Thursday, February 9, 2012

Whose Coffee Does Jesus Drink?


You may have heard recently that the state of Washington approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriages. Washington becomes the seventh state in the union to legally recognize marriage between gay couples.

You may also have heard that a pastor in California is calling for Christians to boycott Starbucks because the Seattle based company came out in support of the law. The pastor has accused Starbucks of hating God because of the company’s support. His “biblical basis” for this is a brief statement in Romans 1:30 that has nothing to do with homosexuality or even coffee for that matter.

The pastor is the head of an organization called USA Christian Ministries which as far as I can tell seems to exist for the sole purpose of making the USA a Christian nation. In an article on his website in which he calls for the boycott he claims that laws such as the one passed in Washington state “remove American’s Christian freedoms.” He thinks that Starbucks has chosen to follow Satan.

There are so many directions in which I could take this and I am sure that what I have to say will satisfy no one. And the nature of a blog is that you only post short pieces. But I want to express a little bit of my thoughts on this topic.

First, with all due respect to the good pastor, he has taken the passage out of context. True in Romans 1:24-27 Paul does mention homosexual sex. But Paul is NOT connecting these individuals to the God-haters. In fact, what Paul has done in this chapter is to detail what happens when God releases his wrath against “all godlessness” (1:18). Paul’s basic point is that when God decides to let humanity have its own way it becomes quite a mess. Paul describes lots of different types of people in this chapter and they are all people who refused to give glory to God. Among the other things Paul details in his vice list here are greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, arrogance, boastfulness, and the disobedience towards parents (1:29-30). The “God haters” statement is tucked in the middle of these other labels and is just one type of person Paul is taking aim at. It certainly is not a label for anyone who acts contrary to God. If that was the case then I would be one of those “haters” since I am guilty of all those things. So it is wrong to simply rip two words from a list and apply it to Starbucks or anyone else for that matter. Paul’s list is much more encompassing and it has something for all of us to feel guilty about.

Second, I am unsure why this pastor seems to feel the need to issue judgment on Starbucks which, to the best of my knowledge, is not a church and does not claim to be a Christian organization. If the pastor is concerned with the sex lives of those outside of the church I suggest that he reread what Paul has to say about this in 1 Corinthians 5. There Paul deals with a situation in the church in which a man is apparently sleeping with his step-mother. Paul tells the church to deal with the problem and put the man out. But then he makes an interesting statement in 5:12. He tells the Corinthians that they should worry about those inside the church and not those outside. The church needs to take care of its own business and let God take care of the rest. I would suggest that a boycott of Starbucks is an attempt to do usurp God’s job. We should deal with our own issues in the church and when we see the world acting in a way that is contrary to scripture we should not be surprised.

Finally, I wonder how boycotting Starbucks is showing the love of God to the barista behind the counter. I suspect that most people at Starbucks don’t make a lot of money and I also suspect that they had no say in the company’s decision to support the Washington law. Most of them are trying to make ends meet. How would a successful boycott impact these people? The pastor aims to make Starbucks lose 80% of their customer base. But what about the people who depend upon their job? What are they learning about a Christianity that would seek to prevent innocent people from paying their bills? And what about love toward gays and lesbians some of whom are Christians? Where is the love of Christ from the church for them? It is ironic that among the vices Paul lists in Romans 1 is the lack of love and mercy (1:31). I find it interesting that the some are choosing to call Starbucks “God Haters” when they themselves have no love or mercy towards those outside of the church.

So where does this leave me? Well I don’t know if Jesus drinks coffee, but if he does I think he would probably drink it in Starbucks. Jesus seems to have had a reputation for hanging around with the wrong kind of people. But he also showed much love and mercy towards those people. It was for those who were on the inside that he had some rather harsh things to say. I think I will continue to drink Starbucks. 

19 comments:

  1. John, good post. I think the underlying issue, in addition to your thoughts, is a confusion between God's Kingdom and American politics. It sounds like this pastor (and half of the Christians in America that I meet) have trouble seeing the difference between being politically active and being a member of the Kingdom.

    I have no issue with boycotts, marches, demonstrations, speeches, manifestoes and the lot. They are all legitimate political tools. But, when used as political tools in the name of God I have a serious issue. I also think it's fine for a believer to make a decision not to do business with a company that puts them out of integrity with their conscience. But, to call for a holy boycott is basically a polite jihad. It's more akin to Islam than Christianity.

    M~

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  2. John,

    Excellent thoughts, my friend. But you are turning my worldview upside down. Yesterday you said that Jesus doesn't care about football and today you question his love for coffee. What's next? That he doesn't eat apple pie?

