This past Sunday most of America gathered around the TV and bowls of chip & dip to watch the Super Bowl. Sadly, the game was a little lopsided so we depended on the commercials to entertain us. One of the commercials that stood out to me was this one by Coke.
I found it a very beautiful commercial that celebrated the many people, cultures and faces that make up America. However (although not completely unexpected) many people took to social media to vent their frustration over the commercial. Here are a few examples I picked up from other articles.
Like I said, I was not surprised but I was a little disheartened. Those are just a few examples that were “safe” to post here. There are a lot more that were wildly offensive, racist and vulgar. After mulling over it for a day or so, I was reminded of a time when I truly started to appreciate what makes America beautiful. A few years ago my family took a road trip from California to South Dakota and back. We saw all sorts of different landscapes as we drove through six states on our trip. The familiar Sierras of California gave way to the sparse mountains of Nevada. The flat and barren salt flats of Utah turned into beautiful mountains as we traveled through Park City and into Wyoming. We watched the grand plains of Wyoming turn into the Black Hills of South Dakota. Then on our way back they turned into the the wild beauty of Yellowstone.
America is beautiful because it is wildly diverse.
This is what is celebrated in the words of America the Beautiful which Coke used in it’s commercial. Here is the first verse:
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
Spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountains, deliciously fruited plains and two glorious seas make American a beautifully diverse land. What (I think) Coke was attempting to capture was that the reality of that beautiful diversity in America extends beyond the landscape but also includes the people itself. You might miss it, but landscapes and America’s natural beauty are as significant to the message of the commercial as the people and their languages are. Whether we choose to believe it or not, America is made up of a wide gamut of cultures. Each of those cultures adds to the beauty of our country that has an ideal (etched into the Statue of Liberty no less) of welcoming the tired, poor, “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We desire to welcome people as they are and to be a refuge for those need a safe place and a new opportunity. When we stop welcoming, when we stop loving, when we stop extending a helping hand to those masses…we honestly stop being the America we wish we could be.
Taking it a step further, since this is a Christian inspired blog, this idea of honoring other cultures and languages is at the core of what it means to be a Christian and to be a part of God’s restored kingdom. We get a small vision of this revealed in the book of Acts after the power of the Holy Spirit is reveled at Pentecost.
When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages. They were surprised and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all the people who are speaking Galileans, every one of them? How then can each of us hear them speaking in our native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; as well as residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the regions of Libya bordering Cyrene; and visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!”
Acts 2:6-11 (CEB)
Notice that all the cultures and people gathered hear the message spoken in their own language. It was not presented in one language that only a few could hear and understand. It was not presented in a way that needed translation, interpretation or explanation. The message went out in everyone’s native tongue, the language spoken around dinner tables and in personal prayers.
The offer of God’s restoration and salvation was offered to all regardless of where they came from or what language they spoke. Language was no longer a dividing factor amongst the people of God. God chose to honor the diversity of cultures in his creation by allowing the message to be heard in local, native languages.
So, in my mind, the Coke commercial showed a deep recognition of the beauty in the culture-diverse reality of America. We as a country are beautiful because we are a nation of immigrants where opportunity can be extended regardless of language and favorite recipes. And, (unintentionally) offered a glimpse into what God’s kingdom looks like. Not a monolithic, uniform kingdom where everyone looks the same, eats the same food and speaks the same language. But a technicolor dream coat of diversity and language demonstrating that God’s promise is truly for all people. Especially the, “wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.”
May we embrace this ideal not only as Americans, but as Christians.
How can we embrace the reality of America’s diversity? Why might we be afraid/challenged/concerned about America’s increasing diversity? How can we embrace the dream of diversity in Christianity and our local church? Why might we be afraid/challenged/concerned about America’s embracing diversity in our home church?