Risky Conversation Starters on Coffee Cups

3 10 2006

Check this blog entry out at Reformissionary:

It   looks like some conservative groups are getting all itchy now that Starbucks has started their “The Way I See It” cup quotes.  Baptist Press has run a story today on it.

What’s the issue?  Well, it seems that Starbucks is pushing the homosexual agenda because cup #43 gives a racy quote on homosexuality.  As I read this BP article, I noticed my grande skim 3 pump mocha was being carefully and providentially cradled in cup #43 which reads…

My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long.  I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone.  Don’t make that mistake yourself.  Life’s too damn short.

– Armistead Maupin, author

Of course BP inserts the word [expletive] for “damn” and blacks it out on their pic of the cup, but their larger concern is what the cup teaches.  But, is the cup and quote meant to teach?  Or simply open doors of conversation?  From the Starbucks website on this campaign…

Starbucks has long been dedicated to creating a unique “third place” between home and work. We also draw on the centuries-old tradition of the coffeehouse as a place to gather, share ideas, and enjoy delicious beverages. We see this program as an extension of the coffeehouse culture – a way to promote open, respectful conversation among a wide variety of individuals.

And they mean wide variety.  Sure this quote is racy from one perspective, but they also entertain quotes from staunch conservatives like Michael Medved and Jonah Goldberg.  So if Starbucks “blatantly pushes the homosexual agenda” on cup #43, what are they pushing on the cups with flame-throwing right wingers?  A conservative agenda?

Given: We will all read from cups that we disagree with.  That’s a sure thing.  That’s the point, really, to start conversations not push agendas.  And conversations are best started by racy ideas, not bland ones.  By the way, on the cups and on the Starbucks website it even says the quotes don’t necessarily reflect the view of Starbucks.

Christians are too good at missing the point, and I’m afraid that’s what’s happening here.

Don’t we look fearful?  We look like we are afraid of the open discussion of ideas.  These quotes are meant to be conversational, and coffee shops are perfect places to list racy quotes worthy of discussion.  We believe that in the world of ideas the redemption Story stands supreme as the best and most beautiful explanation of reality and truth.  We shouldn’t fear other ideas out there.

One person quoted in the BP article says,

It’s not enough not to go to Starbucks anymore.  You really need to visit your neighborhood Starbucks and ask to see the manager and just say, ‘You know, I’ve gone here a lot and I would love to go here but I have to tell you your company’s promotion of something that is against my values prevents me from having coffee here anymore, and I’ve found alternatives … You make a great product, but you deserve to know why people aren’t buying your product anymore.’

How about instead we enter the conversations of our culture knowing that our Story makes sense of the world like no one else’s story or quote.  I think Starbucks has a great idea, and Christians should be thankful for the opportunity to join more discussions on huge and even ultimate issues.




5 responses

16 10 2006

oh for the love of pete…give me a break. I agree with you, I think it’s a brilliant idea and I think Christians should stop getting their panties in a bunch over such things and maybe put their self righteous piety in their back pocket long enough to learn something.

17 10 2006


When you don’t listen to the otherside, it bascially means that you are not too confident with in your own beliefs imho. Being able to listen and to respectfully disagree is a powerful testament to the veracity of your own belief system im my view.

Thanks for stopping by Makeesha.

19 10 2006
Derek Brown

It’s funny, because some of the infamous Starbucks cups also have quotes from Rick Warren’s the purpose-driven life. To me, the cups seem like an awesome thing to start a conversation, sermon, or story over. {sigh} Yet another battle not worth fighting. But still another battle that some churches fight.

24 10 2006

Agree.. maybe. I think we who name Christ’s name are wise to take opportunity to engage our surrounding culture even at its decadent ($4 cup of coffee) and sinful best. (Strange that the BP didn’t protest the fact that people pay $4 for a cup of joe, but anyway.) On the other hand, we should not be naive to think that including such comments on a cup are merely innocent. It’s mere presence elevates the behavior to a level of parity and therefore respectability that is not really deserved and that is the genuis of sin: to present all alternatives and then invite us to “know good and evil” on our own accord,using our own experience (or reason, or logic, or whatever).

24 10 2006

Just to make it clear, these are not my thoughts, but Steve McCoy’s over at Reformissionary (www.stevekmccoy.com/reformissionary). That said, I posted his article in full because it flanges perfectly with my own view. I read Steve a lot and find that we agree way more than we disagree.

In terms of of $4 coffee, I am not so sure that I have a problem with that as long as that means that Starbucks’ employees are getting a fare wage along with medical benefits.

And with regard to motivation of Starbucks to include pro-gay comments on their coffee cups, yes, they certainly do have an agenda. However, suppressing free speech, the way that the Baptist Press wants us to do, is not the way to engage imho. When we force people to see things our way, it might get us what we want in the short term, but long term, they merely see us as a bully, and they ultimately lose respect for us.

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