The Super Bowl And America The Ugly


It was a good Super Bowl.

Nobody got naked. And the lights stayed on.

The game on the other hand was probably the worst one of the season but who watches the Super Bowl for the game? Besides, your team is never in the game anyway. Well, unless you’re one of those bandwagon fans whose two favorite teams just happen to be the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. In that case, congratulations. I guess.

Most people watch the Super Bowl for the spectacle. Even those of us who care about football usually don’t get to really watch the game. It’s too hard to hear what Troy Aikman has to say over the sound of you and 30 of your best friends eating chicken wings.

Then there are the commercials. We all get quiet for the commercials. And then about 30 seconds after each one, we get loud about the commercials. Real loud. Through social media we let the world know which one we thought was funny, which one didn’t deliver and which one was offensive. So in that regard, this year was just like every other Super Bowl.

I missed the Coke commercial where people sang America the Beautiful in different languages. I did not miss the fallout from it.

Allen West called the commercial “disturbing” and said that it was proof that we were, “on the road to perdition.” Someone else wrote something about never drinking another Coke because of that commercial. Yes. It’s true. This just a few days after doctors told us that dark colored soft drinks could cause cancer.

“Coke could give me cancer? Meh. Pass the Big Gulp, please.”

“Coke let somebody sing America the Beautiful in Spanish on one of their commercials? Call the National Guard! And pass a Big Gulp full of Pepsi while you’re at it.”

I get it. Immigration is a big deal in this country. Our border isn’t really a border and that’s a serious problem. A lot of people with bad motives are coming to this country illegally and throwing wrenches into the machine that makes America what it is. Even worse, some of our own politicians are supplying the wrenches and making the rest of us pay for them.

But a broken system is not a legitimate cause for doing away with the system all together. And you know what that system is, right? “Give me your tired, your poor,” and so on. For some of us, our forefathers came here to escape tyranny in their home country. And when they got here, there were already people living here. If we could talk to a Cherokee Indian who lived a couple of hundred years ago, I wonder how he would feel after hearing people sing about how beautiful his land is in some strange tongue called English.

Other forefathers didn’t want to come here at all but the guys running the auctions and the slave ships weren’t too concerned with what they wanted. And today others are still coming here and trying to do it the right way. Just because they want a better life. Because they don’t want their kids growing up in a war zone. Can you blame them?

There is a lot of pain and plenty of blurred lines involved with each family that somehow found its way to this country. But we’re here. Together. And that’s part of what makes America beautiful.

Like when my part Filipino son plays soccer with his Haitian and African teammates and I can’t understand too much of what the parents of those teammates are saying. But we are all there. Different language. Same game. Together.

Or when I share a Thanksgiving meal with my Filipino father-in-law. I always eat mashed potatoes. He’s not interested in that. Rice is his thing. But we’re both there at the table. A white boy from the southern suburbs of Atlanta and a Filipino from Hawaii. Different food. Same table. Together.

Part of America’s beauty, much like other beautiful things in our world, is how it gives you just a small glimpse of what heaven will be like. Not a perfect picture. Not even a complete one. Just a small glimpse. I don’t mean to say that our flag will be flying on the golden streets and that there will be a place for the Statue of Liberty right behind the gates of pearls. It’s deeper than that. It’s people who speak different languages all coming together to sing the same song. Only in heaven, we won’t be singing about America.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10 (ESV)

When I was a kid, a man told me that there would be no black people in heaven. Black people, he said, were a cursed race and could not inherit God’s gift of eternal life. As I grew I learned that he was wrong. All he was doing was reading his preferences into the Bible instead of allowing the Bible to shape his preferences. Plain and simple, he didn’t want to be in heaven for all eternity with a bunch of black people. Unless that man has experienced some serious heart change in the 30 years since I have spoken to him, I don’t think that he’ll have to worry about being in heaven with anyone.

But that man’s thinking is part of what is behind some of the opposition to Coke’s commercial. We want everyone to be just like us. Whoever us is. And that’s the funny part. If we stop to look around we’ll realize that nobody is like us. That’s part of what makes America so beautiful. Purple mountains and fruited plains aren’t all that pretty when the people are all the same.

There’s a line in America the Beautiful that sticks out to me every time I hear it sung.

“God shed his grace on thee.”

We really need that grace.

We need that grace to remind us of the better home that awaits all of Christ’s people.

And we need it to help us to know how to love God and one another while we wait for that new home.

But for a long time, we’ve been trying to get by without that grace.

And the result has been anything but beautiful.