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    1. Actually, I heard he's really into Fig Newtons.

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    2. Actually, I might suggest that Jesus is not an American citizen. :)

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    3. hahahahahahaaha...well if Jesus is not an American citizen, I think we should STILL make him produce his birth certificate. If he can't, then let's start the impeachment process :)

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  3. Well said, Dr. John. I couldn't agree more. But, then, I had a pretty good teacher.

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    1. (A pretty good teacher who taught you how to think it through for yourself.)

      Outstanding post. Thanks, JB.

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  4. As a gay Christian (and maybe the only gay Christian that follows your blog?) I enjoyed this post. (esp the part "Paul tells the church to deal with the problem and put them man out. But then he makes an interesting statement in 5:12. He tells the Corinthians that they should worry about those inside the church and not those outside.") I wish "the church" would stay out of my business and let me have my own relationship w/ God.
    Ironically, I've no doubt that a decent number of baristas at Starbucks are gay... and if "the church" was patronizing Starbucks prior to this, then they were enabling them to live their "lifestyle"... What makes it OK then, but not OK now?

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    1. How does this work I know you think you are Christian but how can you go anywhere spiritually being gay? It is ok for me for you to be gay I will not do gods work and judge this is a real question I really would like to know why you believe in god when he thinks your a abomination and does not support you do you think he will change the rules for you to proceed to sit next to Jesus in the afterlife I think it is wrong to say you are Christian and stand there and judge it's ok for you to be anything you want just know the bible would have to be rewritten for anyone to think it is ok that's all if you believe in the bible you should take all of it text in your heart not just the one that suit your lifestyle

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  5. Excellent! I find it very strange when this boycott pastor claims that a law giving gay persons the freedom to marry somehow "removes christian freedoms". Why is it so common for christians to declare themselves persecuted when someone else gets the option to follow their own beliefs ? This type of behavior is something I usually only see in my work as a mental health professional and in folks like this boycott pastor.

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  6. It is stories like this Starbucks boycott that move me to deep grief. I grieve for all of those people that Christians have hurt in the process of standing up for "Godly principles". While the majority of Christians do not do this, many of us really believe that our convictions are best lived out by controlling other peoples actions. So we turn to legislating morality by asking for bans on same-sex marriages, fighting against health care rights for same-sex partners, etc. So in the process of standing up for what we believe, we produce massive amounts of injustice. We never apply the words of Jesus which says "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." And we most certainly do not apply it to the issue at hand. I pray that one day the church at large will understand that we do not need to control the actions of the American population in order to faithfully live out the Scriptures.

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    1. @ Bryan Ov. --- Perhaps it is true that one can not legislate *morality of the heart*, but one certainly ought to make an attempt to legislate societal moral public behaviors. Or do you advocate disassembling the justice and law enforcement systems entirely? Where is the line drawn? Where would you draw it? That is a subject worth discussing, but this notion of *you can't legislate morality*, is very weak, and will fail utterly the day when something violently immoral knocks on your own door, or breaks it down. That considered, alright, if you want to argue that this is not a christian nation, you are free to do that. But what are you doing when you insist that this nation has no room for expressions of christianity, that would support systems of enforcement to find and rescue *your* seven year old daughter that has been abducted by a sex-offender?

      There is a place for a functional law enforcement and judicial system, and there is room for christians in those systems, and there is definitely room for recognizing morality as a backbone of those systems. Why else are phrases like *corrupt judge* or *corrupt officer* sometimes in the news cycle, when it goes bad?

      Abiding in the christian faith is a very personal and private thing, but there are more ways of expressing it in the public society than you seem to allow for. Who does get to *control other people's actions*? Only non-christians? The premise is faulty when there is no proper clarification for something like *controlling other people's actions*. Because anyone has a role that, on the surface, apears to have a form of controll over others, it does not mean that the primary motivation has always been to have a sense of power and control over others, unless you are of the sort that feels that way about all public pool lifeguards, or, EMS workers when arriving at the scene of an accident? Shall you lobby tomorrow to eliminate all legislation that in any way defines sexual offense, and to have all currently convicted sex offenders released, and their records expunged? Will you have the SO list taken offline, so you won't know if a three time SO is your next door neighbor, or living next to the local elementary school? Is this all to be classified negatively under the subject of *controlling other people's actions*? If you admit this is all extreme rhetoric, fine, then discussion can continue. If you insist that *the church at large* has no place in the social discourse and government, then what more is there to discuss with you?

