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‘America the Beautiful’ Super Bowl ad sparks controversy

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Official Coca-Cola one minute Super Bowl Commercial 'It's Beautiful' (Credit: Coca-Cola via Youtube)

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<iframe style=”float: left; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #C0C0C0; padding: 2px; margin: 10px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; -khtml-border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; border-radius: 3px;” width=”400″ height=”225″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/443Vy3I0gJs?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}Coca-Cola aired a Super Bowl ad which included “America the Beautiful.”  What made the commercial so divisive?  The patriotic tune was sung in a number of different languages (I counted six).  The “American song in other languages” was “not cool,” according to one tweet.  Another responded, “Nice to see that coke likes to sing an AMERICAN song in the terrorist’s language.”  Still another replied, “DO NOT sing my Country’s song of Freedom in a different language.”

Not everyone was upset.  For example: “That coke commercial made me realize that there are two types of people.  1) true Americans 2) white people who forgot they were Europeans.”  Another responded to the controversy: “I’m sorry did we go back in time to the 50s?”

My focus today is not on the pros and cons of Coke’s commercial, but on the larger reality it reflects.  I learned recently that more than 239 languages are spoken in Dallas, Texas.  Our city has the largest refugee population in America; 44 percent of area residents are first- or second-generation immigrants.  People in America communicate in 337 languages; more than 6,500 languages are spoken around the world.

Humans have been immigrating since Adam and Eve left their home in the Garden of Eden.  In Welcoming the Stranger, Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang note that ger, the Hebrew word for “a person not native to the local area,” appears 92 times in the Old Testament.  Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and the entire nation of Israel were immigrants.  Jesus was a refugee to Egypt as a child; early Christians were scattered across the Empire.

The biblical case for hospitality to such people is clear.  Leviticus 19:33-34 commands God’s people to care for the “alien” who “lives with you.”  Zechariah 7:10 warns: “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.”  Jesus said we would be judged for our care of the stranger in need (Matthew 25:31-46).  We are to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9; cf. Romans 12:13).  Paul instructed Titus and Timothy to be “hospitable” (Titus 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:2).

At the recent Greater Dallas Movement Day, Tim Keller made a point regarding Pentecost that I had never considered: gospel proclamation has no original language.  When the first Christians were “filled with the Holy Spirit,” immediately they “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).  As a result, each person in the crowd heard them speak “in his own language” (v. 6).

Who has immigrated into your circle of influence recently?  It could be someone from another country or a nearby community, a new colleague at work or student at school.  You probably remember what it was like to be new, displaced, and in need of a friend.  If you will be that friend, you will earn the right to share God’s love in yours.

There may be 6,500 languages in the world, but everyone understands the language of grace.