What Coke Taught Us About ‘Merica

It’s taken me a full month to get my mind around the back lash over this video. How could 1 minute of media content undo what “seems” to be 100 years of progress?

“We’ve moved beyond Jim Crow.”

“We’ve moved beyond purposeful segregation.”

“We’ve moved beyond alienation because of race, ‘class,’ and culture.” 

These are the well meaning thoughts I have from time to time, particularly when I see the headway churches like Renovation, Transformation, Fellowship Memphis, Mosaic and a hand full of others have made in their cities. Then I’m snapped back to reality when a national event like the racist explosion of Boston hockey fans happens—in 2012! Or the hostile, backward reaction of thousands of people to a Coke commercial in which people sing “America the Beautiful” in languages that are spoken in this country every single day. My favorite comment was this one: “When did coke get bought out by terrorists?..” There was also a call to “#SpeakAmerican.” There are several other comments, full of vulgarity, that you can read here. 

Author Michael Leahy even chimed in, writing:

Executives at Coca Cola thought it was a good idea to run a 60 second Super Bowl ad featuring children singing “America the Beautiful” – a deeply Christian patriotic anthem whose theme is unity – in several foreign languages.

 As far as the executives at Coca Cola are concerned, however, the United States of America is no longer a nation ruled by the Constitution and American traditions in which English is the language of government. It is not a nation governed in the Anglo-American tradition of liberty.

When the company used such an iconic song, one often sung in churches on the 4th of July that represents the old “E Pluribus Unum” view of how American society is integrated, to push multiculturalism down our throats, it’s no wonder conservatives were outraged.

My initial questions to Leahy about his assessment are: When did liberty get branded as an “Anglo-american” tradition?; When did this song, “America the Beautiful,” become inherently Christian?; Do you know what “unity” and “E Pluribus Unum” mean (oh, the irony!)? Why is multiculturalism something so feared that you refer to it being “pushed down our throats?” I imagine his answers to those questions would be rife with foolishness, but I’ll likely never know for sure.

The point in all of this is to shine a light on where we actually are as a country. Though we are a country of immigrants, all speaking a borrowed language—English came from England after all, and “American” is not a known or acknowledged dialect—there is still a nationalism, driven by racism and classism, among many of our residents—primarily Caucasian. And though we (disciples of Jesus) would often rather shut our eyes to the cultural duplicity of our day, it is imperative that we step into this narrative and speak truth. It is imperative that we vocalize our ire toward these ideas that continue to shape the culture of our country.

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! – Revelation 7:9-10

If this is true, then what we see in the tweets, articles, and outbursts over race and culture cannot be tolerated. Don’t shut your eyes to the state of our nation. We are not far beyond where we were just a generation ago. What will you do as a disciple of Jesus? How will you respond? Will you face the truth about where our country actually is and speak the Truth until we see it change?

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  1. Yes! Thanks for the post brother! As a white, middle class, seminary educated male I stand with you and on behalf of who I represent, I repent of turning a blind eye to injustice, inequity, and not speaking up and standing for righteousness in all the areas that the gospel demands it. Thanks again for the post.

  2. Leonce, thanks so much for these words. I’m thinking it’s important for us all to remember that our eternal citizenship really should trump any temporal nationalistic fervor anyway. It seems to me, if we step back and take an eternal view of things, that we see the rise and fall of nations yet the Kingdom of God persists! National borders are becoming less and less of an issue when it comes to the advance of the Gospel, and THAT’S what matters.


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