      No intention to offend here. You spoke some very strong, one-sided rhetoric. It seems only fair to show that there is a more balanced rhetoric to answer it.

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    2. Thanks for the comment! I never said that you "can't legislate morality." I would never argue for the removal of ones faith from their public life. We must be committed to bring our faith into public discourse. But what seems to happen so often is that we default to making societal changes without asking the question how our legislation going to affect real people with real needs? The examples stated above are clearly birthed out of a concern for safety and I have no reason to think of these things as "controlling ones actions." But it is a problematic to suggest that laws made against gay rights initiatives are issues of safety. I am indeed sorry if my post came across as a one-sided rhetoric. That was not my intent.

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    3. I hear that. I did not want to put words in your mouth, but there are some who read all sorts of things into what others have said, and it seemed good to clarify. This has become too much of a sound-byte society.

      Now as to this line:

      *But it is a problematic to suggest that laws made against gay rights initiatives are issues of safety.*

      That opens an entirely new discussion, where one better be ready to acknowledge the violence of sex-offenses that come out of the heterosexual community as well as the homosexual community, but each has its unique corruptions that should not be denied as being, yes, at times, certainly issues of safety, such as the objectives of NAMBL. Even *mutual consent* or *legal age of consent* are not the great panaceas to all questions of whether or not a wrong or deviant behavior has occurred. However, this might be said to have drifted from the subject of *coffee*, maybe, just a little.

      Thankfully, God *has* packaged a message of love and hope to us that very much declares us all, of ourselves, very deviant indeed, (which Dr. Byron somewhat clarified) and presents God Himself as very desirous to see us all embrace His very effectual provision for deliverance, and forgiveness, and cleansing, and new life in Him. How we are to best be His own living epistles of His heart, is very much a daily unfolding drama, and discussion like this can be very healthy, and at times, very needful.

      I like that imagery of Jesus sitting at a table outside Starbucks, and conversing with every type that would show up there. Of course, I also like the imagery of He sending one of His disciples to the lake to catch a fish with a gold piece in its mouth, so He can pay for a cup of coffee there.

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    4. I appreciated your comment about the coin in the mouth of the fish . . . brilliant! :-) In regard to the following comment I have a thought.

      “That opens an entirely new discussion, where one better be ready to acknowledge the violence of sex-offenses that come out of the heterosexual community as well as the homosexual community, but each has its unique corruptions that should not be denied as being, yes, at times, certainly issues of safety, such as the objectives of NAMBL. Even *mutual consent* or *legal age of consent* are not the great panaceas to all questions of whether or not a wrong or deviant behavior has occurred.”

      In discussions, much like the one outlined above, the real issue about gay rights is lost amidst the list of all possible perversions. As you have rightly pointed out, both homosexual and heterosexual communities have their fair share of deviant behaviors, and I would be the first to condemn those actions. NAMBL is an initiative that any gay rights activities, who has any sense of morality, would find repugnant. The issue at hand is not about deviant behaviors, but rather is about those who want to enter into loving and committed relationship. They desire to experiencing the same benefits that heterosexual couples experience. This is not an issue of safety, but and issue love, commitment, and most importantly, an issue of justice. This is the issue, and we must not let the possibility of perversion drive our decisions.

      I also agree that this discussion has drifted away from the topic. So in an effort to bring both Starbucks and coffee back into the discussion I will say the following. If there were any reason that I would not go to Starbuck, it would not be for their support of same-sex marriages in Washington State. Rather it would be because they don’t carry my favorite brand of coffee, Kopi luwak. ;-)

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    5. Legislate Morality? Hmmm.. If we left it up to the legislatures, women wouldn't be allowed to vote, african-americans would not be allowed to marry caucasians, etc etc... (and yes, these were moral issues at the time as people used the Bible to validate these inequalities) These items were settled via the judiciary. Thankfully, WA state has a legislature based on equality lest the state would have to rely on "activist" judges to create equality. There's a concept.... "activist judges".. ones who actually ENFORCE our constitution.. yet, people complain about their "activism". Sorry for going off on a tangent, but I quite frustrated over this whole marriage equality issue.

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  7. Amen, and amen. I can see Jesus sitting outside of Starbucks, but he'd be in conversation with everyone around him. SB has fed, clothed and supplied medical insurance to my two adult children for a number of years. They have a fund that 'partners' contribute to that helps other 'partners' who are too ill to work; our daughter's rent was paid out of that fund when she was chronically ill. They are a kind, courteous and generous company to everyone, including the homeless, who walk through their door. I think they model Jesus in so many ways.

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  8. This is excellent!!!!!! Wish I would have written it!

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