Last Friday night, I called in an order at the local pizza place here in the small town where we live. Because I seldom have cash and I’m unsure whether their delivery guys can take my debit card, I usually go pick up the pizza. It’s less than a mile from our house anyway. Cindy was out of town, so the kids and I would eat in the living room while watching a movie.
As I was returning to my car with pizza box in hand, including the dessert pizza (but we won’t tell Cindy about that), I noticed a sticker on the tailgate of a Dodge SUV that read: “My truck was built with wrenches not chopsticks.”
The sticker angered me not simply because we own a Honda and a Toyota but because of the ridiculousness of the statement. Does whoever created the sticker — as well as the owner of the vehicle because they bought it — really believe that Asian car companies use chopsticks to build their cars? Does the Jeep plant up in Toledo where we used to live make their SUVs with forks and knives? How inane a statement! And it says something of the one who sticks it to the back of their truck. Not just stupidity. I think it reveals a prejudice that masks itself as patriotism.
There was a store in town that opened for a brief three or four months last year. It sold discount snack items like beef jerky, and the store was popular in the afternoon among junior high kids just getting out of school. Similar to my feeling about that sticker on the truck, my stomach turned when I read the small print on the store’s sign: “An American-operated store” (or something like that). I saw it as criticism of a couple of the businesses here in town. (There aren’t many in this town of less than 2,000 people.) The two gas stations are owned by families from India, or maybe Pakistan. I’m not sure; I haven’t gotten to know them, partly because I usually swipe my card when I buy fill up. An ice cream shop opened at the end of last summer, and it’s run by a family from the Philippines. We have gotten to know them a little, since we patronized their shop about once a week before the weather turned cold.
Two things about this nationalistic prejudice. First, it’s nearly impossible to buy everything made (or grown) domestically. I wonder if that truck owner eats bananas. I wonder if they think about where those bananas come from. Can American soil even produce bananas? Personally, I don’t care where they come from; I love ’em! Also, does the truck owner realize that Chrysler is owned by an Italian company? And before that a German one? (Didn’t we fight those two countries in World War II? Why the hangup with the Japanese?) Further, I believe my Honda was made right here in Ohio — with all kinds of tools, though chopsticks is doubtful.
Second, I loathe this nationalistic prejudice when I see it in Christians, because it’s fundamentally contrary to what Scripture teaches. There are countless passages concerning God’s compassion for the aliens and strangers and his deep love for people everywhere. I know nothing of how world economies work and I’m not even going to touch on the issue of immigration here in the United States, but I know that God is concerned with whether people in other countries have enough to eat and drink, and if they have shelter and medicine. Nationalism causes us to focus on ourselves, instead of on a world teeming with people dying in poverty and dying without Christ.
To counter this, I’m setting out to pray for the world, in addition to looking into a mission trip to Africa. To help me pray for and learn about other peoples, I just bought a resource called Operation World.
One day when Jesus returns, there will be a procession with representatives from every tribe and tongue worshiping the true King. It won’t matter then where we bought our cars or if we preferred the ice cream at the shop owned by our Filipino friends. But it does matter now whether our hearts beat with God’s for people throughout the world.