After Asa Chandler purchased the coca-cola formula from a pharmacist in 1887, he cast a vision to his sales team, declaring that this product should be, “a thirst quenching, heaven-sent drink; a blessing to this sun-parched earth.” Chandler was a Methodist who began his sales meetings with prayer and ended his training weeks with the whole team singing stirring renditions of “Onward Christian Soldiers.”
The marketing strategies of coke, globally, were actually tied to Christian mission work because, as Asa declared, “we can be sure that commercial currents will follow the channels which education opens and deepens.” In other words, good Christians will also become good consumers – the two go together like coke and ice.
Chandler’s vision came true. 80% of teens worldwide can identify the coke logo, more than can identify the symbol for any single religion. Proud of it’s own deific status in the world, one coca-cola rep said, “A billion minutes ago, Christianity appeared. A billion seconds ago, the Beatles changed music forever. A billion coca-colas ago was yesterday.” Americans drink more soft drinks than any other liquid, including water, and coca-cola is cheaper than clean water in most of the developing world.
Cheaper-than-water. The safest and cheapest beverage in most parts of the world is also the one that will rot your teeth and significantly raise your odds of obesity and diabetes. And water….? not that important.
This is one of the low-water marks in our history. As missionaries, we often helped people become good Christians and good consumers. We helped people become literate, and but somehow forgot the very simple words of Jesus, “whoever, in the name of a disciple gives to these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say, he shall not lose his reward.”
Water became soda as we contextualized the gospel to help the natives become not only disciples, but consumers. I wonder how the lens of history will interpret this 500 years from now. We built a global economic system premised on the use of fossil fuels, and the manufacturing of need, so that everyone would buy, buy, buy. The results have been mixed at best. There’s been increased longevity and health for those at the top, surely, with some of the perks flowing down the mountain to the masses. But there’s also been environmental degradation, resource wars, and a continuously growing gap between the rich and the poor.
And now, following the logical trajectory of this mindset, one of the last things to be commodified on the planet is water. The poorest people in the world are, increasingly, being forced to pay for this fundamental necessity, leading to wars, tensions, and increased poverty as a result.
Access to clean water, in Jesus name, cuts utterly against the grain of this global trend by saying, “water is a gift from God – receive it in Jesus name.” It’s why any gift you offer to Spilling Hope will save lives, enrich lives, and make the presence of God’s good reign visible, both in your life, and in Uganda.
Please…take a stand against commodifying water by making it free, as God intended.
Give a cup in Jesus name, starting on May 23rd, here.