The Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad which featured “America the Beautiful” sung in various languages has struck many as a beautiful display of the wide diversity of this nation. A nation which has always prided itself on being a melting pot, a place where people from anywhere on the globe have found a home.
Yet, unsurprisingly, some managed to find it inappropriate. One group responded on Facebook with this little gem: “Call us what you want, but my Ancestors came here and learned this beautiful language – they did not ask to be catered to… they taught themselves, and thrived…. to hear one of nation’s proudest songs in other languages was a bit disheartening… Bring on the Pepsi!”
Which makes me wonder, do we really want peace in our world? Do we really want understanding? As a person who seeks to cultivate dialogue between people of varying viewpoints, this is a high value of mine. Some disagree.
Some think the idea of gathering people of different perspectives around the same table is naïve or simply the wrong approach. Particularly people from my own religious tradition, Christianity. There is a strong evangelical Christian heritage here in America. Some of the most thoughtful, loving, sincere people I know claim this tradition. And those of us who might consider ourselves more mainline or progressive or from some other tradition of Christianity often find ourselves influenced by this tradition. The thought of engaging people of other faiths or no faith often leaves us with this nagging thought: “But I really need to get them to come around to Jesus.”
The Urge to Convert
I get it. I really do. Jesus is great. Like Coca-Cola, he’s refreshing, and we want to share him. I think this desire goes hand-in-hand with the reaction to the Super Bowl ad: they need to learn our language. They need to become like us.
The urge to convert—whether it be cultural, religious, linguistic, tribal (SEAHAWKS RULE!)—runs deep in all of us. We are who we are, we like who we are, we like the way we do things and how we do things, and we can’t help but want to share that with the world. It is not necessarily a bad tendency. It is, at base, a human tendency.
Yet for the sake of humanity, it’s time to HIT PAUSE on that urge. Our world is all the richer because we are not all the same.
And it turns out, we need each other. We need this diversity, just as any healthy ecological system requires a certain amount of biodiversity. We need to learn from each other. It’s not as simple as: “They just need to come around to Jesus. Oh, and also learn English.”
Not by a long shot.
The contemplative interfaith teacher Beverly Lanzetta describes what is at the heart of interreligious and interfaith dialogue:
“In today’s world the various concepts relating to interfaith and interreligious issues are often used interchangeably, and are employed to address similar ideas and practices. These terms emphasize a self-conscious commitment to four areas: a) importance of personal faith experience as a foundation for authentic dialogue; b) communal discernment of truth as a necessary element in clarifying the claims of one’s own tradition; c) recognition that an interreligious vision cannot be achieved at the expense of historically marginalized groups of people; and d) the need to apply this shared wisdom to pressing historical circumstances.”
In other words, engaging the other helps me learn new things, understand myself better, and helps all of us deal with the real issues we are facing together. If we are to contribute to a global harmony rather than a global discord, we NEED to learn to understand, respect and honor each other.
To quote the great Kenny Loggins:
I’m tired of living this life
Fooling myself, believing we’re right when
I’ve never given love
With any conviction of the heart
One with the earth, with the sky
One with everything in life
I believe we’ll survive
If we only try
How long must we all wait to change?
This world bound in chains that we live in
To know what it is to forgive
And be forg-i-i-iven
Too many years of taking now
Isn’t it time to stop somehow?
Air that’s too angry to breathe
Water our children can’t drink
You’ve heard it hundreds of times
Say you’re aware, believe and you care
But do you care enough?
Where’s your conviction of the heart?
There really is one earth, one sky. Let’s share it, people. Thanks for the reminder, Coca-Cola.