FEBRUARY 28, 2002
Soda Pop Evangelism
-- James L. Evans
The Dr. Pepper company decided recently to market their soda pop in a special patriotic can. They were hoping to combine some creative marketing with a show of national unity. The design featured an image of the Statue of Liberty with words from the Pledge of Allegiance running along the top edge of the can. The portion of the pledge they chose to use was "One Nation...Indivisible." According to the Associated Press, "Students Upset Dr. Pepper Edits God Out of Pledge," February 1, 2002), it didn't take long before a group of students at the Bible Baptist Academy in Dubuque, Iowa, noticed that "under God" had been left out. It didn't seem to bother them that all the rest of the pledge was also left out. But the absence of God in the abbreviated pledge stuck like a thorn in their side.
Sara Lattie of Dubuque was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "I was hurt and upset when I saw that . . . We say the pledge every day and that's the most important part." Lattie, who is a graduate of and a teacher at the Christian school, called Dr. Pepper to ask why the phrase was left off the cans. When told there was not enough room she remarked, "Well they could have left off 'Indivisible' instead." Josh Wolf, a seventeen-year old student at the Academy, told AP that he wrote a letter to Dr. Pepper after seeing the godless cans. "I wrote that leaving God out on the cans is not right. Our country was founded 'under God' and they are leaving out our very foundation by doing this."
The controversy has found its way to other Christian campuses, like Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. The campus newspaper, the Samford Crimson, reported that some local businesses were considering removing all Pepsi products in response to the godless Dr. Pepper cans. The "Crimson" also reported that several students were displeased with the absence of God on the cans. "It's kind of scary how much more and more our country is worried about offending people and taking religion>out of our country and denying God" said a freshman accounting major. "By removing God from the pledge of allegiance, they are leading our country into an eventual atheist view."
A spokesperson from Dr. Pepper explained the company's decision to an Associated Press reporter. "There is a fairly limited area for graphics on a standard can after the required information is included," said Michael Martin, director of corporate communications. "We think we have a message that is resoundingly patriotic, a non-denominational, bipartisan message that we are a unified nation."
What were they thinking choosing indivisibility over "under God?" Clearly, Dr. Pepper does not realize the pivotal role they are expected to play in our nation's spiritual life. Neither do they understand the importance marketing plays in the advancement of the Christian faith. And what about all that nutritional information we put on food and drink cans? Do we really need all that? It appears to be taking up valuable space needed for evangelism.
There is some good news in this story for concerned believers. While it is true that forty-one million of the special edition cans were distributed in more than a dozen states, the limited edition was retired recently. Soon, the godless cans will be replaced on the shelves with the original can. Of course, that can doesn't mention God either, or national unity for that matter, only soda pop.
-- James L. Evans is pastor of Crosscreek Baptist Church in Pelham, Alabama. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.