Coke and Community

This post was originally posted 2 November 2015.


I’ve always held that most people are good. Sadly, it’s the evil that makes the news. The media fills our imagination with individuals and groups whose sole intent seems to be to cause harm to others: school shootings, serial killers, terrorism, countries stockpiling nuclear weapons. The stories and people who get the air time put us in an artificial bubble that convinces us that people are inherently evil and violent. Yet the truth is, most people are good. We have an inherent desire for love and communion with one another. Still, the media amplifies the bad people. We therefore grow up with a mistrust of strangers and people who are different than us. Our families, our politics, our religions, and our world creates divisions between us.

In 1966 a photograph was taken of the earth from the moon. For the first time, we got to see our entire planet in a single photograph. Our perspective on humanity literally changed and many became more outspoken about peace and love. The picture of earth helped us realise that we all share the same home.

1966 image of earth

“If people can see Earth from up here, see it without those borders, see it without any differences in race or religion, they would have a completely different perspective. Because when you see it from that angle, you cannot think of your home or your country. All you can see is one Earth…”

– Anousheh Ansari, Iranian-American space tourist

Our planet is an infinitesimal spec in a galaxy of 100 billion stars, and there are about 100 billion galaxies in the universe. From this perspective, our conflicts, arguments, and wars, seem trivial and petty.

Coca-Cola and Community
Just a few years after the photo of the earth was taken Coca-Cola put out their famous commercial, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” They gathered young people from all over the world, from different cultures and ethnicities, to sing a song of peace and harmony. You may have heard the story of the creative director for Coca-Cola’s ad agency who got the idea when he was stuck in an Ireland airport delayed by fog. He saw his irate fellow passengers gather together in the airport cafe, beginning to laugh and share stories with one another while drinking bottles of Coke. In that moment he saw Coke as something that linked people all over the world, something that brought people together. Indeed, Coca-Cola can be found in practically every country. Those countries even who are dropping bombs on each other are drinking the same beverage.

The point is not that a sugary soft drink creates world peace, but it symbolises an idea. The Coca-Cola ad exec, like everyone else, had no doubt seen that amazing photo of the earth without borders. His product symbolised human communion and goodness, that we were much more alike that we were different. In fact, every Coca-Cola commercial is about bringing people together, whether at a BBQ, in a family, or globally. Here, even a for-profit company sees human goodness as something inherent in us.

earth from spaceGathering All Nations
It’s true we can look back into history and see division and conflict, caused even by Christians, yet Christ’s mission is to bring people together, to undo the broken human relationships caused by Original Sin. His birth began the gathering of all nations, symbolised by the magi’s journey to Bethlehem. His life and ministry broke down divisions between classes and ethnicities, between sinners and the self-righteous. And his death and resurrection opened up the ultimate human communion in heaven. Centuries ago St Paul said, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, NRSV). Yet, we still create divisions among us.

The promise of God is our hope: that ultimately we will live and love in peace, that we’ll finally realise we’re one family, one humanity. As the Coke commercial says, it’s “what the world wants today.” As we journey toward God’s vision for humanity, we mustn’t forget that we are inherently good. Even the worst among us, deep down, underneath their brokenness, desire to love and to be loved.

A nice reflection on community:

Listen to an audio version of this post…

Music by Audionautix.com

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