups collected signatures and urged CBS to air the ad despite pressure to do otherwise. Among the groups is the Susan B. Anthony List, one of the largest pro-life women groups in the nation. The group has received so far 50,000 comments in support for the Tebow family.
"NOW (National Organization for Women) and company are on the wrong side of American public opinion," said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement. "In only four days, over fifty thousand Americans have sent messages of support to the Tebow family on www.blockhardfortebow.com. The outcry of national support for Tim Tebow's pro-life leadership illustrates the strength of the growing American pro-life majority."
By comparison, the abortion-rights group EMILY's List has collected only 16,000 signatures.
"NOW's campaign against CBS, the Tebow family and Focus on the Family is going nowhere fast," Dannenfelser continued. "Arguments that abortion is somehow as liberating and self-sacrificing as Pam Tebow's decision to choose life in the face of great personal pain just don't stand the straight face test. Such callous attitudes grate on the conscience and defy experience."
This year's Super Bowl, which pits the Indianapolis Colts against the New Orleans Saints, will kick off at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 7.
Super Bowl broadcasts are typically viewed by over 90 million people each year.