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The Coke Super Bowl Ad and America the Beautiful

I love drinking Coke.  It’s available in every country in the world, except North Korea and Cuba.  In the Balkans, I learned that free refills are just an American thing and I practiced sipping Coke slowly, savoring every bubble on my tongue as I stayed up for hours meeting new friends.  In Uganda, I drank Coke through a straw out of a bottle at the end of the day as I chomped delicious chapatti and goat.  In Ethiopia, my fingers traced the circular marks on the glass bottles from spinning in the machine that recycles and cleans them.  In Latvia, I ordered an extra big Coke to go with potato pancakes and sour cream.  Here in Atlanta, one of my favorite trips is to the tasting room downtown where you can taste Coke products from around the world.  My kids run from kiosk to sticky kiosk and vote on their favorites.

Did you see the Coke ad during the big game last night?  Full disclosure, I didn’t watch the game, but the ads are a different story, and the Coke “It’s Beautiful” ad made tears well up inside my heart.

I spent yesterday afternoon around a table at our favorite Ethiopian restaurant, sharing injera and wot with some of our best friends. Our table for ten represented four nations and six languages.

I love languages and I love immigrants. With the exception of the tiny bits of Cherokee blood running through my veins, we all of us are immigrants here to this great nation. Coke’s commercial made American pride well up inside of me.

The diversity of America is a big part of what makes her beautiful, and I am proud, so proud, to live here and welcome new immigrants into our family and into our country.

And then on Twitter I see that some people are actually angry about hearing America the Beautiful in different languages. They’re boycotting Coke.

The hashtag #speakamerican actually trended.  Hashtag face palm.

Do you know one of the most humbling experiences I have?  When I travel around the world and people speak English to me.  I, a stranger, a visitor, can walk into countries all over the world and find the extreme hospitality of people equipped and willing to speak my heart language to me.  Without judgment.  It’s humbling.  English isn’t going anywhere, and rather than fear other languages, let us show hospitality to these beautiful tongues of our fellow citizens, neighbors, and friends.

I’ve spent part of the morning reading reading reading and I love what James Poniewozik says over at TIME:

The xenophobic protesters had one thing right: we do speak English in America. We speak it on official business and in Super Bowl broadcasts; we use it in publications like this one…We come to America, in other words, and we become American–but we don’t erase everything else that we were before, we don’t forget our cultures and languages as if they never existed, and we don’t hide them as if they’re shameful or less than patriotic. We bring them out and share them, and they make this country better and stronger. America isn’t weakened because people don’t submit to a monoculture; it’s strong because it can absorb the peoples and aspirations and talents of the rest of the world without erasing their cultures.

(Read more: Coca-Cola’s “It’s Beautiful” Super Bowl Ad Brings Out Some Ugly Americans | )

As someone who follows Jesus Christ, I think the thing that breaks my heart the most about the negative reactions to the Coke ad are the ones from Christians.  As I thumb through Twitter, I see people with Jesusy handles and Jesusy bios having a problem with an ad celebrating our diversity.

How can this be?  Jesus is precisely the guy who told me to love.  “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

And how has Jesus loved me?  I was “separate,” “excluded from citizenship,” a “foreigner.”  I have been “brought near by the blood of Christ.”  I am no longer a foreigner and stranger but a fellow citizen with God’s people (Ephesians 2:11-22).  That’s how Jesus loved me, and that’s how I must love others.

As Christians, we are arms open, hearts wide, Jesus’s full frontal hugs to the world.  I love the people in this world.  I love other countries tremendously, and one of my favorite things about my home in America is its freedom and diversity.  We are a country of many cultures and languages and people and it’s beautiful.

In the Bible I see God leading us into spacious places:

“He brought me out into a spacious place” (Psalm 18:19).

“You…have set my feet in a spacious place” (Psalm 31:8).

“When hard-pressed, I cried to the Lord; He brought me into a spacious place” (Psalm 118:5).

America is spacious.  She’s roomy and welcoming for anyone who needs her or wants her.

The Coke ad represented so much of who we are as a nation.  I know, I know it’s just an ad on TV, but it made me proud, and then seeing some of the reactions to it made me sad.  I want to live in a country where we can come from different places, embrace different cultures and values, speak different languages, and all come together for a Coke.


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